back to article Obama calls out encryption in terror strategy speech

United States President Barack Obama has given just his third Address to the Nation from behind his desk at the Oval Office, to deliver a speech in which he all-but-called-on the technology industry to allow access to encrypted communications. The main purpose of the speech was to offer a response to last week's killings in …

  1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

    The problem, really, is trust. Even if it were possible to build technologies that allow for law enforcement access (and something along the lines of mandatory key escrow might be doable, with a big enough bureaucracy,) there is no way that you'll convince me that our glorious leaders won't abuse that power.

    Having spies spy on us in order to see if we've dark sided and are about to fly some planes into things? Okay, fine. But the instant they start using that capability to detect petty crimes (say, buying marijuana, copyright infringement for personal use, or grey market importation of goods) we're into a completely different world.

    This is all of it - all of it - a question about the very principle of the presumption of innocence.

    Our society only functions because - by and large - we ignore the petty, day-to-day crimes that we all commit. Each and every one of us breaks the law - knowingly or not - several times a day. If we could see every violation of every individual and chose to act on that, our entire way of life would collapse.

    We couldn't reasonably prosecute everyone, several times a day. We couldn't expect people to live in fear all day every day that they might be fined or jailed for something they didn't even know was illegal. We cannot expect any citizen to know the totality of the laws in their own jurisdictions, let alone all jurisdictions they interact with digitally or physically.

    How would we pay for it? Where does the money for those fines come from? The money for the lawyers, the judges, the jails?

    This discussion is what is missing in this debate

    Real world limits on the capabilities of spies. Limits on the sharing of information. Limits on what they will look for, what they will prosecute, how the information uncovered will be used. Real world consequences if those limits are worked around, loopholed or otherwise abused.

    Maybe the ability to scan our communications is necessary in order to stop the Really Bad Things from happening. If this is the case, then before we even have a discussion about what compromises in technology we're willing to put up with in order to enable that, we need to have a VERY public discussion about how we're going to limit law enforcement use of those powers. FOREVER.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Who's this "we"?

      If encryption is outlawed, I'll become and outlaw. There will be no discussion or compromise.

      1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

        "We" is "society at large".

        More specifically, "we" is "those of us who can vote, now or in the next election cycle" as this is when this particular topic will be decided for our generation. And probably for the one or two that come after us as well.

        "We" need to talk about this. Amongst ourselves in smaller groups, in larger fora and yes, at the ballot box. "We" will be setting laws about this via our elected representatives here in the next few years. Civil disobedience via using outlawed software will only get individuals thrown in jail.

        To be more blunt about this: the USA - amongst others - has proven via the "war on drugs" taht they have no problem whatsoever throwing a significant percentage of their population in jail for "crimes" (such as possession of personal amoutns of soft drugs like marijuana) that don't have an effect on society at large and don't pose a danger to anyone other than the individual being jailed.

        Disobedience is more than reason enough for the powers that be to spend hundreds of billions of dollars jailing tens of millions of people.

        If you care about this problem, then "you" needs to be part of "we" and "we" have to do something about it. Otherwise the "war on encryption" will replace the "war on drugs" as the new cash cow for the prison industry, and your open source VPN, IM or torrent client will be like a gigantic beacon pointing directly at you screaming "me! Me! Lock me up, I'm guilty of disobedience!"

        And no, you won't be able to hide from them. Law enforcement agencies don't give up budget. With the war on drugs winding down, they need a new target.

        Please help us ensure that those of us who think encryption is important aren't the not that target.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Facepalm

          Quite a few of our intrepid DEA agents are hunting bigger game. Veterans Administration doctors who provide pain medication prescriptions or any prescription, for that matter, that they take a dim view of, say, Lyrica or Tramadol. [Not that Tramadol even works.] Many an Internal Medicine doctor has lost there ability to write these 'scrips at all. That's what pot liberalisation has meant here in California.*

          I've always thought making marijuana illegal while making alcohol legal was idiotic. Accident acturials make clear which is far more dangerous to life and limb, ours not the users. What do you do with drug warriors when their target leaves the scene.

          I've had a nickle bag for a while now. Have to see how good it is. Tried a couple of joints to check on antinausia and pain relief. No joy. After His speech, I need something for relief and a drunk ain't enough.

          * - I used to be on morphine the occasional Norcos to deal with level 10 pain. That's why I used to kill myself regular like. Now? I really need a joint.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            FAIL

            RE: Obama calls out encryption in terror strategy speech

            > [Not that Tramadol even works.]

            It does in fact work, just not on everything. My girl stockpiles it for when she needs it. That said, since moving to Cali, she swears by Skywalker OG as the [temp] cure for her crushing, way-beyond migraine headaches (since the Johns Hopkins provided 2 brain surgeries did nothing but make it worse).

            Back to encryption: Did I read someone state Key Escrow - Not with something like GPG. They might be able to twist the arms of Symantec, GoDaddy, etc .... but not everything comes from them. Some are generated from hosts like my never connected to the Internet crypto systems. I'll generate 10,000 Lorem Ipsum messages that are randomized 100,000 times to 1 valid message. Split them all up into smaller chunks, spray them in various directions and the recipient reassembles them based on a One-Time out-of-band key sequence.

            Now multiply that by a several million people doing the same. Does it sound taxing, sure. But my part is shell scripted over what, a couple of hours, maybe. Let them chase the ghosts. The only people caught are the lazy. You can't backdoor a piece of seemingly random data surrounded by pieces of junk random data.

            This will be the next drug war - an epic failure, except for maybe SSL from the "Trusted" chain providers, where they've escrowed all the keys for the G-Peeps.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: RE: Obama calls out encryption in terror strategy speech

              One of the cute tricks I came up with similar to one of the encryption methods used by the military, frequency agility except I would use port hopping. Without the one right listening patterns, it looks like trash. To add to the fun have a near random destination IP pattern too.

              Of course it should work both ways and you should have reasonable looking destination usages. To give credit where credit is due, port knocking gave me a clue.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          My country doesn't have a prison industrial complex so I'm not too worried about that.

          The encryption war will only escalate in a rapid win for crypto, as it combines with stenography and traffic obfuscation. That's data-in-transit. Data-at-rest will flow towards countries with sane privacy policies, and we're already seeing that.

          Which results in a technological ultimatum: Accept that you can't spy on anything, or unplug the internet.

          And believe me, I would love for America to continue down it's isolationist path and just shoot itself in the head.

          1. g e

            I'll even buy it the gun

            Presumably from Walmart

        3. oneeye

          I signed the White House petition to stop backdoors!

          I'm on Mozilla's list and frequently get request to sign petitions for stronger security of our technology products and to block attempts to weaken them. I just received a request for my personal comments on encryption. The petition was successful in reaching the threshold of 100 thousand signatures which then required a response from the White House,and so, technology leaders will be meeting at the White House later this week. I will likely send a response to comment tomorrow, but want my statement to be as profound as possible. One I'm sure will be reinforced by those attending this meeting. If time allows,I will post about this later.

    2. big_D Silver badge

      Maybe Obama should talk to Germany first. They are pushing for all citizen communications online to be encrypted and even pushed "Email made in Germany", which guarantees that email sent between members (ISPs and businesses) of the initiative are encrypted end-to-end.

    3. Named coward

      While I agree with you, the reality is that the "how do we know the authorities won't abuse their power?" argument is a non-starter since you are pretty much guaranteed that 1) they will 2) they won't admit it 3) you will get the "if you don't have anything to hide..." response.

      The "if you leave a backdoor open then others will be able to use it as well and there is no way to prevent that" argument is probably better at convincing laypeople/politicians that it's not the right path.

    4. NoneSuch Silver badge

      "Maybe the ability to scan our communications is necessary in order to stop the Really Bad Things from happening."

      Yes, like whistleblowing, free speech, dissent, disclosure of corrupt public officials, revealing government abuses of power, etc. Those kinds of things?

      Russia has a mandatory domestic surveillance system with access to all communications. China, North Korea does as well. They still have issues and not just from terrorism. Tyrants want control.

      Sacrifice freedoms and they will NEVER give them back. Politicians give up power? Are you mad?

      1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

        "Yes, like whistleblowing, free speech, dissent, disclosure of corrupt public officials, revealing government abuses of power, etc. Those kinds of things?"

        Yes. Those are Bad Things if you happen to be in power.

    5. Ponytailed Opinionator

      I kind of disagree. It's ridiculous to have laws that everyone breaks - all it does is undermine the authority of the system. If you mean a section of road to have a 20mph speed limit: enforce it. If you don't, don't put the sign up. It just makes you look foolish and weak.

      That's not really the concern about mass surveillance. The concern, firstly, is whether we're willing to discard the concept of privacy, and secondly, victimisation. It's not about forcing everyone to comply with stupid laws - as you point out, that's simply not achievable in a democracy. It's about using the threat of enforcement to silence dissent: taking the individuals who openly and legitimately challenge the system, and using information gathered from surveillance to threaten them (with legal action, disclosure or embarrassing secrets, whatever).

      Societies need dissent to stay healthy: any control system that inhibits legitimate dissent is bad for all of us.

      On terrorism, the scary truth is that the terrorists will always win. Once you make the mental step to being willing to hit soft targets - innocent men, women and children - what's to stop you? What's the plan, put microphones into every home and public space so no-one can ever talk without being heard? Ban knives? Ban paper so no-one can write anything down? Eliminate mud, so no-one can scribble in it? What kills more people, Terrorists or cars?

      This isn't about protecting people. This is about control. Terrorism is the government's friend: the more we are scared, the more we turn to the government to protect us. And the more we turn to the government for protection, the more it can use those same tools to silence dissent, reinforce its own power, and act without thought of the consequences.

      There's only one answer to this: Courage. Be willing to be hurt. Better to run the relatively minimal risk of being shot in the street by an extremist gunman, than give up our power to challenge the system when it is wrong. After all, why was the gunman so angry in the first place?

      1. Fluffy Cactus

        I just sort of disagree with what you kind of disagree...

        You say: "On terrorism, the scary truth is that the terrorists will always win."

        I say, well, that's not necessarily so. One can always take defensive steps that are both legal, reasonable and give you, as a human being, some sense of control. For example, if you think about the massacre in Paris, the one where about 80 people were killed by two or three shooters at a rock concert, and you use some imagination here: What if, of the about 1000 people there, a mere 10% had with them a wooden sling shot, with rubber band and leather patch, (like kids used to have 50 years ago) with just 5 golfball sized rocks. What if only 10% of people there were courageous enough to shoot their 5 rocks against these shooters. Out of 1000 people, 10% is 100 people, with 5 rocks each. That is 500 rocks! If only 5% of these 500 rocks hit the shooter in the head, that's 25 rocks in the head. Knocks them out. A simple approach like that could have saved about 50 or 60 people.

