Monday, January 18, 2016

Sobering conversation about encryption back doors and national security at an EFF dinner party Saturday; more on oil prices

On Saturday, at a supper party near Dupont Circle in Washington at a bar called Maddy’s, for members of Electronic Frontier Foundation in the area (after a Shmoocon conference), there was some discussion about the “back door” issue and encryption and its use by terrorists.

The general remark was that a “back door” alone would not stop very determined terrorists anyway, while exposing law abiding Americans to hijacking or snooping by the same determined criminals or terrorists.  It’s rather the mirror image of the gun control debate.

One person had served in the Army in intelligence in the 1990s, and suggested that the critical element of stopping major attacks is human intelligence, both domestic and overseas.  You still need the people skills of 60s and 70s Cold War spy movies, especially those in black and white (like those with Richard Burton).  But another element is deep cultural understanding, and “imagination”.  US government efforts to counter ISIS propaganda does not work with “troubled” youth because our world has become meaningless to them.

As for the Iran prisoner-release-lift-sanctions deal announced Saturday afternoon, there is some sense that the Europeans are motivated by the economy (and weak stock market).  Iran represents new investment opportunities if it can be stable.  In the short run, though, Iran will depress oil prices even further.  Here’s Bloomberg’s latest video on falling oil prices.

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