In yet another attempted power grab from the globalist deep state, top Australian officials are beating on the terrorism drum again, claiming that the weakening of standard consumer encryption is necessary for the safety of western society. U.S. law enforcement has been beating this dead horse for decades, and it is still as bad an idea today as ever.
Encryption is a system whereby two people communicating via electronic media can encode messages mathematically so that only the intended parties can read it. Because hacking various internet traffic has become commonplace, encryption is one of the few means available to individuals to protect the content of their communications from prying eyes. As such, it is becoming more popular, and various products such as Signal, Wickr, and WhatsApp allow ‘regular people’ to take advantage of encryption for their communications. Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) also use encryption as the basis of their privacy enhancing function, and allow users to surf the internet while hiding what they’re doing.
The Australian Attorney General and Minister for Immigration and Border Protection announced that they intend to thwart “the encryption of terrorist messaging” at the upcoming FIVEEYES conference in Ottawa next week. (FIVEEYES is an intelligence alliance between Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States.) Senator Brandis, the Australian Attorney General, was quoted in an Australian Government press release as saying:
As Australia’s priority issue, I will raise the need to address ongoing challenges posed by terrorists and criminals using encryption. These discussions will focus on the need to cooperate with service providers to ensure reasonable assistance is provided to law enforcement and security agencies.
In short, Australia intends to push for an international agreement among FIVEEYES countries that will force software companies, social media providers, and communications hardware companies to install backdoors into their products. Another proposal they are considering pushing is a key-escrow system, whereby the government maintains a set of keys for all consumer encryption so that they can break any encrypted message sent over the internet.
The news matters to American citizens because as many leaks have shown in the last few years, the U.S. cooperates with other countries in the FIVEEYES alliance so that all of them can spy on each other’s citizens, then provide the host country with the information. That means that the UK, for example, can spy on Americans, then provide the U.S. intelligence community with the information they have collected on U.S. citizens – allowing the U.S. government to collect information on its people that it should not possess. When Australia demands that governments be able to bypass encryption, Americans should pay attention, because it means that the U.S. government will benefit from it – and the American people will lose.
Australia’s horrible idea has been brought up again and again, mostly by law enforcement in the United States, and goes back as far as the “clipper chip,” an early 1990s proposal which would have companies use a standardized encryption chip, for which the government would maintain keys. Disgraced former FBI Director James Comey also complained to Congress about the need for maintaining state accessible keys for consumer encryption as recently as 2015.
There are a few obvious issues with all this. First, terrorism is only a serious problem because of globalism. Sure, there are domestic terrorists, but the West didn’t have a problem catching these criminals historically using standard law enforcement investigative techniques because domestic terrorism is infrequent, and when it happens, the FBI can focus large amounts of manpower on the group involved. International terrorism is a much bigger threat because regularly bombing people across the world makes a lot of enemies, so the risks grow exponentially. You can neutralize these threats in one of two ways. If you stop messing around in the internal affairs of other nations, you are less likely to make enemies. If you stop allowing terrorists to travel or immigrate to your country, they can’t set off bombs on your streets or fly your planes into buildings. We could cut the international terrorism threat tomorrow by suspending all foreign visas and immigration, but we won’t do that because it isn’t in the interest of the State. They would prefer to spy on everyone.
Second, giving government back doors or master keys to encryption necessarily weakens the systems that people rely on to keep them safe from hackers. Governments are notoriously bad at protecting their data, as evidenced by the recent Wikipedia Vault 7 data dumps and NSA hacking tools which have been stolen and released into the wild. An encryption key repository would constantly be under attack and would some hacker would eventually compromise it. Every backdoor into a commonly used software package is eventually discovered and exploited by criminals.
Finally, the real issue is that Law Enforcement is spoiled. They envision the world where they just sit around and let software tell them what everyone is doing and saying, so they can decide who has broken the law, strap on their toys, and kick in doors. Western society, particularly the United States, wasn’t designed to work like that. We have a community which balances the God-given liberties of individuals against the desires of the State. We require that law enforcement have reasonable articulable suspicion of criminality before inserting themselves into the lives of the citizenry, and Probable Cause before warrant or arrest is permissible.
Giving the State the ability to read everyone’s messages and internet traffic destroys liberty and the legal protections that our forefathers gave their lives to create. The truth is that the NSA has the means by which to crack all commonly used encryption, it is just expensive and time-consuming. By allowing the citizenry to use strong encryption, the balance between individual rights and the demands of the State are re-balanced. If another Unabomber arises, and the FBI needs to crack a suspect’s messages, they can get their warrant, collect the data, and the NSA can run it through their supercomputer farm in Utah. Or they can hire private consultants to crack the system in question as they did after the San Bernardino terrorist attack after insisting that only Apple could solve the problem.