        Now, I expect that there will so many 100 other people against that idea, and I understand that, yet I have to emphasize that this would be purely a defensive measure, that involves homemade almost toy-like tools, that are legal, easy to carry. In addition this approach does not involve any guns or ammo, or bombs, and any super-sophisticated, super-expensive, yet complicated and slow government actions.

        Well, when I was a boy, I used a slingshot, with dried chest nuts, and within a few tries I learned to shoot

        a chestnut accurately about 60 yards at a bottle target. That was fun. Meanwhile you can all say oh, this is just a fuddy duddy idea that will never work. But if you got 100 people with 5 rocks and a sling shot against 3 terrorists, the terrorist will bite the dust much, much earlier than you can even imagine.

        Just an idea, not a command. If it doesn't make sense to you, it will to others. Ok, that's that.

        --------

        Now, with regard to encryption: Even if the governments outlaws any and all encryption, which they, rather without foresight, could do, then any terrorist sleeper cell could still communicate by use of a variety of so-called "one-time pads". The most famous "one-time pad" in recent history (i.e. the last 250 years) was George Washington's "One if by land, two if sea" (which related to 1 candle in the window, if the attach was going to be by land, two candles if the it was to be by sea). Only the person in the know

        about what the signal means can understand its meaning, and, in addition, by the time anyone else can discern what the code meant, it is too late to do anything about it. The tricky thing about one-time pads is that the code changes with each and every use of it, which has to be agreed upon beforehand, and if you run out of iterations, you start over, at which point it becomes less safe. Nonetheless, with a bit of imagination, you can see that "secret messages" can be exchanged without any "electronic encryption system" at all. As a result, I figure that all the politicians are more or less talking "uninformed nonsense".

        ----------

        You also say: "This isn't about protecting people. This is about control. Terrorism is the government's friend: the more we are scared, the more we turn to the government to protect us."

        To that I say: Well, not all terrorism is a "false flag operation". It's just difficult to figure out who is behind what. Some terrorists are simply the secret extension of another unfriendly government that wants to

        accomplish something, whatever. It seems odd to me that "radical islamists" want to "take over the world

        by randomly killing people in other countries". What do they expect? That we say: "Oh you now killed 120 of our people, so that makes us really mad!" and "Wait a minute, you now killed 20,000 of our people, so now I really want to join your religion!!" Like, heck, totally absurd, not going to work, altogether

        majorly dumb and dumber. So, back to rocks and slingshots we go.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    > embracing a perverted interpretation of Islam

    Not quite sure what he means here.

    The Qu'ran and the Hadith are quite clear that all non-believers are to be either converted or killed.

    The 'moderates' are the perversions.

    For me, I wish the religious would stop filling their heads with 2 millenia-old dogma and join the rest of us in the 21st century. Then we might find fewer reasons to kill each other for reasons other than that some old guy centuries ago told us to.

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      The 'moderates' make up the overwhelming number of believers in Islam. I'm pretty sure that it is the minority who get labeled "perversion" in just about any context. Just sayin'...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > The 'moderates' make up the overwhelming number of believers in Islam.

        I'm sure that you are right.

        But dogma is dogma.

        You either believe it or you don't.

        The reality is that the dawn of the rational age (which incidentally the Islamic nation largely in the East used to embrace then turned its back on it) is impinging on these idiotic beliefs to the extent that it is becoming more and more uncomfortable for the more fundamental to espouse their views in public.

        Many believe that the terrorist outbreaks that we are seeing more and more are, in part, a response to their increasing isolation in the wider world coupled with the very same Internet bringing liberal ideas and ideologies to their communities in contradiction to what they believe.

        Personally, I think more of this is the answer and the violence will play out over the next few years then fizzle out. I think we just have to push against it as best we can.

        In particular, I think I am with the more "militant" atheist stances particularly extolled by Dawkins and the late Hitchens. Society must become less accepting of blind faith and openly question religious belief wherever we find it. We must oppose dogmatism by questioning it. Only in blind faith can people find the excuse to continue in this vein. We cannot do that with laws or intolerance. We have to do it with honest and open dialog. No more pussy-footing around with polite obeisance to "personal beliefs" without evidence. We don't have to be arseholes about it, but we can be less tolerant towards daft-headedness.

        1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

          "Rational" is hard to define. There are a bunch of Randians who honestly and earnestly believe that altruism doesn't exist. They believe that everyone is selfism and that altruism is merely selfishness in disguise. I don't believe that. I believe selfishness and altruism to be two points along a spectrum and that human behaviors varies greatly along this spectrum depending on a combination of individual and circumstances.

          Both the Randians and I can point to science that can be interpreted to back up our viewpoints.

          So who is "rational" here? Who gets to determine "rational", especially when you are not even attempting to thinly veil your belief that "rational" equates to "correct"? (Or that "rational" means "what you, personally" believe, which you also seem to think is by default correct*.)

          I can interpret the King James version of the Bible such that it demands extremism. I can also interpret it such that it demands love, caring and respect. I can do the same thing for pretty much every religious text out there.

          I'm no fan of most religions, but what society needs to become less tolerant of is bigotry. Religion versus religion versus atheism versus yet more religion is pointless. why don't we work on "tolerating one another's differences", and work from there towards "celebrating one another's differences"? that makes for a much better world.

          <sarcasm>In the meantime, maybe you can explain to me - rationally - why your form of bigotry is more "rational" than anyone else's. Maybe you can include how it makes the world a better place. This is the internet, after all, and we're all just dying to hear more about why we should hate one or more identifiable groups of people. It really helps build the world I - or most people - want to live in.</sarcasm>

          And as for your "dogma is dogma" crack: you're full of shit. Religious texts aren't binary. They are documents that are interpreted to have personal meaning to each individual who studies them. You have no more right to tell anyone that a religious text must be interpreted in a binary fashion as any so-called religious leader.

          The hypocrisy dripping off your posts is tangible.

          *Atheism, BTW, is not a rational belief. Agnosticism is rational. Atheism is the belief that there can not be a deity of any variety. Agnosticism waits on the evidence, one way or another.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            > *Atheism, BTW, is not a rational belief. Agnosticism is rational. Atheism is the belief that there can not be a deity of any variety. Agnosticism waits on the evidence, one way or another.

            Atheism is not a belief at all. Strictly it is absence of belief. Some atheists believe in a deistic god, one that set the universe in motion, but does not intervene. In this way, there would be no evidence one way or the other regarding a deistic existence.

            Agnostics generally refuse to take a stand on the issue at all or assert that it is impossible to know.

            The rational position is that without evidence, we don't know anything at all, which is entirely at odds with the pre-suppositionalists which take a different starting point. This is the basis of the atheist standpoint.

            The bible (or the qu'ran etc) could be taken as evidence but it is so flimsy and without more recent corroboration, it is indistinguishable from fairytale. That is my personal position. I am open to the possibility that either a theistic or deistic god exists, but I would need a lot more to go on than an ancient text.

            1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

              "Atheism is not a belief at all. Strictly it is absence of belief"

              Wrong. Atheism is the belief that there is no god (or gods) and cannot be. If you accept that there might be then you aren't an athist. You're an agnostic. Atheism is not a lack of belief. It is an ardent belief in nothing.

              The distinction is fine, but very, very important.

              "The rational position is that without evidence, we don't know anything at all, which is entirely at odds with the pre-suppositionalists which take a different starting point. This is the basis of the atheist standpoint."

              Atheism presupposes knowledge. It presupposes that there is no deity and that there cannot be a deity. Agnosticism waits for the evidence, and doesn't try to say either way which is true.

              Atheism is no more rational and theism.

              1. hplasm

                Re:Atheism is no more rational and theism.

                Sorry, but bollocks.

                If you say that, for instance Santa does not exist, this does not mean that you 'belive' santa does not exist.

                It just means that, as far as you are concerned, there is no Santa.

                Belief does not enter into it. If there are no tomatoes, and, when asked, you say' I believe there are no tomatoes', then there are NO TOMATOES and no amount of coercion will make them appear, just because you used the word 'believe' in the state of tomato existence.

                So with gods. Atheists don't NEED them, so don't care. Agnostics are arse-covering at best.

                1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

                  Re: Re:Atheism is no more rational and theism.

                  @hplasm

                  Wrong. Atheism is about a desperate need to believe there is no god. They have no evidence. Nor are they open minded enough to allow for the possibility. But they need to believe that there isn't one.

                  And fair enough. That's their shout. I have no problem with that. But it is no more rational than the need to believe that one exists.

                  And yes, you know what, it absolutely is a belief. Short of certain types of mathematical proofs everything in human experience is based on belief. Shit, what you see as the colour "blue" isn't what I see as the colour "blue", but we all believe we know what "blue" looks like.

                  Or, most of us do. Some of us understand the malleability of human perception, but then we not only are talking about a slim minority, but those people also tend to get very meta about their thinking very fast.

                  Humans need belied. Belief is certainty. It doesn't have to be huge. It can be as simple as "I saw Bob at the bagel shop yesterday". Our memory is fallible. It could have been Bob, it could have not been Bob. Unless there's camera footage showing you seeing Bob there's really no reason to be sure you saw Bob...but we can't live every moment of every day with that kind of uncertainty about everything. So we believe we saw Bob. Even those of us who know how flawed human memory is, because these beliefs make life easier.

                  Now, getting on to bigger things - a god, no god, multiple gods - this is one more time all really related to our emotional well being. Some people need to believe in a god for various reasons. Forgiveness, "it's not really my fault", some reason to self-flagellate...who knows? It's different for everyone.

                  Some people need to believe in an afterlife - this is separate from a belief in a god, but usually intertwined. Some people need to believe both aren't possible. Some don't know what do believe and just don't care.

                  But yes, belief is everywhere in the human experience. We need it just to get through our day. Even if someone is agnostic about the existence of a god/gods or not doesn't make them capable of begin agnostic about everything. Similarly, no human has even been found to ardently believe that everything they can't prove doesn't exist.

                  Our sanity is based on our ability to believe. In the small things and sometime in the large.

                  And despite your claims otherwise, coercion can indeed change belief. So true is this that there are multiple sciences dedicated to refining techniques in this regard. All to many of them work shockingly well.

                  So what do you believe? And why? What drives those beliefs? What gave rise to that drive? And what do you require to change your beliefs? When have you changed them in the past?

                  Who are you, and why are you that person? What you strive to be and why? Beliefs are their driving motivations are laced up in all of it. Belief in something. Belief in the absence of something. Belief even in nothing at all.

