Bomb the ISPs – Daily Telegraph

Taking liberties

The Daily Telegraph is calling for the bombing of "uncompliant" ISPs "on foreign territory", in response to the atrocity in America.

In an opinion piece, John Keegan, the newspaper's eminent defence correspondent, blames the Internet for facilitating the attacks.

"The World Trade Centre outrage was co-ordinated on the internet, without question," he writes. "If Washington is serious in its determination to eliminate terrorism, it will have to forbid internet providers to allow the transmission of encrypted messages - now encoded by public key ciphers that are unbreakable even by the National Security Agency's computers - and close down any provider that refuses to comply.

"Uncompliant providers on foreign territory should expect their buildings to be destroyed by cruise missiles. Once the internet is implicated in the killing of Americans, its high-rolling days may be reckoned to be over."

Taking Liberties

As a technical commentator, Keegan makes a very good defence correspondent. How on earth can ISPs ban encrypted messages over their networks? But this is a minor point; more worrying is the anti-Internet sentiment articulated in Keegan's article.

For many, The Internet has become (alongside flight simulators, liberals and anti-gun laws) a scapegoat for last week's WTC massacre.

We can assume that human rights/privacy arguments over the Internet have shifted - probably forever. The nuances of the civil liberties debate do not overly concern countries, even democratic countries, which declare war.

We can expect tougher rules on encryption (albeit impossible to enforce); more surveillance of phone and Internet networks - with the full co-operation of providers; travel restrictions; extended police powers.

The question for us: is how much liberty should be sacrificed in the fight to combat international terrorism? No, we do not have the answer. But we fail to see how demonising The Internet will help. ®

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