Morning Call: the pick of the papers

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

Cameron is right about Leveson. This is a Rubicon we must not cross (Guardian)

Simon Jenkins argues against statutory underpinning for press regulation.

 

Carney will gain by exploring the territory (Financial Times)

 

Adam Posen writes that the new Bank of England governor will have to prioritise open debate and public engagement.

 

Nick Boles wants to build on the greenbelt, but it's too soon for us to admire man-made landscapes (Independent)

 

Tom Sutcliffe explores the aesthetics of nature and human development.

 

With Ukip's surge, do we still have a progressive majority? (Guardian

 

John Harris argues that Ukip's strong by-election results indicate widespread distrust of politicians.

 

Mick and Sonny are still rockin' on, but will Madonna and Robbie last as long? (Independent

 

David Lister asks why age expectations are different for musicians in rock, jazz and blues.

 

So what happened to your defence of liberty, Harriet Harman? (Telegraph

 

Dan Hodges argues that Labour's support for Leveson is driven by a desire for political revenge.

 

Keep the kids in Beer St, not Vodka Plaza (Times) (£) 

 

Janice Turner argues that education, not raising alcohol prices, will cut down on binge-drinking.

 

The Chancellor George Osborne's alarming device is just the weapon for a country at war (Telegraph

 

Charles Moore says that Quantitive Easing has prevented the crisis from becoming even deeper.

 

Here's what to do in the Middle East: nothing (Times) (£) 

 

Matthew Parris says Britain should intervene less in overseas conflicts.

 

Morsi has squandered Egypt's goodwill (Financial Times

 

Roula Khalaf and Heba Saleh explain that Egypt's president is no longer a unifying figure.

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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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