Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. America has supersized inequality. Political gridlock was bound to follow (Guardian)

US voters are split along an ever-widening faultline of wealth and poverty, so it's no wonder there's little hope of moderation in politics, writes Aditya Chakrabortty.

2. Support for Obama: the Tories’ guilty secret (Times) (£)

Ministers lean more towards the socially liberal Democrats than the ‘fiscally mad’ and ‘extreme’ Republicans, writes Rachel Sylvester.

3. Clegg’s tit-for-tat retaliation could bring about the coalition’s end (Daily Telegraph)

The Prime Minister will have to hit back if his deputy deliberately kills off the boundary review, says Benedict Brogan.

4. A Romney presidency would be just fine (Financial Times)

The GOP candidate is more likely a moderate than a Tea Party radical, says Gideon Rachman.

5. Obama and Romney remain silent on climate change, the biggest issue of all (Guardian)

Despite hurricane Sandy, neither Obama nor Romney will speak about global warming, writes George Monbiot. The danger this poses is huge.

6. Britain and Germany are growing apart (Financial Times)

Berlin is losing patience with what it views as London’s intransigence on Europe, writes Janan Ganesh.

7. Obama or Romney - neither should expect to get much done in the Congress (Daily Telegraph)

America’s broken and hostile political system will seriously impede the actions of whoever is elected president, says Tim Stanley.

8. We need nothing less than a revolution to make the EU serve democracy and working people again (Independent)

Why isn't the left kicking off about an institution that is clearly damaging the interest of workers across the continent, asks Owen Jones.

9. The living wage tide is turning, but it's not enough (Guardian)

Paying the minimum required for survival is only part of the cure for Britain's dangerous levels of inequality, says Polly Toynbee.

10. Where materialism now rules, ‘Marxist morality’ might not find a place (Independent)

As Americans go to the poll today, China is going through its own transition, but by any impartial assessment, democracy remains a long way off, writes Jonathan Fenby.

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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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