Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Of course, it would do no such thing. A piece of paper with twenty handwritten user names is all that's required to pass twenty completely undetectable emails using Hotmail.

Of course, it would do no such thing. A piece of paper with twenty handwritten user names is all that's required to pass twenty completely undetectable emails using Hotmail. Two pay-as-you-go GSM phones give you a one-shot voice communication system that Echelon would have a million-to-one chance of intercepting. You can leave pre-arranged small adverts in good old-fashioned newspapers. Encryption, though useful in the hands of the bad, has no great part to play in this game: its removal would hardly affect autonomous terrorist cells, but would aid a mistrustful state security to keep tabs on its citizens as a whole. Fifty people lived, worked and prepared in the USA for years in support of the atrocity: that they were not stopped is hardly the fault of Phil Zimmerman's PGP. Yet I'll bet this will blamed as part of the problem.

Is this just paranoia? We know that the American NSA fought tooth and nail to stop public key cryptography getting a hold. We know that the Bush administration is dropping very heavy hints that this war against terrorism will mean intelligence and military activities in up to sixty countries with the cooperation of the countries concerned. It's hard to see how this will take place without the US setting up much enhanced machineries of surveillance, with as much arm-twisting as necessary. Not that may be much - in the UK, you can be an official terrorist if you tie yourself to a tree in the way of a road-building project. Heaven only knows where that leaves Bin Laden.

Nobody is saying that there isn't a desperate need to reform the world of intelligence agencies - they have failed to do their job. But war legislation made in haste on tides of panic and anger has a habit of long outlasting its welcome, especially when it gives governments control over their citizens that in peacetime would be unacceptable. Intelligence systems designed for war are all too easy to abuse: if we demand that any changes in our rights as individuals are soberly considered and properly debated, that's our right. We have to live and prosper in this new future, and our freedoms are not lightly to be tossed aside.

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