Pathological: Surveillance State Defenders Use Their Own Failure In Paris To Justify Mass Surveillance

from the shut-up-jackasses dept

We already wrote a bit about the absolutely ridiculous attempts to connect the Paris attacks of last week with Ed Snowden and encryption. But, of course, the surveillance state sees successful terrorist attacks — which often demonstrate their own failings — as a way to double down on getting more power. Take, for example, our old friend and former NSA General Counsel Stewart Baker.

As pointed out by Marcy Wheeler, Baker used the Paris attacks to argue that it was evidence that the NSA should not shut down its Section 215 bulk collection of phone records.

There are so many problems with this level of idiocy that it’s difficult to know where to start, but let’s go with the basics… (1) the NSA program is still on and still working for another few weeks before it shifts to a slightly modified version. (2) France has its own equivalent program that is still in operation. In fact, France famously expanded its surveillance laws late last year prior to both the Charlie Hebdo and Paris attacks. (3) Outside of the US, the NSA relies on Executive Order 12333, which allows the NSA to collect a hell of a lot more information than the somewhat limited Section 215 program. (4) None of those programs appears to have discovered the Paris attacks (or, if they did, they clearly failed in stopping the attacks). (5) In other words, these programs did not work and yet the knee-jerk surveillance state defenders are using them as proof that the programs work.

What the actual fuck, Stewart?

Look, it’s one thing to use horrible tragedies to promote your own political desires. It’s another thing entirely to use the out and out failure of these intelligence programs to argue that they’re proof of why those programs work and/or should be expanded.

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Comments on “Pathological: Surveillance State Defenders Use Their Own Failure In Paris To Justify Mass Surveillance”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Terrorists encrypted in (wait for it) Arabic

“The mayor of Vilvoorde, a Brussels suburb where many jihadists who have travelled to Syria reportedly originate from, said on Monday that the country’s intelligence agencies lack of Arabic speakers is “without doubt one of the biggest challenges” to investigating jihadists, according to a Belgian newspaper.”

Wendy Cockcroft says:

Re: Terrorists encrypted in (wait for it) Arabic

Oh, for the love of God…! Proof positive that mass surveillance doesn’t work for catching terrorists AND that its primary purpose is EMPHATICALLY NOT for catching terrorists.

Honestly, if they genuinely thought that people who speak Middle Eastern and Asian languages might possibly pose a threat (give ’em a break, they’ve had fourteen years to get on top of this), don’t you think they might have, like, hired a bunch of people who speak those languages fluently (by which I mean “They understand idiomatic/slang usage”) in order to better keep an eye on them?

Well it seems to me they thought those nice chaps from the Middle East and Asia didn’t pose a threat at all and meant us no harm until last Friday, 9/11 being an unfortunate blip.

It must sound like lunacy to some of you but if a small minority of people of certain ethnicities have demonstrated a capacity for carrying out horrible crimes to gain attention for their political ambitions, shouldn’t we be tasking our “intelligence” communities with learning those languages and keeping an eye on people who express hatred towards the West and a desire to shoot, bomb, and kill us? That they apparently can’t be bothered to do so is very alarming, to say the least.

But this was Belgium. Is it that much different in other Western countries?

Anonymous Coward says:

Maybe they did know about it...

And intentionally let it happen.

I mean look at all the benefits that come with every terrorist attack, they get to pass more crazy surveillance laws. They get to increase military and defense funding. They get to blame all the activists and tech companies that actually care about privacy and freedom of speech…

Every terrorist attack is a boon for our government in some way – they just can’t get enough of it.

At what point are they actually encouraging the attacks?

Anonymous Coward says:

Terrorism in return

The islamofascists murdering several people in cold blood = terrorism.

Public officials parroting the “give us more power to prevent these from happening” should be considered the same brand of terrorism.

The public at large is a festering pile of shit that not only remains ignorant of the very terror in front of their faces they in fact are also busy choosing one terrorist over the other in a vain attempt to escape terrorism all together.

