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Hillary Clinton on encryption: 'maybe the back door isn't the right door'

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Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Democrats have strange ideas about the internet, too. At tonight's ABC News presidential debate, candidates offered a number of vague, borderline-illiterate thoughts about technology, especially Hillary Clinton. It all started when ABC gave her an inane prompt, characterizing encryption as a "terrorist tool used in the Paris attacks." In response, Clinton suggested that, instead of breaking encryption, the US should launch a "Manhattan-like project" to "bring the government and tech communities together" so that law enforcement can "prevent attacks."

"Maybe the back door isn't the right door, and I understand what Apple and others are saying about that," Clinton said. "I just think there's got to be a way, and I would hope that our tech companies would work with government to figure that out." None of that makes any sense, of course. Figure out a way to do what? Breach fully encrypted communications? (That's called a backdoor.) Improve information sharing between industry and government? (We already have PRISM and CISA.) Clinton's non-answer here is essentially Trumpian: don't worry about the details, the experts will figure it out.

"It doesn't do anybody any good if terrorists can move toward encrypted communication that no law enforcement agency can break into before or after," Clinton said. "There must be some way. I don't know enough about the technology to be able to say what it is, but I have a lot of confidence in our tech experts."

Her opponents on stage didn't do any better. Martin O'Malley, former governor of Maryland and current Stepford Husband, delivered a vague meditation on... something. At least it was folksy. "We need to figure this out together," O'Malley said. "The way things work in the modern era is actually to gather around a table and figure things out. With the new technologies, I believe the people creating these products have an obligation to come together with law enforcement to figure these things out." 

Go ahead and gather around your surveillance table, Mr. O'Malley — you'll find many of your Republican opponents there. Just make sure whoever you invite to sit there gets a warrant.