This is the title of a speech Withfield Diffie gave in Rome at University La Sapienza last Jan. 31 2008, where I have been invited to attend the round table the followed. Other participants were Corrado Giustozzi, Giovanni Manca (CNIPA – National Centre for Information Technology in the Public infrastructures), prof. Luigi Mancini and Luisa Franchina (ISCOM).
There are a few online account for the day but none of them tells about the “content” of the conference. Mr. Diffie’s talk was professional and fascinating – if you don’t belong to the IT security professional’s circle. And this is the point: how is it possible that in 2008 we – Italians – still are so far from moving (even a few) steps ahead from what we were talking in 1995?
“Fighting terrorism” was – as usual – the “leading concern” to advocate defense and civil rights suspension in Italy. And each time I ear some Italian civil servant singing that song I remember about Michael Crichton’s State of fear, whose lesson – creating a state of fear to let powers and lobbies pursue their goals – is largely missed. This is not to say that terrorism is a fake issue. But when security of the State become a political (i.e. partizan) weapon, all we get is neither effective anti-terrorism measures nor freedom protection.
As Benjamin Franklin said,
They that would give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety
And this is what we are doing right now.