A government that says the solution to the terrorism plaguing you is the allow us to terrorize you like a boogey man in the closet is a government that is no better than the turds they fight.

David says:

Re: Can you hear us now?

“Look, it’s nice that you are handing us some individual needles but that’s not how we roll. We have our own procedures of haystack processing which turn up a lot more potential needles, and only by proper processing in the context of a lot of hay do we get statistically meaningful results. So let’s drop your needles into our haystacks and see whether they wash up again.”

Anonymous Coward says:

I have a question for the comments.

Has anyone here ever gotten a raise for proving that they can’t do their job?

How about upgrading an antivirus program that got your system infected?

Perhaps a contractor insisted the only reason your new porch collapsed was because you hadn’t paid them more money in advance?

Help me out here, I’m having trouble understanding ‘Our money wasting program couldn’t even do what we said it would, so we need more money to prepare for the next failure.’.

Klaus says:

Re: Actually...

“…Has anyone here ever gotten a raise for proving that they can’t do their job?…”

Probably off-topic here, but I DO know of people who were “un-sackable”, who were moved out sideways and upwards (like a knight in a game of chess) because they were absolutely toxic in their position, and it was the only way their line-manager could get rid of them. Shuffle them into someone else’s department.

Think Big Government, think Union…

Anonymous Coward says:

Wow… I actually had to prove I could handle my job before I got a raise.

Seriously, if they had STOPPED an attack… I’d give them some credibility.

This just sounds like that sloppy teenager who doesn’t care about his job, as a security guard.”Oh, the museum got robbed? They must have, like, been all quiet and stuff. Its not my fault they were trying not to be seen. Maybe you should consider security.”

anonymous me says:

Re: Seriously, if they had STOPPED an attack... I'd give them some credibility.

And maybe they would have deserved it. On the other hand, with everything else that has been going on (e.g. FBI manufacturing plots to stop) my first thought, if the attack had been thwarted, likely would have been “Right. Another one of those.” These agencies are not rating high on the credibility meter these days. Gee. Wonder why.

Anonymous Coward says:

did anyone really expect anything different? the surveillance that is in operation now didn’t find them, the interviews/questioning after the event didn’t reveal them and no way will even more surveillance do any different! what that will do is give governments everywhere a record of every thing done, every day by everyone, everywhere! but it wont stop terrorists! all it does is turn the governments and legitimate security forces into terrorists because they end up doing the exact thing that terrorists want! us crapping ourselves every minute of every day, regardless of what we do, when we do it, how we do it, with whom we do it and why we do it! terrorists are not so stupid as to broadcast what they are going to do, when or where! if they were to do that, the effects they want to achieve would be zero! governments know all this already but they are doing intentionally, not to catch terrorists but to be able to tighten the stranglehold on the people and then prevent all the bad things that governments and others do, because they will know is going to happen and when! democracy is going to die! just look at how many governments are or lean towards conservatism. their main aim is to control the planet like they control industries and that’s why the surveillance is wanted!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I don’t think anyone didn’t expect it, but it’s still kinda stunning how fast they jumped on the exploitation bandwagon. They’re not even giving us the courtesy of pretending to put a little time & thought into it. I’m actually surprised we don’t have government officials putting out press releases consisting of the word “Yahoooooo!”

shanen (profile) says:

Constructive responses? In a flying pig's eye.

The pig reference was intended to offend the winners, who I predict will be the Iranians. Increased surveillance is another short-term shortsighted misdirected solution, especially since the terrorists are NOT going to hide where they know you are looking even if the light is better there. We don’t need to worry too much about any terrorist who is still stupid enough to carry a phone.

The only obvious response to this tragedy will be to unleash the Iranians, another short-term shortsighted misdirected “solution”. No one else can put the boots on the ground, and insofar as the terrorists are largely the same people who attacked Iran in that nasty war, they have the revenge motivation, too.

