Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Osborne knows President Obama won by blaming a predecessor (Independent)

How to deal with the recent past is a big unresolved issue for Labour, writes Steve Richards.

2. The Petraeus affair is short on substance (Financial Times)

The scandal did not change how the general did his job or was regarded by colleagues, writes John Gapper.

3. Bercow and his bullies shame our Parliament (Daily Telegraph)

The Speaker is leading an ambush by MPs of the body set up to control their expenses, says Peter Oborne.

4. Forces for Change (Times) (£)

Today’s elections for police and crime commissioners will help to drive reform in a service that has resisted change, argues a Times editorial.

5. This Sri Lanka massacre shows UN has not learned from its failures in Rwanda (Independent)

Operatives allowed themselves to be bullied by a murderous government, says Isabel Hilton.

6. Policy ploys risk UK economic credibility (Financial Times)

The Chancellor should remember it was exactly the policy of hiding known liabilities that got Greece into its current mess, says Chris Giles.

7. Let’s cut crime, not cops: why you need to vote in today's police commissioner elections (Daily Mirror)

New commissioners can resist Conservative cuts and privatisation, writes John Prescott.

8. Stop going on about gay weddings, Mr Osborne, and honour your vows on tax help for married couples (Daily Mail)

It’s the economy, not gay marriage, that will determine the Tories’ electoral fate, says Stephen Glover.

9. Austerity is here to stay, and we'd better get used to it (Guardian)

We think we know all about the rise of Asia and the decline of the west, writes Martin Kettle. But we've barely begun to grasp what it really means.

10. Childcare: I never thought I’d say it, but Nick Clegg is right (Daily Telegraph)

There can be no further progress in equality between the sexes until men and women genuinely regard raising a child as a shared task, writes Allison Pearson.

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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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