With every passing day, new information shows how badly the U.S. needs to update its national security efforts. When presidential candidate Hillary Clinton stopped in Minneapolis earlier this week, she presented a plan that at least represents a start on those efforts.
Key among her proposals is a stronger focus on heavily encrypted electronic devices that are creating virtually undetectable ways for would-be terrorists to communicate with one another. The technology industry has, for the most part, resisted most government efforts to create “back doors” into its products, saying that consumers must be assured of privacy and that such access would inevitably be exploited by hackers and others.
As Americans conduct increasingly personal business over their devices — from financial transactions to viewing sites they want to keep to themselves — privacy and secure communications are important considerations. But there is a new reality here: Those who would harm us are using those same protections to their advantage.
One good starting place would be “end-to-end encryption,” which allows only the intended recipient of a message to decrypt it. In such cases, the server conveys the message but cannot decipher it, making detection by an outside party extremely difficult. This is different from the server encryption most people use in daily communications.
CNN reported Thursday that investigators now believe the Paris attackers used such end-to-end encryption to plan their deadly assault last month.
Locally, encrypted communications have proved a major hindrance for law enforcement officials as they try to get inside what has become one of the largest jihadi recruitment efforts in the country.
It would be best for corporations to voluntarily work with the government on how to balance privacy against national security needs. But if we are at war, as so many say, at some point we must be prepared to insist that they do so.