David says:

these programs did not work and yet the kneejerk surveillance state defenders are using them as proof that the programs work.

No, they are using it as proof that not enough money and liberties have been sunk into the programs yet for them to be effective.

It’s like when a fart-powered moon-rocket fails to take off: all you might need are larger beans.

HegemonicDistortion says:

Taking their own failures out on civil liberties

A key point about a couple of the suspects, from a NYT piece today:

The alleged architect of the plot, Mr. Abaaoud, who traveled to Syria last year…

Mr. Abaaoud was already a suspect, according to officials and local news reports, in a failed terrorist plot in Belgium in January and an attempt in August to gun down passengers on a high-speed train to Paris from Brussels.

And another

Mr. Amimour was known to the French authorities, having been charged in October 2012 with terrorist conspiracy, according to the authorities. He was placed under judicial supervision but violated the terms of that supervision in the fall of 2013, prompting the authorities to put out an international arrest warrant.

Anonymous Coward says:

MSNBC delivers this unassuming yet groundbreaking news:

“Paris Attack Could Renew Debate Over Encrypted Messaging Apps”


2 + 2 still 4, after all the mindless violence in Syria and nearby? Uncertainty reigns, say mathematicians, in a flurry to review the Peano axioms and other fundamental laws of mathematics. “Until we’ve rechecked everything, there’s no telling what may happen. It may have become impossible–or trivial–to find primes, factor large numbers, or solve NP-complete problems–all the operations involved in encrypting numbers are in doubt.”

But all is not gloom-and-doom in the mathematics community. “This event has opened whole new vistas in Mathematical Sociology,” says one researcher. “For future reference, we need to know exactly how many victims of violence it takes to change the laws of mathematics. Also, there seems to be a bizarre nonlinearity about the number of victims–100 million chinese or 10,000 syrian deaths have no apparent effect, while 100 french deaths has caused havoc. We need to determine whether it’s the location of the deaths, or the ethnicity of the victims that actually triggers the havoc. Researchers for decades to come will be applying for government grants to resolve these issues. It is the biggest boon for mathematical research since last Tuesday!”

M. Alan Thomas II (profile) says:

In the disappeared New York Times article you referred to in a previous post, the claim was that the attackers had communicated with ISIS. That implies that we were collecting information on their communications, but once again we couldn’t filter the signal from the noise until we had the benefit of hindsight.

Also, it’s ridiculous that they’re claiming that we know who’s talking to ISIS at the same time as they’re saying that encryption makes it impossible to know who the bad guys are.

Klaus says:

Re: Re:

“Also, it’s ridiculous that they’re claiming that we know who’s talking to ISIS at the same time as they’re saying that encryption makes it impossible to know who the bad guys are.”

I didn’t see the NYT article. But are they then (the Stewart Bakers of this world), saying that they know who’s talking to who (because they can see the traffic), but they don’t know what they’re saying because the conversation is encrypted?

If that’s the case they might have an argument. Three years ago, perhaps. Today, less so. Due entirely to their own deceit and arrogance they’ve lost people’s confidence and trust.

Monday (profile) says:


I was waiting for that ball to drop. Twelve hours after this fifth French terrorist attack, this second Paris Attack, FOX, as well as CNN were already stating that the “[c]ommunications were heavily encrypted.”
I have been expecting considerably more on the encryption front from Gov’t than a couple of seconds sound bytes, but that may just be the nature of that game now.
Soon, there should be more requests and hopefully, refusals, to participate in “backdoors” and, as it was said, they spoke Arabic…
The French program failed as massively as the American program for gathering that crucial intelligence, but we cannot know this for certain. It was said in an earlier TD thread that any single government does not want to share their abilities with any other single government, because, if they did it for one, they would have to do it for others – I believe it was referencing the Chinese or something akin.

That’s all I have to say about that…

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