TECHNOLOGY companies must allow the security services access to messages in times of emergency, Home Secretary Amber Rudd has said. It follows reports that Khalid Masood, the man responsible for the terrorist attack in London on Wednesday, used the WhatsApp service to send someone a message just three minutes before he mowed down 40 people on Westminster Bridge. The inbuilt encryption of WhatsApp means police and MI5 have reportedly not seen the contents of that message.
Doing the rounds on the Sunday morning political TV shows, the Home Secretary said technology firms must build in back doors to allow security services to eavesdrop.
Rudd also insisted WordPress, and Google, who run YouTube, must realise that they are now publishers rather than simply technology companies, and so should do more to tackle extremist videos and blogs.
Although the Home Secretary said she would like companies to do this voluntarily and independently, she refused to rule out changing the law to force their hand.
Rudd told BBC One s Andrew Marr Show: It is completely unacceptable, there should be no place for terrorists to hide.
We need to make sure that organisations like WhatsApp, and there are plenty of others like that, don t provide a secret place for terrorists to communicate with each other.
It used to be that people would steam-open envelopes or just listen in on phones when they wanted to find out what people were doing, legally, through warrantry.
But on this situation we need to make sure that our intelligence services have the ability to get into situations like encrypted WhatsApp.
Asked if she opposed end-to-end encryption on Sky News s Sophy Ridge on Sunday, Rudd said: End-to-end encryption has a place, cyber security is really important and getting it wrong costs the economy and costs people money.
So I support end-to-end encryption, it has its place to play.
But we also need to have a system whereby when the police have an investigation, where the security services have put forward a warrant signed off by the Home Secretary, we can get that information when a terrorist is involved.
She denied what she was describing was incompatible with end-to-end encryption, adding: You can have a system whereby they can build it so that we can have access to it when it is absolutely necessary.
Rudd said she was calling in a fairly long list of relevant organisations for a meeting on the issue on Thursday, including social media platforms.
I would rather get a situation where we get all these people around the table agreeing to do it, she told Marr.
I know it sounds a bit like we re stepping away from legislation but we re not.
What I m saying is the best people who understand the technology, who understand the necessary hashtags to stop this stuff even being put up, not just taking it down, but stopping it being put up in the first place are going to be them.
Adam Boulton, Editor-at-Large
This week’s attack on Westminster was brutally simple . A lone assailant, Khalid Masood, killed four people and seriously wounded more than 20 others. It took a matter of seconds and the weapons – knives and a car – are readily available to most adults in this country. Masood did most damage on the soft targets – pedestrians, many of them tourists, crowding a pavement on Westminster Bridge beside a road that is one of the capital’s main thoroughfares. The defences of the hard target – politicians going about their business in Parliament – held.
If terror is about threatening and unsettling the lives of ordinary citizens, the reaction to his murderous assault handed the lone killer a posthumous victory. Adam Boulton
Heroically and tragically, PC Keith Palmer was murdered . He was the first line of defence at the gates of the Palace of Westminster . It is difficult to see how someone whose job involved interacting with the public could have been better protected from a shock stabbing attack. A few yards further into New Palace Yard, Masood was shot dead by an armed close protection officer who was guarding Defence Secretary Michael Fallon. In spite of these terrible events, the national threat level was not raised from “severe”.
Security forces remained on alert for the likelihood of some kind of terror event, but there was no specific intelligence of an imminent attack being planned. After paying due tribute to the police and emergency services and a statement on the attack from the Prime Minister, MPs congratulated themselves on returning to business as usual. Debates resumed, but it was not business as usual at Westminster. Some 24 hours after the attack, roads around Parliament – Whitehall, Parliament Square, Millbank – were still shut to both vehicles and pedestrians, inconveniencing tens if not hundreds of thousands of people and disrupting one of the nation’s hubs. Even one former security minister said privately that he thought the precautions were going “too far” . If terror is about threatening and unsettling the lives of ordinary citizens, the reaction to his murderous assault handed the lone killer a posthumous victory. Alas, the Palace of Westminster is no stranger to attacks .
In the 1970s, the IRA’s mainland campaign bombed the Great Hall and blew up Airey Neave as he was leaving the MP’s car park. In February 1991, mortars were fired into 10 Downing Street . After each of these attacks, the security cordon was much more limited than this week and obviously served a practical purpose. This century there have been three violent attacks against MPs holding surgeries in their constituencies . Nigel Jones and Stephen Timms were injured, while Jo Cox was murdered. Almost all MPs have vowed to go on meeting the public as an essential part of their job. However, the Palace of Westminster has become more and more like a fortress even though the attacks there have been relatively frivolous.
In 2004, Otis Ferry and other pro-hunt demonstrators broke into the chamber of the Commons and disrupted proceedings . In another incident, Fathers for Justice threw a harmless purple powder down from the public gallery. The public gallery is now sealed off from MPs by high glass . Getting near the chamber requires an electronic pass to get through multiple locked doors . Visitors to the Parliament must go through full magnetic arch screening, and on the sides exposed to roads, the building is protected by railings, bollards and heavy truck-proof barricades. Most MPs gratefully admit that they are well protected in Westminster even following this week’s bloodshed. Nobody criticises the police and security services for doing their job .
But overzealous bolting of the stable door by the security services and health and safety style overreaction once a danger has passed just curtails the very freedoms they are supposed to be protecting and hands the terrorists an unnecessary win.
Sky Views is a series of comment pieces by Sky News editors and correspondents, published every morning.
Previously on Sky Views: Tom Cheshire – Ronald McDonald is a hero for our times1
- ^ Tom Cheshire – Ronald McDonald is a hero for our times (news.sky.com)
Strabane security alert ends after ‘bid to kill police officers with roadside bomb with command wire’
A security alert in Strabane has ended after a “roadside bomb with a command wire” exploded at the side of the road which was “designed to kill ” officers.
The alert at on the Liskey Road and Townsend Street was sparked on Tuesday and ended on Friday afternoon. Three officers escaped injury after the device exploded while they were on patrol. Police said the device was a “roadside bomb with a command wire attached”. Chief Inspector Ivor Morton said: “This was a complex security operation involving what can only be described as a roadside bomb with a command wire attached. “This device was designed to kill or seriously injure officers serving the local community in Strabane, but it was also left in a built up area where it could quite easily have killed or maimed members of the public – showing a callous disregard for the safety of the local community.
It is extremely fortunate that we are not talking about the deaths of police officers or members of the public today.
The blame for this incident lies squarely on the reckless individuals who placed this device . The overwhelming majority of people in the community do not want this type of activity and we as a police service will continue to work to bring those responsible before the courts.” A 20-year-old man has been arrested in Newtownstewart in connection with the attack .
He was taken to Musgrave Serious Crime Suite in Belfast on Friday morning for questioning. Mr Morton thanked the public for their patience. He said: I would like to thank the local community for their patience and understanding during the course of this prolonged policing operation. “Our primary aim throughout has been community safety and we are committed to doing this by working with the community . The security operation caused significant disruption to the people of the area, but was necessary to allow for a careful examination of the scene in order to keep people safe.