Last updated: August 10, 2010 - 8:22am
[Commentary] Among law enforcement investigators and intelligence officers, the United Arab Emirates' decision to suspend BlackBerry service met with approval, admiration and perhaps even a touch of envy.
Why? Because just as professionals depend on mobile devices to do their jobs, law enforcement and intelligence officers depend on electronic surveillance to do theirs. The Emirates made their decision principally because Research in Motion, the Canadian company that provides BlackBerry services, refused to modify its information architecture in a way that would enable authorities to intercept the communications of select subscribers. Monitoring electronic communications in real time and retrieving stored electronic data are the most important counterterrorism techniques available to governments today. Electronic surveillance is particularly vital in combating global terrorism, where the stakes are highest, but it is a part of virtually all investigations of serious transnational threats. In the end, it is governments, not private industry, that rule the airwaves and the Internet. The Emirates acted understandably and appropriately: governments should not be timid about using their full powers to ensure that their law enforcement and intelligence agencies are able to keep their citizens safe.
[Falkenrath, a principal of the Chertoff Group, a risk-management consultancy, is a former deputy commissioner for counterterrorism for the New York Police Department and deputy homeland security adviser to President George W. Bush]
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