Bernie Sanders

Strong encryption in the age of terrorism has quickly become a major part of the debate on how safe we are. Intelligence agencies are saying strong encryption they can’t crack will result in more terrorist attacks. ISIS is encouraging its followers to use encrypt communication, but it hasn’t been proven that ISIS has actually ever utilized encrypted technology to commit an act of terrorism.

Nevertheless, more and more tech giants such as Apple and Google have strong encryption technology in the pipeline that will soon be available to everyone. Because of this, our government and nearly all of our presidential candidates are encouraging these tech companies to create and allow access to secret backdoors within their future encryption technologies.

Jeb Bush said stronger encryption makes it harder to catch “evil doers”. Hillary Clinton went further saying in a recent debate a “Manhattan-like Project” is needed to create encryption that allows for government access to backdoors.

Except this is the polar opposite of what needs to be done. Hillary’s proposal doesn’t help anything because the idea itself is flawed. An idea that actually shows her ignorance to the overall situation.

There is one presidential candidate who’s not entrenched in the idea that increasing government surveillance and decreasing privacy in the name of counter terrorism is a good idea. Bernie Sanders has a track record of defending America’s right to privacy.

Sanders has been an opponent of the mass surveillance programs for some time. He voted against the original Patriot Act. He voted against the USA Freedom Act of 2015, which essentially continued an expiring Patriot Act. Both times he voted no on the grounds we are moving closer and closer towards an Orwellian society. It’s a breath of fresh air to a see a candidate with the foresight and wisdom to know that increasing mass surveillance on the American people is a very, very poor idea.

Calling for more access to your communications is to blame technology. Don’t blame technology though, blame the concept. Adding back doors does not add security no matter how much you try. It just adds another point of entry for attackers. When the NSA created its own encryption system known as “key escrow”, it failed. Within a year the NSA backdoor was found to be flawed and anyone could bypass it.

When asked how we can ensure government access in terror investigations while still upholding privacy, many tech experts say there is no middle ground. It is either all or nothing.

The trade-off becomes weakening your safety or the government keeps chipping away at your privacy. Simple as that. But consider the track record of intelligence agencies and their massive surveillance programs. In 2013 a White House panel found no evidence the NSA’s telephone record collection program known as Section 215, first revealed by Edward Snowden, had thwarted any terrorist attacks.

We’ve become so accustomed to the modern age of government surveillance, yet nearly every Presidential candidate hasn’t asked, is this too much? Only Bernie has taken pause.

With all the eaves dropping already in place and ongoing, we are still being told it’s not enough. What’s ironic, we are being told more backdoors are needed in technology Americans can secure on their own. Many Americans don’t realize they can secure their own communications far greater than they already are with some tutoring and more education on the part of our government and tech companies.

Even so, every presidential candidate except one is demanding our tech companies to sacrifice their security measures, dial back their encryption, so to help our government thwart terror attacks. The problem isn’t strong encryption, it might be an issue far more alarming. Our intelligence agencies aren’t doing a stellar job of preventing attacks.

It is deeply troubling to think every single presidential candidate except for Bernie Sanders continues to insist for more eyes and peepholes into our lives even though such a strategy has proven not to work.  

Sam Lagana of Columbus is currently an undergrad at Ohio University studying computer security