Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Tuesday 18/09/01Among the sounds of financial markets in rapid descent and B2 bomber engines spooling up, a more familiar noise can be heard: that of wool being pulled over eyes. The US government is bent on tracking down and disposing of those responsible for the terrorist attacks of last week - and who would have it any other way?

Tuesday 18/09/01

Among the sounds of financial markets in rapid descent and B2 bomber engines spooling up, a more familiar noise can be heard: that of wool being pulled over eyes. The US government is bent on tracking down and disposing of those responsible for the terrorist attacks of last week - and who would have it any other way? But this means that there should be a ban on encryption the bad guys can't crack, or so they say. And a poll of the American public shows that more than 70 percent agree: if the evil people can't send coded messages, then it stands to reason that they can't plan terror in secret.

But two things should give us pause. First, nobody's saying that the terrorists used encryption to swap so much as a timetable - if anything, they sent fake encrypted messages to distract the CIA while sorting out their real business through bits of paper. Second, the intelligence services hate the idea of us being able to talk behind their backs: they always have done, and have never worried about using propaganda to try and stop us in the past. In the past, the government has agreed that arguments against uncrackable encryption did more harm than good. And, despite what we saw on CNN last week, nothing's happened to make that change.

Let's hope - here, as in everything to do with the tragedy - that sanity takes precedence over panic.

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