France Already Expanded Surveillance Twice In The Past Year — Perhaps Expanding It Again Is Not The Answer?

from the maybe-it's-time-to-think-a-little-differently? dept

I’ve been having this discussion on Twitter and a few other places over the past few days, so it seemed only right to put it into a blog post. For all the ridiculous talk with politicians grandstanding and using the attacks in Paris last week as an excuse to expand surveillance powers, it seems worth noting that France actually expanded its surveillance state powers twice in the last year — and the first time it didn’t stop the Charlie Hebdo attacks, and the second time obviously failed to stop the attacks last week. Already, before all of this, French intelligence had powers that were so similar to the NSA’s that it was obvious that there had been some coordination. Then, late last year (actually on Christmas Eve), France quietly enacted a new surveillance law relating to data retention and requiring internet companies to cough up info on users.

That went into effect just shortly before the Charlie Hebdo attacks. And, of course, with that new law failing to prevent those attacks, the French government did the kneejerk thing and expanded its surveillance powers even more, claiming it needed to do so to protect against the next attack. That law, which allowed authorities to monitor communications of suspected terrorrists without a judge’s approval, went into effect in July, with supporters, including Prime Minister Manuel Valls declaring: “France now has a secure framework against terrorism.” Yeah, how did that work out?

Maybe, instead of calling for greater and greater surveillance, we should take a step back and think if there isn’t a better approach that doesn’t involve continually tossing civil liberties in the trash, for no clear benefit.

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Comments on “France Already Expanded Surveillance Twice In The Past Year — Perhaps Expanding It Again Is Not The Answer?”

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Anonymous Howard, Cowering says:

Why we need more surveillance

It’s obvious: Intelligence agencies are hamstrung by do-gooders and inconvenient laws with insufficiently humongous loopholes. Terrorists have no such constraints. They can communicate by ANY MEANS NECESSARY, without having to get a blanket warrant under seal from a secret rubber-stamp court.

Unless the following is true: The terrorists are attracting the most intelligent, crafty and innovative minds available, who are easily able to circumvent the bumbling efforts of the “intelligence” agents, and probably die more frequently from pent-up laughter than drone strikes. This makes sense, given the recent heavy emphasis on terrorists “going dark” to avoid detection and the subsequent inability of any of the alphabet soup agencies to detect their activities before they act.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Why we need more surveillance

—“attracting the most intelligent, crafty and innovative minds available”

This is incredibly difficult to believe, perhaps you have data to back it up.—

They keep foiling and circumventing and getting around agencies that focus on attracting ‘the best and brightest minds’, who already have powers and capabilities, legal or not, costly enough to bankrupt a developed nation and expansive enough to make Orwell look like a libertarian Utopia?

If they aren’t the most intelligent, crafty and innovative minds available, then what does that make our massive budget, huge, governmental, focused organizations?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Why we need more surveillance

You’ve clearly never seen a prison population.

You want intelligent, crafty, innovative people… these include people who make a crossbow out of toilet paper, a plastic spoon and their underwear.

Being choked for resources tends to REQUIRE you be craftier, cleverer and one step ahead. Its why independantly developed games tend to manage such impressive things with so much less than we are used to.

Guess what these folks do?

They take their obsolete computers, hook up to a dial up modem, use open source encryption tools (that won’t magically vanish even if the rest of us aren’t allowed to use them. Remember that, because that’s important), and hit social media until their remote, middle of nowhere location is compromised.

The good ones move on, the bad ones get caught. Doesn’t matter, since that’s like the ant you >notice

Anonymous Coward says:

Common Factor

Every time that they ask for more surveillance they’ve gotten it. When they don’t ask, they took it. Yet, there is one common factor that they continue to ignore.

The politicians and security “experts” remain the same and refuse to admit that they are incompetent. If they can’t do the job with the tools at hand, they should step down and let someone who can do the job take over.

Anonymous Coward says:

ISIS leadership met & planned in US prison Camp Bucca

the [Camp Bucca] US-run prison provided an extraordinary opportunity. “We could never have all got together like this in Baghdad, or anywhere else,” [Abu Ahmed] told me. “It would have been impossibly dangerous. Here, we were not only safe, but we were only a few hundred metres away from the entire al-Qaida leadership.”

It was at Camp Bucca that Abu Ahmed first met Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi….