                  Aren't people interesting?

                  1. hplasm
                    FAIL

                    Re: Re:Atheism is no more rational and theism.

                    "Atheism is about a desperate need to believe there is no god"

                    No- no more than baldness is a belief that hair does not exist. There is no desperation in disinterest.

                    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

                      Re: Re:Atheism is no more rational and theism.

                      "no more than baldness is a belief that hair does not exist. There is no desperation in disinterest"

                      1) Baldness can be empirically proven. The lack of existence of a deity cannot.

                      2) Disinterest in the existence or not of a deity would generally leave open the possibility for either. That's agnosticism. Atheism requires that faith in the non-existence of a deity be employed, as there is no evidence a deity doesn't exist. Mere apathy would be open to any possibility, because there isn't any motivation or requirement to develop a belief one way or another.

                      There may not be desperation in disinterest regarding the existence of a deity, but there absolutely is in asserting the impossibility of same.

                      1. Anonymous Coward
                        Anonymous Coward

                        Re: Re:Atheism is no more rational and theism.

                        > 2) Disinterest in the existence or not of a deity would generally leave open the possibility for either. That's agnosticism. Atheism requires that faith in the non-existence of a deity be employed, as there is no evidence a deity doesn't exist. Mere apathy would be open to any possibility, because there isn't any motivation or requirement to develop a belief one way or another.

                        Let's clear up the terminology a bit because I think it is one of the reasons why atheists are held in such poor esteem by many of the religious:

                        1) An atheist has no belief in a theistic god. That doesn't mean that one doesn't exist, just that the likelihood is low.

                        2) An anti-theist believes that there is no god.

                        3) An agnostic believes that it is impossible to determine one way or the other. So they sit on the fence.

                        --

                        The difference between an anti-theist and an atheist could be seen to be small but belies a fundamentally different perspective. The spectrum of belief of an anti-theist ranges from absolute certainty that something is true to absolute certainty that something is false. The spectrum of belief of an atheist ranges from absolute certainty to absolutely don't know. This is a fundamental distinction and the basis of rationalism. If evidence is the only foundation of positive belief, then absence of any evidence proves absolutely nothing.

                        --

                        The difference between an atheist and an agnostic is more nuanced. Evidence is neither black nor white. We can have tentative beliefs in some things and almost certainty in others based on the quantity and quality of the evidence that we have. We make pronouncements about our beliefs in our daily lives about all sorts of things. The agnostic irrationally makes an entirely different pronouncement about this one issue only. If an agnostic used this position in their daily life they would be constantly falling victim to fraudsters and charlatans left, right and centre.

                        Despite what the agnostic says, there *is* evidence for the existence of a god. For the Christian perspective, there is the bible. For the muslims, there is the Qu'ran. The evidence is very poor through being so old and so contradictory (in the case of the bible at least) and unsupported by anything contemporary. If there was no evidence, then the rational position is "don't know" (and probably don't care). Since there is some evidence, then the rationalist says "I'm very doubtful, but I could be wrong."

                        Either way, without evidence rationalists live their lives as though the position was not true, since this is the reality of living. We must since there is a practical infinity of possibilities for which there is no evidence on any issue.

                    2. Warm Braw Silver badge

                      Re: Re:Atheism is no more rational and theism.

                      no more than baldness is a belief that hair does not exist.

                      I think it depends on whether you shaved your head with Occam's razor...

                  2. Mark 65

                    Re: Re:Atheism is no more rational and theism.

                    @Trevor: Wrong. Atheism is about a desperate need to believe there is no god.

                    There's no desperation at all. There is no magical guiding hand. Religion stems from mankind's inability to explain the world around them in times gone by. Can't explain it? God did it! Most people moved on but some are obviously desperate in their need to believe there is a greater power to explain that which they cannot comprehend. The biggest irony being that the greatest chance you have of ever encountering a magical guiding hand is if you were in the choir or attended a Catholic school - the court records testify to that.

                    1. Bernard M. Orwell

                      Re: Re:Atheism is no more rational and theism.

                      "some are obviously desperate in their need to believe there is a greater power to explain that which they cannot comprehend."

                      Or, more often, to excuse what they have done to others.

                      1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

                        Re: Re:Atheism is no more rational and theism.

                        "Or, more often, to excuse what they have done to others."

                        Well, I've been fortunate in that I have very rarely encountered someone who needed to invoke a deity to excuse their actions. Unfortunately, I've spend a lot of time around Randians who have used their ardent belief in a lack of a deity to excuse their actions.

                        Blaming someone, something or nothing at all for oru own douchebaggery is one human trait that seems to transcend all belief systems.

                        1. Bernard M. Orwell

                          Re: Re:Atheism is no more rational and theism.

                          "I have very rarely encountered someone who needed to invoke a deity to excuse their actions."

                          Not heard of ISIS?

                          One name at the top of a very, very long list.

                  3. Adair Silver badge

                    Re: Re:Atheism is no more rational and theism.

                    @Trevor_Pott - Just want to say you're doing an excellent job here. Good to see someone taking on some of the more thoughtless assumptions about 'rationality' and 'belief', and other aspects of human nature and behaviour, that lead too many folk into at least typing like the the very folk they are raging against - the ignorant fundamentalist bigots, and the greedy power hungry murderers who leave nothing but a trail of destruction and misery in their wake. Yes, we need more of that kind of thing so let's all adopt the same kind of attitudes and behaviours in response; let's be equally prejudiced, ignorant, arrogant, and hate fuelled - you know you want to.

                    'Atheism', in it's popular expression, certainly is a 'belief'.

                    'Rationality', it's an interesting concept, but seldom experienced in the wild as it's not really something human beings are capable of, except in very limited circumstances.

                    A little more loving thoughtfulness and active compassion from all of us when it comes to dealing with our neighbours over life's great questions, mysteries, and realities would save a great deal of grief.

                  4. Joseph Eoff

                    Re: Re:Atheism is no more rational and theism.

                    QUOTE: "Wrong. Atheism is about a desperate need to believe there is no god. They have no evidence. Nor are they open minded enough to allow for the possibility. But they need to believe that there isn't one."

                    Wrong. Atheism is about looking at the evidence for god (or gods or godesses,) and determining that the evidence for them is about as good as the evidence for that invisible pink unicorn you keep in the invisible box in your garage.

                    I don't believe in god ( or gods or goddesses) because the evidence sucks. Since it sucks so bad, I'm don't feel any need to believe it.

                    I don't know if there is a god, but the evidence to date looks like this:

                    1. Lots of people REALLY want to believe in one.

                    2. The evidence that there is one is so poor that belief in anything based on it can only be termed an act of desperation.

                    3. Lots of people believe in lots of different gods ( and goddesses,) and most of these believe that there can only be one true god and/or that people who believe differently are wrong or deluded.

                    With those points taken together, I can only come to the conclusion that all people who believe in god are wrong or deluded.

                    1. Adair Silver badge

                      Re: Re:Atheism is no more rational and theism.

                      @ Joseph Eoff - ' I can only come to the conclusion that all people who believe in god are wrong or deluded'.

                      Can you also come to the conclusion that your conclusion, on the basis of the available evidence, is not the only possibility?

                      Drawing conclusions on the basis of sweeping generalisations and assumptions is always a recipe for embarrassing results.

                      1. Joseph Eoff

                        Re: Re:Atheism is no more rational and theism.

                        Certainly I could be wrong. The chances are MUCH higher, though, that all the believers are wrong.

                        Given the number of different belief systems that all claim to be the one and only absolute truth, nearly all of those systems have to be wrong. Given the impossibility of finding the only one that is the absolute truth, the only reasonable thing to do is to reject them all until undeniable, repeatable, irrefutable facts prove one to be correct.

                        I'm not holding my breath while I wait for that proof.

                    2. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

                      Re: Re:Atheism is no more rational and theism.

                      "With those points taken together, I can only come to the conclusion that all people who believe in god are wrong or deluded."

                      Funny, I think the same thing. There's no evidence for a deity or deities and those who think that one or more exist are very bad at science. That doesn't make me an Atheist, as I also believe that anyone who looks at the evidence and concludes that there must not be a deity is equally as cracked.

                      Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Science taught me that. History confirmed it. An open mind is a rare and valuable thing.

                      1. NP-HARD
                        Facepalm

                        Re: Re:Atheism is no more rational and theism.

                        Great that you learned a useful rule of thumb. Here's some others.

                        - Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

                        - Hitchen's razor

                        - Falsifiablility principle.

                        Consult these before equating religious belief with scientific theory.

                  5. alex870

                    Re: Re:Atheism is no more rational and theism.

                    Trevor_Pott:

                    >Atheism is about a desperate need to believe there is no god. They have no evidence.

                    Evidence to prove a negative? I trust you see the fallacy of that position.

                    I have a hard time accepting fantastically large claims without a shred of evidence. And further, where a large number of these fantastic claims are now provably false with scientific advancement. Want to bet that more religious claims of divine truth will not be debunked in due time?

                    I presume a minority of people have a pathological need to disbelieve, basically as contrarians. But the test for that is easy: these people would still not believe if shown scientifically rigorous evidence. This does not seem to be the majority position of Atheists, as you seem to think.

                    When you examine believers, there is commonly an emotional hook that compels them to believe. This is why they are impervious to rational discourse. Their decision to believe is not a rational one, but emotional.

                    Note that the reverse cannot be said (without ridicule). It is completely rational not to believe something that has no evidence.

                    Finally, my fraud detector goes off when people are selling an invisible product. No one is going to come back from the dead and say what it's really like. But, if you can remember what it was like before you were born, it'll probably be a lot like that.

                    Hey, do you remember how things changed in the middle ages? Neither do I.

                    1. John G Imrie

                      Re: Re:Atheism is no more rational and theism.

                      May I add, at the bottom of this long and winding thread: Russell's teapot

                      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russell%27s_teapot

                    2. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

                      Re: Re:Atheism is no more rational and theism.

                      "Evidence to prove a negative? I trust you see the fallacy of that position."

                      Of course I do. That's why belief that something does not and can not exist is completely idiotic. You cannot prove a negative and thus you must always remain open to the possibility of anything's existence.

                      The only thing I said about probability was that it was perfectly rational to believe that the probability of there being a deity was infinitesimal, but that it is absolutely not rational to believe that the possibility of there being a deity is zero.

                      What I have been attempting to shine a light on is the very binary thinking that the self-aggrandizing "rational thinkers" club of inaccurate "Atheists" is in fact limited and more often than not just plain wrong. Many claim science as their inspiration but are so closed minded that they cannot see they have created a belief system of absolutes every bit as mentally constraining as the faiths they simplify, bulk categorize and deride.

