Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.

1. Is Boris serious? When it comes to No 10, the answer is deadly so (Daily Telegraph)

After years of brilliant digression, London’s mayor is returning to his life’s true theme, writes Charles Moore.

2. It's a long shot. But don't bet against Boris Johnson going for gold (Guardian)

He may end up like would-be PMs Portillo or Parkinson, writes Jonathan Freedland. If anyone can pull it off, though, it's magic Johnson.

3. Self-defeating Tory victory on Lords reform (Independent)

The coalition has lost a unique opportunity to introduce political change, says an Independent leader.

4. Mark Duggan: the lessons the police haven't learned (Guardian)

A year after the killing of Mark Duggan, his family and community still feel ignored and marginalised, says Stafford Scott.

5. The meaning of Boris: high jinks not high office (Financial Times)

The hype about Johnson is due to Britain’s inexperience with localism, writes Janan Ganesh.

6. Unless the Prime Minister uses his holiday to think big, he'll have a lot more time for chillaxing... (Daily Mail)

Cameron may or may not need an economic Plan B, but he certainly needs a political Plan B, says Tim Montgomerie.

7. Oh, what a precious, exhilarating week! (Daily Telegraph)

The Games are working their magic, says Mick Brown, uniting Britain in a celebration of sporting heroes.

8. Shafilea Ahmed: a girl betrayed (Guardian)

There can be no exonerating circumstance, no licence granted to those who claim cultural protection for brutality,  says a Guardian editorial.

9. The buzz is better when we do it together (Times) (£)

Like bees in a hive, we humans thrive when our tribe is united, says Janice Turner. Enjoy this summer of communal thrills.

10. A love letter from a US conservative to the postman (Financial Times)

Selling monopolies to private parties is a Russian kind of medicine: worse than the disease, says Christopher Caldwell.

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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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