Peter (profile) says:


There is a certain logic in the madness: Since it is impossible to prevent attacks like the Paris alltogether, those in charge of security don’t have a choice but to keep asking for more until someone says no. Then, when an attack happens, they can kick off a discussion around the theme ‘if only you had given me what I needed …’.

In Paris, for the first time, we have a situation where the security agencies had been given everything they asked for, and more. And they still failed to protect us.


Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Accountability

It’s not impossible, just impolite. France could completely empty the banelieus if they wanted to but don’t want to risk bad PR. Which means they’re comfortable with sacrificing the blood of native French in order to avoid accusations of “racism” or “discrimination” or some other overblown J’accuse from the irrational bleeding-hearts.

So in an effort to be “equal” and not hurt anyone’s feelings, they blanket-surveil everyone except for potential terrorists, 100% of whom are the type to wear blankets on their heads as a sectarian fashion requirement.

The U.S. won’t empty out Dearborn; the U.K. won’t empty out Birmingham; Sweden won’t empty out Malmö, and Germany won’t empty out, period. Until we start being smart about demographics and not worrying about Godwin’s law or being “nice” and not offending the “marginalized,” these attacks will continue on our soil.

Name the enemy and act accordingly. We are most definitely at war, and wars are never won by Quislings like Hollande, Merkel and Obama. We don’t have to look for a needle in a haystack. We’ve got 2 billion needles that need to be banned for life from Western countries and cordoned off in their sandbox, never to breach the gates of Vienna or the shores of Ellis Island again.

Rapnel (profile) says:

Blind Fear

First off, the intelligence services are so focused on what they cannot see that they are hurting both their cause and everyone else around them. “Having all the right tools” has become such a distraction that they are causing harm with the apparent inability to focus on information that they can see and DO (legally, real legal not secret legal) have and have had – time and time again. Every. Single. Law. that has been passed in an aim to better their access and toolsets since 911 is 91.1% bullshit and shows a distinct lack of foresight, focus and courage. The propaganda is sickening.

Secondly, these panic sessions, reactions and laws they bring about have a HUGE money stake sucking up our rights and the income we provide to our governments in the form of taxes that are supposed to help make our societies BETTER, all around. Somebody is sure as hell not suffering the cost of milk and bread.

Finally, terrorism is a crime. What does that mean, exactly? It means we’re all scab scratching idiots believing we can heal ourselves faster if we draw blood, usurp rights and continuously strip away privacy. Our actions are direct causes of terrorist feeding frenzies.. not too hard to create and foster deadly temperaments when needless and senseless civilian casualties spring forth from the eyes in the sky.

ponders self-censorship yet AGAIN – mother fuckers

Anonymous Coward says:

i still think this is not about preventing terrorism and all about stopping the people from being able to do what governments dont like, making money without paying tax, for example and preventing all the bad things that governments and the members do that they shouldn’t in order to line their own pockets, like helping a particular industry from joining the digital age!!

Whatever (profile) says:

You may feel right (and you may be right) but in the face of more terror attacks and more innocent people dying, the governments of the world will do whatever they think will (a) help them catch the baddies, preferably before the action happens, and (b) calm the public and make them believe things are getting better.

Quite simply, the governments are not going to stick their collective heads in the sad and say “we can’t do anything”. They will keep working trying to make surveillance and monitoring work.

It’s a sad fact of modern life, but it’s not going away. Waving your arms frantically and making a fuss (how many articles today) won’t change it, unless you have some seriously better ideas, not just air.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“They will keep working trying to make surveillance and monitoring work”

Yup, they will continue jamming that square peg into that round hole.

“Waving your arms frantically and making a fuss won’t change it”

At least someone has the guts to point out the Emperor has no clothes, unlike many who parrot the popular talking points.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

(b) calm the public and make them believe things are getting better.

I’ll give you the fact that this is probably a big part of it. They get to play with credulous half-wits’ money (unfortunately, everyone else’s money gets swept up as well), and those half-wits get a sense of security. It’s not even a false sense of security, since we’re almost certainly almost as safe with fake defenses as we’d be with real, functional ones.

It’d still be cheaper to start a federally funded 3mg/day ration of Xanax for every man, woman, and child in the US. Cradle to grave. Police officers get the Xanax plus all the Ketamine and Oxycontin they can take.

techflaws (profile) says:

Re: Re:

They will keep working trying to make surveillance and monitoring work.

No amount of ramped up surveillance will ever stop an independently formed (albeit indoctrinated by IS propaganda) terrorist cell consisting of some radicalized buddies from sussing out privately how to shoot up the next mall/convert venue/….