                      "When you examine believers, there is commonly an emotional hook that compels them to believe. This is why they are impervious to rational discourse. Their decision to believe is not a rational one, but emotional."

                      Funnily enough, this very same process describes the majority of "Atheists" I've had the misfortune of interacting with as well. Most self describe as atheists entirely as an emotional reaction to religion. They hate religion, and so they have a strong emotional need to define their belief systems as a lack of belief in a deity. It isn't about science. It is about rejecting religion. The minds of these very emotional Atheists are just as closed as the religious fuzzy wuzzies.

                      Of course, not all Atheists are such, just as not all religious believers are closed minded either. That is the point: the neat little containers and labels we like don't apply. People are variegated.

                      And the ease with which the self-described atheists in this thread rose to the bait I provided proves the very point I sought to make.

                2. lorisarvendu

                  Re: Re:Atheism is no more rational and theism.

                  If you say that, for instance Santa does not exist, this does not mean that you 'belive' santa does not exist.

                  It just means that, as far as you are concerned, there is no Santa.

                  ...

                  So with gods. Atheists don't NEED them, so don't care. Agnostics are arse-covering at best.

                  Thanks for that. You've kind of encapsulated the way I think there. I kind of fell into atheism through Science over a number of years, and it has been difficult (especially recently) to explain when asked what I believe and why I believe it.

                  Up until about age 14 I attended church with my parents (I'm in the UK) but found it increasingly difficult to reconcile what the Church of England said with what Science and my own personal morality was telling me. As I learned more about such subjects as cosmology, palaeontology, evolutionary theory, natural selection, geology, I suppose you could say that the available area inhabited by a "God" got pushed further and further back. Until I realised about 20 years ago that a Creator Deity had become completely irrelevent to me. Since I was keeping up with current scientific theory that extended back as far as the creation of the universe, there simply was no room for a God anymore. So in essence I was now an atheist. Unfortunately in recent years that has become an incredibly emotive label, such that I am often assumed to be some kind of aggressive follower of Richard Dawkins. I much prefer to say that I'm not religious and don't believe in God, rather than use the dreaded "A" word. I have morality, passed onto me from my parents (who of course were religious), but appear to have successfully instilled that morality in my children without the need to refer to any religious doctrine.

                  1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

                    Re: Re:Atheism is no more rational and theism.

                    "I have morality, passed onto me from my parents (who of course were religious), but appear to have successfully instilled that morality in my children without the need to refer to any religious doctrine."

                    Other than the bleating of the religiously privileged, I don't think most people presume that morality must by nature descend from religion. Plenty of agnostics and atheists out there who develop fine morals without religion. Plenty of religious folks who develop fine morals too.

                    And plenty of really ****ed up people who develop ****ed up morality (or no discernible morality) whilst being religious, agnostic or atheist.

                    I think that's a really important point to bring up. The separation of morality from the belief in a god/gods/lack thereof/waiting-on-evidence-either-way/etc. The questions of faith and morality really don't have anything to do with one another. Which is something that everyone who gets emotionally invested in these sorts of debates seems to forget.

                    Also: worth noting...

                    Belief in a deity or belief that a deity cannot exist is not really related to a need for a deity. I don't really believe in a deity (at least not in any way that any modern religion would recognize.) I believe one could exist, but this has no real world influence on my life.

                    Given the strength that faith (either in a deity existing or in one absolutely for sure not existing) has given some, I feel that i could use some faith, one way or another. I'm just too skeptical to believe in either possibility.

                    Similarly, I know plenty of people who believe in a deity who don't seem to need one. They just accept the existence of a deity like they do the existence of air or gravity. It has no effect or impact on them.

                    There's too much baggage in the theological packaging of deism. Most of us can't unpick one element from another because we, as humans, like to categorize and make everything into these nice neat little packages. If A, then B, C, D, E and F. Not always so. Or even mostly so.

                    But the most predominant portrayals get the mindshare.

              2. r_c_a_d

                Agnostics are atheists who don't want to upset their religious parents.

              3. beep54

                "Atheism is the belief that there is no god (or gods) and cannot be. If you accept that there might be then you aren't an athist. You're an agnostic. Atheism is not a lack of belief. It is an ardent belief in nothing."

                Ah, Trevor....you were doing so well up to this point. You seem to have a belief that "[a]theism is not a lack of belief. It is an ardent belief in nothing." Sigh. Look at the formation of the words. One is pretty much non-theism and the other non-mystical (gnostic). They really are not mutually exclusive.

                While I am here, (as an atheist/agnostic) I would like to recommend to all two books by Karen Armstrong, a former nun. One is 'A History of God' and the other 'The Battle for God'. The first outlines how humans have perceived the concept of God throughout the ages and lays the foundation for the second book where she tries to understand the rise of fundamentalism. Both books pretty much limit the discussion to the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The books are about 20 and 15 years old now (respectively), but still very timely.

                1. This post has been deleted by its author

            2. Schultz
              Boffin

              skelband: "Atheism, BTW, is not a rational belief."

              I disagree: It is completely rational to believe only in things that can be perceived or or measured. To agnostically wait for evidence for God (or the flying spaghetti monster) can be rationalized, but is not more rational than being atheist.

              Upvote me if you agree.

              Leave it to the almighty if you disagree ;).

              1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

                Re: skelband: "Atheism, BTW, is not a rational belief."

                @Schultz: and I must disagree with you. It is not rational to believe that just because something has not been measured yet that it cannot or will not be. In fact, there's all sorts of evidence in the history of scientific discovery that says exactly this attitude is destructive. (For one thing, it has lead to the "science progresses funeral by funeral" problem.)

                We'll leave perception out of the debate as we would then have to bear in mind how many people perceive some deity or another. And we'd have to examine the validity (or invalidity) of human perception.

                It is far more rational to approach the unknown with an open mind than a closed one. We have no proof that there is a god. We have no proof that there isn't. So the possibility exists of either being true.

                Do not conflate possibility with probability. It is rational to have lots of debates about the probability of the existence of a deity. But "it doesn't exist because it has not yet been measured"? That's faith. No different from any religion.

                1. Bernard M. Orwell

                  Re: skelband: "Atheism, BTW, is not a rational belief."

                  "We have no proof that there is a god. We have no proof that there isn't. So the possibility exists of either being true."

                  Schroedingers Deity?

                  If there is a god, then he is guilty of crimes against humanity and is almost certainly in hiding, or at war with all the other ones. Either way, I'd like a word with him....

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            "Atheism, BTW, is not a rational belief. Agnosticism is rational. Atheism is the belief that there can not be a deity of any variety. Agnosticism waits on the evidence, one way or another."

            The difference isn't that important. The scientific approach is put everything on the 0.0 list until evidence moves it to the 99.999999 list.

            The 0.5 list is for the frontiers of science, such as dark matter. We have a dark matter shaped hole in our understanding of the university. We don't even have a god shaped hole, so it goes on the 0.0 list with all other paranormal activity.

            1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

              "The difference isn't that important. The scientific approach is put everything on the 0.0 list until evidence moves it to the 99.999999 list."

              No, that's not science. That's a religion based around science.

              Science is a process and doesn't contain a judgment - implicit or explicit - about what should or should not be investigated, questioned, considered or believed.

              Individuals make their own choices about what to believe based on some of the results of science. That is belief, not matter which sets of evidence that individual chooses to prioritize. The "scientific approach" doesn't exist. There is no such there. There are merely procedures that can help with gathering evidence.

              Everything else is scientific consensus. You choose to believe in some, all or none of the various scientific consensuses, but your individual collection of choices regarding the scientific evidence on various topics is still a belief.

              And, statistically speaking, your individual collection of choices regarding the scientific evidence available is probably wrong. Now, as to the evidence for your choices in belief likely being wrong, well...let's ask science...

            2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

              The scientific approach is put everything on the 0.0 list until evidence moves it to the 99.999999 list.

              Clearly you don't understand scientific epistemology.

              Scientific epistemology includes a huge range of truth-estimating protocols. Few of them begin with the assumption that the hypothesis is true with probability zero.

              Formally, the most optimal protocol for converging on an accurate probability of a hypothesis is Baysian Perfect Reasoning, which would start at probability 0.5 for each independent claim.

              In practice, of course, human beings can't act as Perfect Bayesian Reasoners in general; we don't have the resources for it. The vast majority of hypotheses we accept or reject prima facie without even consciously considering them. And while many of the ones we do consider pre-consciously or consciously we do reject, for most of them it's not by any scientific protocol, but by the wide array of cognitive shortcuts the human mind is forced to employ.

              For the tiny remnant of hypotheses we have the luxury of applying scientific epistemology to, it would be counter-productive to start by assigning them zero probability by default.

              it goes on the 0.0 list with all other paranormal activity

              And that is definitely not scientific epistemology. By definition, anything "paranormal" is outside the normal, and thus cannot be investigated by protocols that rely on consistent behavior of natural phenomena. Scientific epistemology has to be agnostic about any hypotheses that are defined as outside the domain of science.

              That doesn't mean scientists can't scoff at such hypotheses, of course. It's entirely in keeping with scientific epistemology to note that 1) they generally require paranormal attributes, so we can say that they fail under the axiom that there are no material supernatural processes in the universe; 2) alternative non-supernatural explanations for evidence proffered in support of them are usually easy to find; and 3) they introduce entities and thus drive down their composite probability (Occam's Razor). But by definition you can't reach a zero probability for a supernatural hypothesis through any scientific protocol.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            > And as for your "dogma is dogma" crack: you're full of shit. Religious texts aren't binary. They are documents that are interpreted to have personal meaning to each individual who studies them. You have no more right to tell anyone that a religious text must be interpreted in a binary fashion as any so-called religious leader.

            Sorry, I think that you're wrong.

            Dogma, by definition, is that which you must accept without argument. There is a lot of wisdom in religious texts and there is a lot of bollocks. So how do you pull them apart? We have a whole area of study dedicated to that question. It is called "philosophy". In my view, we should teach it at school to all kids like we teach maths and English.

            And secondly, I wouldn't presume to tell anyone what to think. What I would tell them is to actually "think". My problem with religious dogma is not that I think that it is all rubbish because clearly it is not.

            But blind acceptance is not a path to truth. I think we should give everyone permission to look at their literature with an open mind. To accept that which makes sense and reject that which doesn't.

            So you say "isn't that what religious moderates *are* doing?". Well yes, to a point. I think most western Christians are at that position now. They cling to a cultural Christianity but reject some of the more patently ridiculous dogma. I just wish that some of them would read a bit more widely though and drop their special affiliation to that one precious text. It is progress of a sort.

