Morning Call: Pick of the Papers

Ten must-read pieces from this morning's papers

Ed Balls has the rare political right to say: I told you so (Guardian)

Jonathan Freedland finds the shadow chancellor's political strength lies in his capacity to be infuriatingly right.

Scotland's slow countdown (Times)

Leading article urges careful - and sceptical - consideration of the case for Scottish independence.

A political class mired in crisis and scandal (Daily Mail)

Leading article ambitiously links Leveson inquiry to Eurozone scandal and decides our governing elite is incapable.

Nick Clegg's U-turn for the Better (Guardian)

The Deputy Prime Minister has come at least half way towards grasping the failure of austerity, says Robert Skidelsky.

At the heart of Europe's crisis is the abolition of the nation state (Telegraph)

Elegiac account of eurozone meltdown as the expression of hubristic folly of Europe's founding fathers, by Bruce Anderson.

Grammar schools educated people to lead the world. They can do so again (Independent)

Lively rehearsal of classic argument for the old, flawed but effective engines of social mobility, by Chris Blackhurst.

Ireland faces a choice between lucre and liberty (Guardian)

Harder to stomach than auserity is the realisation that a small state cannot fend for itself in a dangerous world, writes Mary Kenny.

It's hard to believe we can build a credible state after so many years of failure (Independent)

Rory Stewart finds historical reasons to be deeply sceptical about Britain's ability to fulfil its ambitions in Afghanistan.

So David Cameron lacks an ideology - who knew? (Independent)

Andrew Grice finds enthusiasm for David Cameron's leadership draining out of the Conservative party.

The fantasy of a United States of Europe is ending in tears, blood and despair (Mirror)

Extremism, neo-fascism, social decay stalk Europe. Who does Tony Parsons blame? Er, Nick Clegg, apparently.

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The problems with ending encryption to fight terrorism

Forcing tech firms to create a "backdoor" to access messages would be a gift to cyber-hackers.

The UK has endured its worst terrorist atrocity since 7 July 2005 and the threat level has been raised to "critical" for the first time in a decade. Though election campaigning has been suspended, the debate over potential new powers has already begun.

Today's Sun reports that the Conservatives will seek to force technology companies to hand over encrypted messages to the police and security services. The new Technical Capability Notices were proposed by Amber Rudd following the Westminster terrorist attack and a month-long consultation closed last week. A Tory minister told the Sun: "We will do this as soon as we can after the election, as long as we get back in. The level of threat clearly proves there is no more time to waste now. The social media companies have been laughing in our faces for too long."

Put that way, the plan sounds reasonable (orders would be approved by the home secretary and a senior judge). But there are irrefutable problems. Encryption means tech firms such as WhatsApp and Apple can't simply "hand over" suspect messages - they can't access them at all. The technology is designed precisely so that conversations are genuinely private (unless a suspect's device is obtained or hacked into). Were companies to create an encryption "backdoor", as the government proposes, they would also create new opportunities for criminals and cyberhackers (as in the case of the recent NHS attack).

Ian Levy, the technical director of the National Cyber Security, told the New Statesman's Will Dunn earlier this year: "Nobody in this organisation or our parent organisation will ever ask for a 'back door' in a large-scale encryption system, because it's dumb."

But there is a more profound problem: once created, a technology cannot be uninvented. Should large tech firms end encryption, terrorists will merely turn to other, lesser-known platforms. The only means of barring UK citizens from using the service would be a Chinese-style "great firewall", cutting Britain off from the rest of the internet. In 2015, before entering the cabinet, Brexit Secretary David Davis warned of ending encryption: "Such a move would have had devastating consequences for all financial transactions and online commerce, not to mention the security of all personal data. Its consequences for the City do not bear thinking about."

Labour's manifesto pledged to "provide our security agencies with the resources and the powers they need to protect our country and keep us all safe." But added: "We will also ensure that such powers do not weaken our individual rights or civil liberties". The Liberal Democrats have vowed to "oppose Conservative attempts to undermine encryption."

But with a large Conservative majority inevitable, according to polls, ministers will be confident of winning parliamentary support for the plan. Only a rebellion led by Davis-esque liberals is likely to stop them.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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