Increasing the authorities’ ability to decode encrypted email and other internet traffic and the introduction of ID cards were discussed during the second emergency recall of parliament since the terror attacks in the US.
Foreign secretary Jack Straw has already made it clear he believes he gave in too easily as home secretary to a ‘naive’ civil liberties lobby in watering down the controversial cyber snooping law, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act last year.
And he has made it clear on Thursday be believed events in the US proved him right to have initially sought a more prescriptive encryption regime.
Speaking in the Commons, Straw said: ‘It wasn’t Big Brother government. It was government trying to put in place increased powers so that we could preserve and sustain our democracy against this new kind of threat.
‘We needed to take powers so that we could de-encrypt commercially encrypted emails and other communications because we knew that terrorists were going to use this.
‘What happened? Large parts of the industry, backed by some people who I think will now recognise they were very naive in retrospect, said: “You mustn’t do that”.’
Straw said the pressure was so great that the British and US governments had to back down.
He insisted: ‘The most fundamental civil liberty is the right to life and preserving that and sustaining that must come before others.’
An early indication of what is in prospect was being given by home secretary David Blunket at Labour’s Brighton party conference on Wednesday last week just before it broke up early in time for the recall of parliament.
Liberal Democrats shadow e-commerce minister Richard Allan, said new RIP legislation would be no more than a PR exercise, risking the alienation of ISPs, since the existing RIP legislation did everything that is needed.
The draft code of practice for enforcement authorities of the RIP Act was published on 14 August this year.
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