            1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

              "Dogma, by definition, is that which you must accept without argument."

              Dogma is everywhere. Scientific as well as religious. Just because a text can be interpreted to contain dogma does not mean that, by definition it is dogma. How dogmatic - or not - a given text is really boils down to who is doing to the teaching and who is doing the listening.

              I, for example, was raised with dogmatic science teachers and very liberal religious teachers. My Science teachers taught me to memorize by rote and never to question. My religious teachers taught me to think for myself.

              You are interjecting your experience and worldview and claiming it as a truth. You are the dogmatic here, sir The world, in my experience at least, is a hell of a lot more complex that you're portraying it.

            2. John G Imrie

              Think

              Tak does not require that we think of him, only that we think

              Thud! -- Sir Terry Pratchett

          4. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Agnosticism is not what you think it is

            Agnosticism is not waiting for evidence, It is the believe that god is un-knowable (hence the gnostic part). It therefore still falls into the deistic range of beliefs.

            Sorry, pedant.

          5. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            > I'm no fan of most religions, but what society needs to become less tolerant of is bigotry. Religion versus religion versus atheism versus yet more religion is pointless.

            Criticism of ideas is not bigotry. Criticism of ideas is the meat and potatoes of science but scientists are not bigots are they?

            Bigotry is yet another form of "faith". It is attack against people for reasons that are wholly unsupported by evidence. Racism is an attack against peoples because of ethnic background, making assertions that are entirely irrational.

            Ideas should never ever be protected from criticism.

            Unfortunately, many of the faithful connect themselves to their beliefs so closely, that they see an attack on their beliefs as attacks on themselves. I can understand that. We are all human and we don't like to be contradicted, but this is why free speech as a principal is so important. Without the freedom to criticise, we fall to totalitarianism.

            1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

              "Criticism of ideas is not bigotry. Criticism of ideas is the meat and potatoes of science but scientists are not bigots are they?"

              Criticism of ideas is not necessarily bigotry.

              Criticism of ideas can be bigotry, if that criticism is not based on evidence, but instead is rooted in nothing more than a personal sense of right and wrong.

              Criticism of ideas descends into bigotry when it takes the form of "because some A interpret X to mean Y then all A are M". For example "because some Islamic believers interpret their faith to mean killing infidels then all Islamics believe in a religion of death".

              Consider for a moment how very easy it was for me to get a whole bunch of Atheists really, really upset in this thread. Why? Because I had the temerity to tell them what Atheism is, when they had their own interpretations of what Atheism is that did not match what I was saying.

              Now let's go back to the original reason I bothered replying to you, and the whole lesson in all of this: you don't get to define to someone else what their faith is, or what their faith means. Hopefully having someone ram their views of your beliefs (or lack of belief, depending how you want to sell it to yourself) down your throat has managed to convey that fact to you.

              Your description of the faith of millions of people was simplistic, bigoted and wrong. With any luck, you are now able to understand how and why.

              Cheers.

              1. Frumious Bandersnatch

                Consider for a moment how very easy it was for me to get a whole bunch of Atheists really, really upset in this thread. Why? Because I had the temerity to tell them what Atheism is, when they had their own interpretations of what Atheism is that did not match what I was saying.

                If you're not an atheist, Trevor, then going around to actual atheists and telling them what they really believe is sure to get up their noses.

                Here's the first thing that google turns up when I enter "atheism as a belief" (with my emphasis added):

                Atheism is usually defined incorrectly as a belief system. Atheism is not a disbelief in gods or a denial of gods; it is a lack of belief in gods. Older dictionaries define atheism as "a belief that there is no God."

                I am an atheist and I agree with that definition. I do not have a belief that there is no God, much less a belief system. Arguing that an atheist believes in no-God is as irrelevant as a goldfish espousing a belief in the water he's living in. It is a supremely unrewarding line of thinking and thus we can, and do, safely discard it.

                PS, as someone else mentioned, there's a difference between a-theist and anti-theist. The hint is there in the prefix; a- means "without"; whereas anti- means "against". I am without the baggage of belief in a god (ie, I call myself an athiest), and also without the baggage of having to believe that there is none (I am not an anti-theist).

                1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

                  "If you're not an atheist, Trevor, then going around to actual atheists and telling them what they really believe is sure to get up their noses."

                  Yes. This was indeed my point. To underscore a more critical point:

                  "If you're not a Muslim, commenttard, then going around to actual Muslims and telling them what they really believe is sure to get up their noses."

                  "If you're not an {insert X here}, commenttard, then going around to actual {insert X here}s and telling them what they really believe is sure to get up their noses."

                  I hope that my point has been made.

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                > Criticism of ideas descends into bigotry when it takes the form of "because some A interpret X to mean Y then all A are M". For example "because some Islamic believers interpret their faith to mean killing infidels then all Islamics believe in a religion of death".

                I have not seen anyone in this thread make that assertion.

                I believe I also expressed this opinion in my response. Just because you criticise someone's beliefs does not imply you criticise their person.

                Passages in both the bible and the Qu'ran explictly call for violent acts to be performed by their adherents. Stoning, putting to death unbelievers and adulterers: these are all there for everyone to see. They are not open to interpretation. That many Christians and Muslims ignore these edicts as preposterous in this century is a triumph of reason over dogma, not nuanced interpretation of scripture.

                > you don't get to define to someone else what their faith is, or what their faith means.

                Actually I do.

                Everybody gets to criticise all faiths, all dogmas and if the religious get upset about that, then they will have to suck it up. If someone disagrees with me, and they find my views unconvincing then likewise.

                I even accept that you get to debate the true meaning of "atheism". Contrary to what you seem to feel, I'm not in the slightest upset about that. We must agree to disagree on this I think. I have expressed what my position is regardless of the label.

                > Your description of the faith of millions of people was simplistic, bigoted and wrong. With any luck, you are now able to understand how and why.

                Again the bizarre and emotional use of the word bigot. I think I have covered this already. I don't think I can add anything to that, that would convince you otherwise.

                1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

                  "Everybody gets to criticise all faiths, all dogmas and if the religious get upset about that, then they will have to suck it up. If someone disagrees with me, and they find my views unconvincing then likewise."

                  Criticism is not definition.

                  Criticizing Islam because there is bad shit in the Qu'ran is no different than my criticizing Atheism because Antitheism happens to be the loudest and most dominant flavour. In doing so you define the religion on your own terms; these things that most believers have chosen to move past you say cannot be ignored and must be reconciled to your liking.

                  By the same token I then define Atheism by it's antitheistic extremists and their dogma. Both of these are extremely bigoted. They are using an extreme to define a group, inaccurately.

                  Criticism isn't bigotry. But the inability or unwillingness to consider individual views and beliefs as separate and distinct from the views of extremists - or even from extremist elements in someone's own holy text - is bigotry. Religious faith doesn't mean literal interpretation. In fact, history has shown literalism to generally be the minority view and usually ends in violent extremism.

                  By all means criticize some element of some aspect of a faith. Criticize specific parts of a given holy text and/or call into question the validity of that text. But don't go around saying "Religion X is Y" unless you are prepared to be labeled a bigot. It is just as bigoted as saying "Atheism is antitheism and you don't get to disagree because it is my right to define what you believe".

                  I am sorry you are unable to understand that. At least I tried.

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    > Criticizing Islam because there is bad shit in the Qu'ran is no different than my criticizing Atheism because Antitheism happens to be the loudest and most dominant flavour.

                    I agree. Both anti-theism and religion are irrational in my view.

                    Atheism aims to take a purely rational view of the issue.

                    > these things that most believers have chosen to move past you say cannot be ignored and must be reconciled to your liking.

                    Some Islamic followers have most certainly not moved past them. The danger is not the extremity of the doctrines. The danger is from following any dogma at all and in our indecent haste to ingratiate ourselves to the "moderates" we forget that. But again, we can openly criticise dogma without being arseholes about it and criticism of dogma is not criticism of people. They may feel that it is, but they are incorrect. There is always an unspoken underlying implication that criticising someone's heartfelt dogmatic beliefs includes an accusation that the believer is stupid. This is also incorrect. The smartest people around can delude themselves.

                    > By all means criticize some element of some aspect of a faith. Criticize specific parts of a given holy text and/or call into question the validity of that text. But don't go around saying "Religion X is Y" unless you are prepared to be labeled a bigot.

                    So you can criticise small bits but if you criticise the whole then you are suddenly a bigot? How in ${DEITY}'s green earth do you make that assertion? What is the largest piece of a religion that you can criticise before it starts being bigotry? 50%? 75%? Where is the line Trevor? If you assert that it is all wrong, then you're a bigot, but if you say that 20% is wrong, then that's fine? What kind of apologetic nonsense is this?

                    > It is just as bigoted as saying "Atheism is antitheism and you don't get to disagree because it is my right to define what you believe".

                    We can disagree as to what those words mean. To arbitrate, all we can do is defer to an authority on the issue. I call myself an Atheist and I know what it means to me. We can argue until the cows come home as to whether antitheism and atheism are different or the same just like we can argue what "muslim" means. It's all a bit pointless unless you are an etymologist.

                    At the end of the day, the enemy of the modern world is dogma and irrationality. Moderate muslims value rationality more then the "fundamental" muslims. Atheists value rationality more then moderate muslims.

                    It's all a sliding scale and we are all guilty of self-delusion at one time or another.

        2. RIBrsiq

          "But dogma is dogma".

          In principle, yes.

          But until such a time when absolute logic and reason prevail I, for one, would rather not lump all those who believe in things unseen together and fight them at once. There is a continuous spectrum of believers, and indiscriminate hostility towards them all only serves to radicalise more of the fringe cases who could otherwise at least be kept neutral.

          Back on topic: While I would consider any proposals that claim otherwise, I cannot see how selective encryption is any more realistic than, say, selective road networks that would block Bad Guys from making a getaway after doing their nefarious deeds.

          What should be emphasised in this context, I think, is that better communication and dissemination of ideas and their open discussion is probably exactly what would kill the likes of ISIS: their ideology does not even come close to holding up to close scrutiny, it should come as a surprise to absolutely no one sane. So the easier exposure to culture and ideas is for everyone on the planet, the harder their ilk would find it to spread their poison.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            > What should be emphasised in this context, I think, is that better communication and dissemination of ideas and their open discussion is probably exactly what would kill the likes of ISIS: their ideology does not even come close to holding up to close scrutiny, it should come as a surprise to absolutely no one sane. So the easier exposure to culture and ideas is for everyone on the planet, the harder their ilk would find it to spread their poison.

