Why John McCain Is Wrong About Silicon Valley's Role in War on Terror

By Mike Elgan  |  Posted 2016-02-14 Print this article Print
War on Terror

However, ISIS will be able to eavesdrop on America if the U.S public, businesses and many government officials are only allowed to use some kind of legalized and crackable encryption.

When privacy is outlawed, only outlaws will have privacy.

Terrorists will not use compromised encryption, so the call for encryption back doors has literally nothing to do with the "war on terrorism."

So when McCain calls for Silicon Valley to "join the war on terrorism," he's simply using terrorism as a straw man. He's really calling on Silicon Valley to join the government's ongoing war against privacy.

It took us decades to get built-in, easy-to-use encryption. And that zero-effort nature of the encryption built into everyday consumer products like the iPhone is precisely what makes it so effective and valuable.

It affords millions of Americans some small protection from hackers, blackmailers, industrial espionage, and public exposure and humiliation. It does this every day and without any special action by users.

National security, including our security from the threat of terrorism, depends on hundreds of individual factors, from the cultivation of intelligence assets to the coordination between branches of government and more. But above all, our security is built on a foundation of three pillars:

1. Technological superiority—we need to have better technology than our enemies.

2. Financial superiority—we need to be able to afford more resources than our enemies.

3. Cultural superiority—all wars, and especially the war on terror, are wars of ideas. Winning the war on terror, as with the 20th century cold war against communism, requires that we adhere to our own values and protect the freedoms we're fighting for.

In the United States, key freedoms are enshrined in the Bill of Rights and, more specifically for the purposes of this commentary, in the First and Fourth Amendments to the Constitution.

Silicon Valley is doing more than just about any other economic sector to promote and protect these three foundational elements of national security.

Senator McCain's call for legally mandated back doors actually works against these foundational elements of security.

And it's not the first time.

The U.S. government has reduced America's technological superiority by focusing on terrorism at the expense of state-sponsored hack attacks. Specifically, systematic industrial espionage by Chinese and other state-sponsored hackers has robbed Silicon Valley blind, as well as technology developed by U.S. defense contractors. The U.S. government has completely failed its responsibility to protect the U.S. industry from this ongoing and wholesale theft of the nation's technologies.

So while the government is using a foiled shooting in Texas as reason why all U.S. communication should be made insecure forever, the Chinese government was not prevented from copying America's $1.3 trillion F-35 fighter jet program.

Worse, Senator McCain now threatens to take away even the minor protection of easy end-to-end encryption. (Again, a back door for the U.S. government would quickly be compromised by the Chinese government and others looking to steal America's technology.) Pervasive, strong encryption for everyday business communication would slow down the industrial espionage to which government failures left the nation vulnerable.

The government has reduced America's financial superiority and damaged the nation's relationship with its oldest allies and trading partners.

Opening U.S. technology products to snooping by the U.S. government is the best way to drive away even more international customers to foreign suppliers.

And the U.S. government has reduced America's cultural superiority by reflexively calling for unconstitutional measures, such as the Patriot Act, the abandonment of real oversight of the NSA, and the erosion of American freedom of speech and right to privacy.

So it has to be said that Silicon Valley is already supporting the foundations on which the war on terrorism will be won.

That's why I reject Senator MaCain's call for Silicon Valley to join the government's war against privacy and instead call on Senator McCain and all U.S. government officials to join Silicon Valley in the war on terrorism.



Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel