Comment: Media Attention to Blackberries In Mumbai

I need to begin this post, in an unambiguous fashion: I absolutely do not support the terrorist attacks in Mumbai that claimed the lives of hundreds, and injured many more.

Now that that disclaimer is out of the way….

How stupid is the media to have swallowed the nonsense concerning Blackberries that Indian and American security groups are spewing!?! I’m speaking about the apparent shock of Indian security forces that the individuals who launched the attacks in Mumbai used Blackberries to keep up-to-date about the effects of their actions. The Australian Sunday Mail, as an archetypical example, writes,

The use of BlackBerrys by the terrorists to monitor international reaction to the atrocities, and to check on the police response via the internet, provided further evidence of the highly organised and sophisticated nature of the attacks.

The gunmen were able to trawl the internet for information after cable television feeds to the two luxury hotels and office block were cut by the authorities.

The men looked beyond the instant updates of the Indian media to find worldwide reaction to the events in Mumbai, and to keep abreast of the movements of the soldiers sent to stop them. (Source)

I’m sorry…but the use of Blackberries isn’t a clear indication that the terrorists were particularly organized. Their use demonstrate that the individuals who carried out the assaults had access to regular technologies that even high school students in North America carry on their persons. The real story for Blackberries, in light of this tragedy, is that Indian citizens will likely be denied access to encrypted Blackberry-to-Blackberry communications as a consequence of this incredulous use of consumer technologies for the foreseeable future. Don’t forget that just a few months ago, India and RIM got into a row about the Indian government demanding the encryption keys for Blackberries. As was reported in the Business Standard,

“The security agencies are saying that we should have access to data that are being encrypted by services like BlackBerry on mobile phones and then decrypted when the phone reaches its nominated destination,” the source added. RIM does not, or has not been asked, to do this in any other country but is considering the matter. (Source)

When the India Times announced that the Indian Government had cracked the Blackberry code, this was a reference to their realization that Blackberry-to-non-Blackberry devices involves the decryption of Blackberry generated mail as it leaves the BIS. Now, however, we can expect the Indian government to ramp up its demands that it be able to access encrypted Blackberry-to-Blackberry messages, all in the name of stopping future terrorist attacks.

It should be noted that India is now calling for stronger terrorism laws, though based on the account provided by Bloomberg we have to wonder how effective any proposed laws would have been in defraying this event. I highly expect that any of the laws that are coming down the pipe will let India extend their civil surveillance operations, infringing on citizens’ rights while playing on their fears. This comment isn’t to suggest that the government should necessarily stand still, but rather that it is critical for nations around to world to respond to these kinds of attacks in a measured manner, rather than tearing down their basic laws in an effort to secure the bodies of citizens. Security without liberty is just a more ‘civilized’ form of imprisonment.

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