            This is exactly my view. Bullets and bombs might be necessary expedients in the short term (to prevent needless slaughter and the destruction of irreplaceable historical artefacts) but they will not win this "war".

            We have to show the people that the terrorists are trying to convert that there is a better way by living it.

            What the French, US and UK governments are doing is absolutely the wrong thing. You cannot defeat authoritarianism with a different kind of authoritarianism.

    2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Hmmm?

      I asked an Imam about this. His words were something like

      "There are many places in the Holy Book where if things are taken out of context they can be made to say just about anything you want."

      He went on to say,

      "I teach my students that we have to live together and respect each other's differences. In Islam our biggest problem is not with other religions but is with the different sects within the faith."

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hmmm?

        I have a lot of Celtic roots spread throughout Northern Europe and if the is one group good at killing each other over what others consider nonsense, it's us. Funny places like Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Alsasce-Lorraine, yep, long list. The sane, in certain quarters, ones are Mohawk. The do high steel. So. I understand the warp and woof of human behavior. Especially between sects. Still we need a better set of mechanics then we've got at the moment. Boots on the ground, Khost Protective Force, drones, Assassins-R-Us, we aren't covering the bases and this shrill invocation of spies who can't do the job even with terrorists who aren't even bothering with ANY encryption will fail too.

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Took the words out of my mouth

      Most of the Kill the Unbelievers is in the Hadiths actually. The Qu'ran itslef has only a few verses on the subject.

      What you forgot to add that out of all sects in Islam we (the West) have declared as the enemy, the ones we have declared as enemies (the shia, alawites, etc) _DO_ _NOT_ take the Hadiths literally. In Shia islam all of the Hadiths are by default non-authentic and can be studied and questioned. On top of that, they have a different (and significantly less blood thirsty compared to Sunni) collection of Hadiths. This includes most of the "kill the unbelievers" statements.

      In Sunni islam, that is not subject to discussion. It was put there not because Christian, Jews and other faiths by the way. It was put in there by the winners in the Mohammad war of secession as a part of the "exterminate the (what was to become) shia". These are also the people we side with geopolitically throughout the globe.

    4. SolidSquid

      "The Qu'ran and the Hadith are quite clear that all non-believers are to be either converted or killed.

      The 'moderates' are the perversions."

      From what I remember it's apostates rather than non-believers, with that being something introduced by Wahabi-ism (which originates in Saudi Arabia, one of our allies). Also, by the same reasoning pretty much all forms of Christianity are perversions since they don't include the whole stoning for adultery or the wide range of other crimes punishable by death. Pretty sure apostasy is a crime under biblical law too now I think of it

      So yes, the moderate may be considered a "perversion" of the original, but that doesn't mean the moderates aren't the majority of the religion, much like the majority of Christians don't follow the bible literally

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The Quran is not "Islam"

      The Qur'an (I believe the apostrophe comes after the R) is not Islam any more than the Bible is Christianity. In both cases there are a few loonies who want to ignore millennia of tradition and make up their own version of the religion based on their own interpretation of the holy book (or a bad translation thereof), but mainstream Islam and mainstream Christianity are not fundamentalist in that sense.

  3. frank ly

    re. San Bernadino killings

    Is there any indication that the people involved were using encryption as part of their 'activities'?

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: re. San Bernadino killings

      Do you really think that matters in this debate? Not "should matter", but "actually does matter"?

      1. Mark 65

        Re: re. San Bernadino killings

        @Trevor: Yes, I think it matters. If someone is basically saying to us all that "give us these powers/remove all these freedoms and we will protect you" I, for one, would like to see evidence it will. Frankly, however, I fear that such evidence is about as rare as rocking horse shit.

        1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

          Re: re. San Bernadino killings

          That matters to you...but does it matter insofar as the laws passing or not? Does your acceptance of the laws (or not) prevent them from being passed or enforced?

    2. Adam 1

      Re: re. San Bernadino killings

      We live in a world where sadly some feel the correct response to horrors coordinated by text message is to block TOR. You just can't argue with that kind of special. Not with anything resembling logic anyhow.

    3. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: re. San Bernadino killings

      No news on that so far.

      It is a classic example of what the police forces in the rest of the world have been seeing as the "American Scenario" - radicalized local goes into the gun shop, carts away a couple of assault guns and enough ammo for a small war and after that goes on a rampage. The European version of this is - radicalized local goes to the friendly local neighbor from [Monte Negro | Croatia | Bosna & H | Kosovo | Albania], carts away a couple of AK47s and a few boxes of ammo for them.

      Banning encryption will do nothing to deal with this. You need to deal with the open channells, especially on social media - the ones used to broadcast to the gullible. Those, in their vast majority are not encrypted. You also need to deal with the sources of gun and ammo.

      You also need to deal with our own media being allowed to funnel pre-set and pre-prepapred propaganda like this. We cannot agree on who executed the first successful airstrike in a long time on the ISIS "capital" yesterday, but we are happy to convey what is a piece of propaganda by a local splinter group in a civil war full of conjectures with a suitable kid victim picture. Key principles in countering enemy propaganda is "you do not report from behind enemy lines" and "you may not like the official line, you will be reporting it anyway". This will go a long way towards dealing with ISIS and the like - we should stop doing their propaganda job for them.

      1. g e

        Yeah but banning encryption is on the wishlist

        So why let facts get in the way of your agenda

  4. xybyrgy

    Magical Thinking

    Until the powers that be listen to their experts - and they employ them - and believe that a backdoor for LEOs is a backdoor for criminals/hackers/thieves and would destroy modern commerce, they will persist in la-la land.

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: Magical Thinking

      The powers that be have persisted in a destructive "war on drugs" for decades against the advice of experts. Why should this be different? So long as they can find one or two tame "experts" for every thousand experts that say they're wrong, they'll persist in the course they feel has the best chance of getting them elected.

      The truth is not relevant to politics.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Re: The truth is not relevant to politics

        Indeed, but thankfully politics are not relevant to mathematics, and mathematics clearly state that a backdoored encryption scheme is a broken encryption scheme.

        In the end, whatever the frothing-at-the-mouth paranoid are shouting now, politics will bend to the pressure of the market. The only question is how long it will take.

        1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

          Re: The truth is not relevant to politics

          You can't backdoor encryption, but you can key escrow. That's a function of money and bureaucracy, not mathematics. Anyone using encryption where the key isn't in the system is a criminal and gets banged up for it. For minor offenses it's probably a fine and/or 5 years in jail, just like possessing marijuana. But if you use it in conjunction with a crime they'll use it to send you up a creek for good.

          Don't confuse "can't stop everyone, all of the time" with an inability to regulate and criminalize. The technology exists to regulate encryption and prosecute those who choose to violate the new laws.

          Remember: the government has no problems making all of us buy new computers/phones/etc. Give it a 5 year grace period and sure as shit, they'd feel perfectly okay banning any un-escrowed encryption and fining/jailing those who don't comply.

          1. hplasm
            Meh

            Re: The truth is not relevant to politics

            "Remember: the government has no problems making all of us buy new computers/phones/etc"

            Only if they are willing to pay for them- otherwise, no sale. Owning this stuff is not compulsory- yet.

            New, compromised shit, doubly so.

            1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

              Re: The truth is not relevant to politics

              Seems to me the government managed to turn off non-digital television broadcasts just fine. I think some places no longer have analogue radio, etc. This would be no different, just with more of an edge because of national security.

              No need for the government to pay anything unless there is a real chance the voters will choose to get uppity over some money instead of buying into "think of the children".

              1. Mark 65

                Re: The truth is not relevant to politics

                I think there was a fair amount of consent there - implicit or otherwise. The public didn't care because there was a clear benefit to them - more channels of shit in higher definition and generally better image quality and sound clarity.

                Tell people that they can never effectively bank securely again or ever communicate without every word effectively being digitally transcribed and see how far that gets you in your electoral campaign. There's a good reason Snowdon's revelations were revelations i.e. state secrets - they weren't exactly palatable to the masses.

              2. hplasm
                Meh

                Re: The truth is not relevant to politics

                "No need for the government to pay anything..."

                No need for me to buy anything either. I'd rather do without.

                1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

                  Re: The truth is not relevant to politics

                  "No need for me to buy anything either. I'd rather do without."

                  And? So? Then you're clearly not using encrypted internet communications to plan terrorism. The government achieves its goal either way. *shrug*

                  Your silent protest will make them care not at all.

          2. John H Woods

            Re: The truth is not relevant to politics

            "The technology exists to regulate encryption and prosecute those who choose to violate the new laws."

            I agree that technology exists "to regulate encryption" but, as we know, shorn of headers, decent ciphertext is indistinguishable from random numbers; these are easy to smuggle in media files. Furthermore, there is no practical detection of, or defence against, idiot code.

            I'm pretty sure we are in agreement here --- they can regulate and criminalize but it wont stop the people it is "really supposed to stop"

            1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

              Re: The truth is not relevant to politics

              I'm pretty sure we are in agreement here --- they can regulate and criminalize but it wont stop the people it is "really supposed to stop"

              Regulating encryption is about clamping down on dissidents and whistleblowers, not terrorists. And while it will not stop all of those people, it will stop most of them quite effectively.

        2. g e

          What I'd like is

          For all these bigwigs to fly in planes designed by the same school of mathematics that say backdoored encryption is a real & secure thing.

          A self-solving problem, almost an axiom in its way (ish)

  5. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Holmes

    A man with no honour, a man with no decency

    The president of the ISIS-enabling nation says ISIS means we need to control you.

    I am actually starting to believe the latest "events" were indeed false flags.

    This is all just simply too beautiful.

    Plus, he's making fun of the Russians, who got actually hit by ISIS. Who are actually the only ones operating in Syria in accordance with any semblance of international law. And are cleaning up the money-making ISIS-Turkey oil trade. That's got to make certain deep-state players nervous.

    1. g e

      Re: A man with no honour, a man with no decency

      I concur, it's all fitting together like a nice little jigsaw. Noam Chomsky had anything to say on the matter?

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: A man with no honour, a man with no decency

        it's all fitting together like a nice little jigsaw

        That does very little to increase the probability of conspiracy. We have plenty of historical evidence to demonstrate that mature hegemonic power structures are quite capable of finding accidental structure in very-loosely-coupled events and exploiting it. There needn't be any secret manipulations; the powerful actors can tack to any wind.

  6. David Roberts
    Flame

    Blame Game

    Always looking for someone to blame instead of fixing the problem.

    Hey, Government, why can't you stop terrorism?

    We would, but those guys won't let us.

