British Home Secretary makes chillingly authoritarian response to 'terror' attack

; Date: March 27, 2017

Tags: Terrorism »»»» Public Violence »»»» Authoritarianism »»»» Big Brother »»»» Freedom of Speech »»»» Great Britain »»»» Civil Liberties »»»» Privacy »»»» WhatsApp

Last week an angry man of Islamic descent (but born in Great Britain) rented a car, drove through a crowd on Westminster Bridge, killing several people, before killing a Police officer guarding Westminster Palace, after which he was shot and killed by other police officers. The killer may have been ISIS-connected (ISIS claims responsibility). In response British Home Secretary Amber Rudd named several online sites as hotbeds of online terrorism communication and radicalization. Her list included blogging platform Wordpress.com of all things. Her chilling message is there should be no secret places to hide.

Early indications are that the attacker sent a WhatsApp message immediately before launching the attack. That application is famous for using end-to-end strong encryption making it difficult (?impossible?) for government spies to see communications through WhatsApp. Ergo, the Authorities can't snoop this guys messages to learn what he was saying, to whom, and perhaps determining motives or anyone else who's involved.

In an interview on British TV Secretary Rudd said the situation was "not acceptable" and that there should be "no place for terrorists to hide". She went on to name several other services including Google, Facebook, Twitter, Telegram, Wordpress and (justpaste.it) Justpaste.it.

The concern is these services provide "a secret place" where terrorists communicate with each other.

Rudd made the assertion that "they" (government authorities) don't want to force their way into the cloud (presumably tapping everything). Instead they want the communication services to recognize they have a responsibility, in times like this, to help with investigations. That "they" (government authorities) would do it all through legally covered well-thought-out arrangements.

The discussion in the interview (below) goes on to describe Facebook et al as "Publishers". And that as Publishers they should be held responsible for the content published through their sites. An example shown was after 30 seconds of yahoogling the TV presenter's staff found instructions on the correct way kill someone with a knife who's wearing a stab-proof vest. According to the presenter and Rudd, that sort of information shouldn't be available.

Analysis - Radicalization

The core issue is radicalization of people around the world, especially those of Muslim descent. Is the problem solely the existence of the material by which people become radicalized?

Isn't "our" very actions in the Middle East causing the radicalization? Since Sept 2001, the West has engaged in a War On Terror which is growing more and more violent every month. Large portions of what the West has done in the Middle East is itself inciting radicalization. For example, every time a Western military unit makes an attack that accidentally kills innocent bystanders, those bystanders become radicalized.

In that vein, stopping the radicalization means stopping the misguided illegal actions our governments are conducting in the Middle East. Just killing large numbers of people in a war will not solve the problem, instead it'll make it worse. Unfortunately the West's strategy is to Pile Violence Upon Violence, which unfortunately Begets more Violence.

Analysis - Cluelessness

Secretary Rudd also seems to be confused about how the Internet works. She wants to bring together the people/companies who know the right hashtags to track online radicalization. Hashtags?

In another sign of cluelessness, she called for companies like WhatsApp whose service uses end-to-end encryption to somehow allow government authorities into messages sent through those services. That would contradict the nature of end-end encryption (despite Rudd's claim otherwise). Curiously she claimed to appreciate the usefulness of end-end encryption at times, but still demands an ability for Authorities to tap messages sent through such a service. Implementation would require installation of a "back door" which could be used not only by government Authorities, but by any hacker who could figure out the back door mechanism. Or, as was revealed by Wikileaks recently, any hacker who could gain access to the tools used by government Authorities.

The last sign was naming a site like (wordpress.com) Wordpress.com as a place where Terrorists can hide. Uh? Does she know what service Wordpress.com offers? It's a blogging platform with which people write their blog posts. It's not a secretive dark room shielded from The Authorities. There are plenty of such places around the Internet. (wordpress.com) Wordpress.com clearly is not one of them.

Analysis - Freedom of Speech

The tone of these interviews is very chilling. As a member of Government, Rudd says that certain sorts of discussion should simply not exist. That certain kinds of information should not be communicated. That the government should have the right to squash out of existence any communication it doesn't like.

Haven't they heard of Freedom of Speech?

Addendum

The Telegraph newspaper did a fairly good job analyzing the social media sites Ms. Rudd named - (www.telegraph.co.uk) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/03/26/amber-rudd-social-media-firms-must-do-stop-terror/

This post on WPTavern is also worth reading (wptavern.com) https://wptavern.com/uk-home-secretary-amber-rudd-links-wordpress-com-to-the-spread-of-terrorism

About the Author(s)

David Herron : David Herron is a writer and software engineer focusing on the wise use of technology. He is especially interested in clean energy technologies like solar power, wind power, and electric cars. David worked for nearly 30 years in Silicon Valley on software ranging from electronic mail systems, to video streaming, to the Java programming language, and has published several books on Node.js programming and electric vehicles.