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: Blame Game

      "Hey, Government, why can't you stop terrorism?"

      Short of wiping out humanity, stopping terrorism isn't possible. To think otherwise is absurdly naive.

      So long as humans have the capability to disagree with one another there will be some humans who disagree with the majority. So long as humans disagree with one another, there will be some humans who choose to fight for their beliefs. So long as there are some humans who choose to fight for their beliefs there will be some humans who are willing to kill for their beliefs.

      If you want to nip that in the bud you must remove from humans the ability to disagree with one another. In doing so, you have removed from us our defining trait: independence of thought. What you've created at that point is no longer human. It is a separate species, quantitatively different from that which exists now.

      The only way to stop terrorism is to end our species forever. Is that what you advocate?

    2. Mark 65

      Re: Blame Game

      Hey, Government, why can't you stop terrorism?

      Because it keeps the war machine rumbling ever onwards.

      Is there any nation the Americans have interfered with that they haven't totally fucked up? Not sure how many attempts they want to have in the Middle-East before they realise they don't have a clue.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Encryption doesn't kill

    Guns do.

    Hey USA, get back to the rest of us when you've sorted out your sordid gun problem.

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Encryption doesn't kill

      Obligatory Goldie Looking Chain link:

      Guns don't kill people, Rappers do.

    2. Joseph Eoff

      Re: Encryption doesn't kill

      Yeah, like Europe.

      That did a spiffing job of stopping the attacks in Paris, didn't it?

      All European countries have stricter gun laws than the US. The criminals in the Paris attacks actually bought their guns from Germany, which has some of the strictest gun laws.

      I am so *tired* of the Europen "holier than thou" attitude towards guns. Despite the restrictions, criminals don't have any trouble getting guns when they want them. All the laws do is make hard for a law abiding citizen to own a gun.

      Most nearly *anything* can be used as a weapon, and I am *very* glad that the terrorists haven't gotten around to realizing that.

      1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

        Re: Encryption doesn't kill

        Birth control?

        BAN IT!

        Abortion?

        BAN IT!

        Gay marriage?

        BAN IT!

        Guns?

        Look, banning things never works. People will find ways to get them.

        1. NotBob
          FAIL

          Re: Encryption doesn't kill

          I don't recall birth control being banned, but abortions have happened even under ban, and still happen outside of what the law allows (in clinical settings by trained providers, not talking back-alley and a clothes hanger).

          Gay marriage may not have happened under ban, (after all, in civil law a marriage is simply government recognition of a relationship,) but I can assure you that homosexual activity happened, and that partners lived together and had assets in common and even fought like other couples.

          Looks like banning things doesn't work after all...

          1. Joseph Eoff

            Re: Encryption doesn't kill

            QUOTE: "I don't recall birth control being banned, "

            Then ask the catholics, I'm sure they remember it being banned (admittedly only under the laws of the church.)

        2. Joseph Eoff

          Re: Encryption doesn't kill

          And how well did the bans on those things work? Not well at all.

          Birth control and abortions were available despite bans - the bans have been lifted.

          Gay marriage? The homesexual folks lived together and loved one another anyway - the bans have been/are being lifted.

          Bans on guns don't work well - everyone yells for more bans.

        3. Mark 85 Silver badge

          @Trevor_Pott -- Re: Encryption doesn't kill

          You forgot Prohibition back in the early 20th century. No alcohol... Hah!!!!! Yeah, bans and laws work.

      2. Paul Crawford Silver badge

        Re: @Joseph Eoff

        Meanwhile in Europe we don't have school massacres practically every year for the last century...I think you will find that even with all of the "terrorist" acts in Europe post WW2 together the death toll is less than a year of US gun-related accidents.

        1. Rimpel

          There have been more mass shootings in the US than days this year

          San Bernardino, California has become the 355th site of a mass shooting on Wednesday, the 336th day in 2015

          http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/there-have-been-355-mass-shootings-in-the-us-this-year-a6758201.html

      3. Rimpel
        Coffee/keyboard

        "All the laws do is make hard for a law abiding citizen to own a gun."

        I just wanted to re-post this sentence just in case anyone else missed it!

  8. Probie

    Due process

    So my move to bring the "privacy" things that I care about "in house", literally in this case. Where does that leave me.

    Of course they are all encrypted as images, they are all using TLS 1.2, do I now need to throw away the encryption keys so that I do not have "reasonable access to them". E.G. make them from random entropy and NOT record the key? Turning the VM's into a little "black box". Would that be enough protection for something that is a) not worth reading or spending the effort on decrypting forcefully and b) only done to stop corporate data profiling/mining, This is just really the family life, I just do not want the corporate world strip mining it.

    Its worth remembering that whilst the governments desire to want to strip mine meta data for intelligence has been well reported the capitalist companies were DOING this well before the government. Do I find a government as trustworthy as a corporation - no, but that does not mean i have to trust the corporation either.

    Why am I suddenly becoming the marginalised outlaw?

    1. John G Imrie

      Why am I suddenly becoming the marginalised outlaw?

      Because you have a higher than average IQ.

  9. MrDamage Silver badge

    Given that

    The average yank is about 100 times more likely to be on the receiving end of a bullet from a disenfranchised loner, than they are to be blown up by a beardy weirdy, wouldn't it make more sense for "Yo, bummer" to do something about gun control, before tackling the mathematically impossible?*

    *Yes, gun control in the USA is also mathematically impossible. The politicians refused to give up the huge numbers the NRA dump into their pockets.

    1. Ben Bonsall

      Re: Given that

      Gun control in America is impossible because the people that believe in the right to own guns, believe they have that right in order to prevent the government getting out of hand, and one of the things they see as the government getting out of hand is them trying to take away their guns.

      1. Mark 65

        Re: Given that

        Having the right to own guns is one thing but the volume and type is completely another. Prevent the Government getting out of hand? Let me know how that works out for you. Clue: they already are and there's a reason the local plod have bearcats and other such military vehicles.

      2. Nai

        Re: Given that

        And now that same government wants to remove the people's access to [strong] encryption (which is far less lethal than a gun) also to have a greater capability than the general population (i.e. privacy)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Given that

      The average yank is about 650x more likely to be killed a gun (excluding 2001).

      60% of all murders were by gun. In 2015 there were 353 mass shootings, 62 school shootings, a total of 12,223. Statistics are pretty much a flat line, so they'll be around another 12,000 in 2016.

    3. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Given that

      100? More like 1000+

  10. tom dial Silver badge

    A most interesting discussion, one to which I shall return tomorrow and might make a comment or two. For now I will make two observations.

    The first is that while a workable and scalable key escrow system might be possible, and would serve the needs of most people, it really would not be of great law enforcement use for most purposes because nearly all crimes have little to do with communication or data, whether or not it is encrypted. The very small fraction of criminals who plan complicated activities that require coordination of numerous actors who must communicate quickly over considerable distances are not at all likely to rely on encryption methods they know can be broken at the drop of a warrant. They will use one of the numerous cryptosystems that have been available for some time and are though by experts in the field to be free of weaknesses and back doors. Accordingly, they might be caught out by more old fashioned methods of surveillance or detection, and might be charged with violating encryption laws, but probably will be able to avoid electronic surveillance that is not aided by more traditional methods.

    Second, the English language averages about 5.1 characters per word, and an average book has about 64,500 words. A 64 GB USB key that I can buy at Walmart for $15 and tax, can hold a one time key pad large enough to securely encrypt the entire British Library or Library of Congress collection, and very probably both.

  11. 27escape

    Which Government gets the keys

    If back doors were somehow enabled to give the government access whose government would it be? Yours, mine, USA, UK, France, Germany, Russia, Egypt etc.

    Obviously these would be shared between friendly governments but the friend of my friends government may not be my friend. For starters google, apple, microsoft etc would have to hand over all their keys to pretty much every government in the world.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      ISIS gets the keys.

      What are the chances that nobody in Sony wants to join ISIS? It wouldn't be hard in the grand scheme of things to pass off the keys.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Already bolted

    It's not gonna happen. Encryption is already a de-facto standard, and there are millions of people doing it without even realising it, and would be unable to stop doing it.

  13. Mark 85 Silver badge

    The whole discussion of encryption and terror is a mixed bag of contradictions. The politics will not allow that.

    For example, on the side most police cars are the words: "To protect and serve" (or words to that effect". Talk to any cop and he'll tell you that "protect" is impossible in today's world. Everything is weighted and they end up as "after the fact". Just like the government's waffling on whether SB was a terror incident or work-place incident. If they were on top of it, they would have known before it happened and could done the "protect" part. Which what the politicos what us to believe. Encryption or no encryption would not have made a difference.

    Another contradiction is that they cannot possibly process all the data they collect, but they want even more. This will do what? The answer is nothing except the after the fact cleanup.

    The bigger problem is if they do detect a crime or terror incident about to happen, what do they do about it? How do they judge whether it's a couple of people musing out loud or the real deal? We can't arrest or detain someone because they "might" do something. This leads us back to the "after the fact" reality.

    If the US were not engaged in an election season, I suspect the rhetoric would be totally different. And I'll toss in, if the politics were not so splintered where all we have two sides yelling at each other not sitting down and having an open and honest discussion with an open mind, thing would be different.

    This speech and the parts about the tech industry is sheer theatre to grab attention. The inability to realize that more laws, less encryption, more data collection will stop crime and terrorism is sheer folly. If one looks back 30-40 years ago, there was compromise and thought (ok.. not always, but it was there) now there is no semblance of rationality. The quest for more power has corrupted. And that corruption is being shoveled down to the man on the street. Whites, blacks, Christians, Muslims, Repubs, Dems, they're all too splintered and quite possibly the system is broken beyond repair.

    It's late, I'm tired. I've been around long enough to know BS when I hear it and lately I've heard way to much out of Washington. Excuse the rant, but we need to understand that government does not have our best interests at heart. It's out of control and running amok. What they (and the French) are calling for only makes us more vulnerable to those with evil intent, even if it's only stealing our bank accounts and not our lives.

    1. Irony Deficient Silver badge

      We can’t arrest or detain someone because they “might” do something.

      Mark 85, it depends; any jurisdiction with a “conspiracy to «something»” crime in its legal code could arrest or detain someone because that person communicated with other people about the possibility of doing «something», despite none of them actually doing that «something».

      1. tom dial Silver badge

        Re: We can’t arrest or detain someone because they “might” do something.

        The police in nearly any jurisdiction can arrest pretty much whomever they want, whenever they want to do it. However, it is likely to take more than a discussion "with other people about the possibility of doing «something»" to make a conspiracy charge stick in the US, where a concrete action in furtherance of the <<something>> usually is required in addition to the discussion, hence the somewhat common cases in which an arrest is made for things like solicitation of a murder (from a police officer) or conspiracy to blow up a bridge (from a couple of FBI agents).

        1. Irony Deficient Silver badge

          Re: We can’t arrest or detain someone because they “might” do something.

          tom dial, Mark 85’s point was about arresting or detaining someone for something that hasn’t yet happened, not making the charge stick for something that has already happened. In the case of the US, see the Supreme Court case United States v. Shabani, where the court unanimously found that an actus reus was not necessary for a criminal conspiracy charge to stick, reversing the decision of the circuit court.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's about controlling you not for your protection

    The governments ability to spy on everyones private lives has nothing to do with keeping you safe. It's solely the abuse of power to have leverage over you.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's about controlling you not for your protection

      This is the shock doctrine in practice. Exploit every disaster to tighten the screw.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Any "backdoor" will be immediately discovered and used by Iran, China, Israel, Russia, etc to sabotage US industry, military, and government. Even if encryption wasn't a necessary tool for keeping the 4th amendment meaningful in 2015 (which the federal government couldn't care less about) it's necessary for every other facet of our nation's operation including securing Obama's credit card when he buys busts of Karl Marx on Amazon.

    Encryption and security is extremely difficult to get right even without adding backdoors. These morons know nothing about how technology works, let alone digital security. When there is 0 evidence that recent attacks had anything to do with encryption, why are we even discussing this? Because the agenda to crush all privacy is advanced at any cost and opportunity.

  16. PassiveSmoking

    He and the rest of the political elite never ask Toyota to come up with technological means to make it harder for terrorists to use the Hilux, do they? Doing so would surely eradicate all terrorism because all you ever see on the news is terrorists riding around in Toyota Hiluxes full of AK47s and RPGs.

    Come to think of it he never asks weapons manufacturers to make it harder to use their products for terrorism either.

    Why is the technology sector being singled out for this kind of treatment? Even after being told what he wants is mathematically impossible and that any back door that makes it easier for law enforcement also makes it easier for criminals and terrorists? Could it be that encryption is seen as s convenient scape goat maybe?

    1. John H Woods

      "He and the rest of the political elite never ask Toyota to come up with technological means to make it harder for terrorists to use the Hilux, do they?" --PassiveSmoking.

      But they could prevent the vast majority of Hilux related deaths by limiting their speed to 20mph, though. I bet that would be super popular!

  17. Drs. Security

    Benjamin Franklin

    "Those who would give up essential liberty , to purchase a little temporary safety, , deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

    I think that says enough. Just think of online privacy and secure communications as "essential liberties".

    As for Clinton's remarks, glad she is in politics not in information security as backdoors like that will not only help government (or so they think) but cyber criminals and other nation states as well.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Benjamin Franklin

      When he said this he was a slave owner - so irony anyone?

  18. Big_Ted

    If I were a terrorist

    I wouldn't use computers to communicate with others, I would use the low tech much more secure method, the one that uses numbers to say page, line, word from a book that is not mentioned in the mail.

    Snail mail is very hard to beat due to not being readable without a court order and then they are looking at a pretty much unbreakable code system.

    Instead they want a system where someone could break the back door or whatever they use and suddenly they have access to everyone's data.

    No the simple way to sort the password on a phone/computer is to prove to a judge you need to access it due to having enough proof the owner most likely committed a very serious crime such as murder child abuse, rape etc and the judge insisting the password is given or the person in held in jail in contempt of the court with no time limit until they give up the password.

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: If I were a terrorist

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Numbers_station

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe the major IT players could get together and announce a "no encryption" day to bring home to people what might be at stake.

  20. Bernard M. Orwell

    Hey, Obama!

    Here's a hint; if you want to tackle domestic shootings and international terrorism effectively, all you have to do is stop selling guns to everyone, home and abroad.

    1. NotBob

      Re: Hey, Obama!

      Please don't give this administration any ideas.

      Did you know that a suitably equipped machinist can make parts required for assembling a firearm?

      Did you know that it is possible to make bullets and reload spent casings?

      Did you know that, even if sales and manufacturing were stopped, there would still be quite a few guns and plenty of ammunition to go around for quite a long time?

      Did you know that many current criminals would still find ways to buy or make guns?

      Did you know that many of us who are law-abiding citizens would no longer be?

      1. Bernard M. Orwell

        Re: Hey, Obama!

        "Please don't give this administration any ideas"

        Even if there is an argument for gun ownership by the individual inside the US (and I don't really think it's a defensible argument at all), there is no justification for the US international trade in arms, largely with Saudi, who then sell the weapons on to....oh, I wonder where.... and absolutely no excuse for the US administrations continued opposition to control on the international arms trade.

        it's easier to ship guns around the globe than it is jam (jelly to you!), and there is zero doubt that the weapons being used by ISIS and Pals right now carry labels that says "Made in the US" (Or the UK, as we're just as bad, but smaller...)

        Selling fewer guns means fewer guns in circulation, which means fewer shootings. If criminals have to make each bullet and each gun, there will be less gun crime.

  21. hplasm

    "...Did you know that many of us who are law-abiding citizens would no longer be?"

    And that is Darwinism, in the raw.

  22. kain preacher

    Hangs head low. Right now the major of the world is either demanding weak crypto or made it illegal not to hand over your passwords.

  23. nilfs2
    Coat

    Ban encryption and give people more guns

    Encryption is evil, but having a .50 CAL or an AK47 legally is ok, after all, encryption kills more people than bullets.

    Only in Yankland.

  24. Harry Stottle

    Comrades, we need to be united against the common enemy!

    and that ain't the Judean People's front, or any religion, or any non-religion.

    The common enemy is Authoritarianism; which is NOT the same as "Authority".

    Authoritarianism is the dangerous psychological condition which afflicts many, but not all, of those who acquire Authority.

    Authoritarianism is the belief that you are "right" or "have rights" BECAUSE you have authority. It is easily the most dangerous and destructive belief common amongst human beings.

    Be all of which as it may, and, at the risk of what may look like self-promotion, can I implore those of you who have shown genuine passion about this issue to take a gander at my fictional "History of Digital Telepathy" which is a "review" written about half a century in our current future, looking back on what I obviously would love to see happen.

    It touches on most the major issues raised in this discussion and I would welcome feedback from what constitutes a more informed audience than I usually get.

  25. tom dial Silver badge

    Downvoted because of triteness and limited applicability, as well as implicit oversimplification of a lot of legally and technically complicated matters. Neither essential liberties nor safety is absolute or can be.

    Encryption systems with back doors are inherently flawed. So are certificate systems when based on untrustworthy or compromised certificate authorities, a better analogy for various suggested key escrow systems. It is likely that a key escrow system could be devised that would be as secure from compromise as current CA private keys, that could be used legally only with, for example, a court ordered warrant (and be reasonably secure against use absent a warrant), and it might be that some could scale to the very large number of keys required to conduct commerce.

    It is likely that such an escrow system would be of about the same utility as the NSA call details data, which is to say "not very much." It would be quite costly and viewed by many with considerable distrust. It would raise a great many foreign trade and relations issues, although many of those probably would be surmountable given the likely interest of other governments in doing much the same. I do not think the US Congress would authorize it, but have to agree they have done sillier things.

    We are, at the moment, in a state of moral panic over what really is a very small threat (nationally, but not to those affected directly) and thrashing about looking for Something to Do. The moment will pass, as later events overtake it.

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      @Tom Dial: I will bet you $500 that we see a national encryption escrow system pass into law in the USA in the next 5 years, with another 5 years for manufacturers to implement it. It will be designed so that keys are automatically escrowed as part of regular everyday transactions. You go to a website, it registers a copy of the session key with the escrow system, etc.

      This is flawed. You know it. I know it. But I believe it is also inevitable. What is technologically a good idea will fall before political necessity. It always has.

      And no, this anti-encryption hoo-haw is not going to just "blow over". Not until the spooks have the ability to spy on most encrypted communications and the laws in place to lock people up for using encrypted communications that they can't spy on.

      1. phil dude
        Pint

        Hmm...

        @Trevor_Pott I certainly hope not, but the RSA T-shirt was already ruled free speech, so I suspect this is politics as usual.

        I kept out of the pointless discussion of religion (by definition it is pointless, since if god exists then everything is true and cannot be changed, and if god does not exist it is all as reliable as Viz), as I think in general your points were well made and I did not want to add to the noise.

        As a data point, Richard Dawkins has declared a "belief in god" scale of 1(Certain) to 10(Atheist) and he thinks he's a 7, so it is hard to imagine a 10 or a 1, only that I assume they tend to get arrested with weapons in hand....

        If anyone cares, being open to new information is the only rational choice. There is zero evidence of a deity, especially one that is defined by humanity. But, there was no knowledge of quantum physics once upon a time either, and quantum mechanics is far more impressive than any religious text of any era.

        I am happy to anoint the creator of the physical laws that permit life to evolve sufficiently to be able to investigate the universe, as deity "like". But only until we can reproduce the phenomena in a computer...!

        But unlike Douglas Adams, I am not looking for His phone number...

        We are all born Human first, everything else second. Any other labels used for humans are often purely a way of dividing the population to form ideological political groups, for maintaining various global inequalities...

        P.

  26. BitDr

    People

    People are at once, the problem and the solution.

  27. Panopticon

    ZOMG!

    FFS.. Fuck Off Cameron && Fuck Off Obama! Do you think the Russians intend to weaken there encryption or how about the Chinese weaken there's first?

    Pathetic.. Weaken encryption, make it easier for us to spy on the NASDEQ. We're not evading an SEC enquiry. We're not corrupt, we didn't sell Gun's to terrorists in the first place, we did not have insider agents working to incite a caliphate to over throw Assad, we know Sadam had yellow cake uranium and blah, blah, blah, blah!.. War, Death, Lies & Congress... Just fuck off you hopeless clueless fucking moron, go hang around with your Jewish buddy Cameron and spout inane useless shit like parting the Red sea after the flood, because he was so busy reviewing defence spending that he fucked the country when it came to flood defences!

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A bore

    is someone who won't change his mind and won't change the subject - W. Churchill.

    Very true - please stop demonstrating your ignorance about Philosophy and Science by ranting about Atheism/Theism or any other Metaphysical position.

    It used to be thought that physicists made the worst Philosophers - but it seems that IT people are giving them a good run to the bottom.

  29. FlamingDeath Silver badge

    Murica should just nuke the whole World, except for itself of course.

    It's the only way to save the rest of us from being dragged into their f*****up reality

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