So, you don’t think it’s gross negligence to invest spare resources in techniques that have proven (time and again) to be ineffective rather than spending that man- and brainpower on coming up with alternative solutions that actually might work?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

No amount of ramped up surveillance will ever stop an independently formed (albeit indoctrinated by IS propaganda) terrorist cell consisting of some radicalized buddies from sussing out privately how to shoot up the next mall/convert venue/….

But an all out assault (words not bombs) on the ideology that lies behind it just might stop them wanting to…

The belief that you will go to heaven if you die in this kind of attack is a powerful motivator if we can persuade them out of this belief then this type of attack would stop.

techflaws (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

But an all out assault (words not bombs) on the ideology that lies behind it just might stop them wanting to…

And how do you plan to accomplish that when even “the good guys” cannot agree on the causes?

Who is right?

Wendy Cockcroft says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I agree with the Atlantic because they understand the motivations better than Think Progress. ISIS claim to have established a caliphate and they will defend it and work to expand it until it is accepted by the mainstream as their territory.

They ABSOLUTELY want WW3. So does the American religious right, which is why they’re so keen on a war with Iran.

So what do we do? May I humbly recommend recruiting counter-propagandists to

a) discredit the Caliphate as un-Islamic
b) discredit ISIS methods as cruel and unpopular
c) recommend alternative ways to dealing with the problems ISIS claims to solve

You see, as with the Communists, Party membership brings benefits. Non members get treated like crap and they are the ones who are fleeing to the West. This is deliberate, the idea being to force people to take sides, by:
a) making membership a condition of economic wellbeing
b) committing terrorist atrocities to turn Westerners against Muslims, thereby making them a target for reprisals
c) forcing people to flee leaves behind those who are either obliged to stay or are committed to ISIS

You can tell a tree by its roots. That poverty is endemic there is indeed a massive component of the problem as it gives people impetus to join an organisation they believe will make them better off, but it’s not the only one.

Finally, what TP gets dangerously wrong about ISIS is that while most Muslims emphatically DO NOT agree that the Quran justifies what they’re doing, ISIS itself and its supporters emphatically DO, and they say this all the time.

techflaws (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

a) discredit the Caliphate as un-Islamic

How do you propose to do that given the stuff written in there? Don’t start with “there are nice commands in there too” cause to fix the fact that an omnisicent, all powerful god would contradict itself in its holy book, the “scholars” agreed on the loophole that stuff “revealed” later supersedes the old.

Wendy Cockcroft says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

That line of argument can be applied to just about everything, including code.

People who want to behave badly usually don’t like to call themselves the bad guys. To go against accepted moral norms, then, requires a certain level of cognitive dissonance in which we give ourselves permission to do things we wouldn’t normally do if particular conditions apply.

So we can, let’s say, steal IF we are very hungry, utterly destitute, and have no other recourse as far as we’re aware. Everybody, religious or not, does something like this sooner or later.

Or we can encourage others to believe that they can have a better standard of living in this life and glory in the next IF they run around murdering people who disagree with them and nick their stuff. This is “okay” because the people who disagree with them are actively opposing them by the act of disagreeing with them and are therefore a threat to the spread of the “correct” doctrine. It’s easier to build consensus for a new paradigm when dissent has been eliminated.

Where ISIS is concerned, they’re operating in Muslim lands and their main targets are “apostates,” i.e. Muslims who think they are dangerous, psychopathic nutbuckets. This isn’t being as widely reported as it should be, leading many of us to believe that we are the targets. No, for the most part it’s the “wrong” Muslims. ISIS came after us in Paris because they want to turn the West against all Muslims in the hope of kicking off WW3 and going out in a blaze of glory.

So what we need to do is work with those Muslims who hate ISIS and help them to build and maintain an anti-ISIS consensus to make it harder for them to recruit followers. That means we don’t persecute them “on principle” as some have been known to do.

And flat-out wholesale mass butchery is very un-Islamic, believe me. Ask a Muslim.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

But indoctrinating your wives and daughters to dress like cancer patients lest they trigger the sky wizard’s hair fetish isn’t un-Islamic? How about demanding, either by coercion or by force, that non-Muslims refrain from depictions of Muhammad — any depictions at all, but especially “offensive” ones like the Hebdo cartoons and South Park?

The entire cult is little more than the feverish revenge fantasy of an illiterate, epileptic, pedophilic serial killer with schizophrenic psychosis and a severely narcissistic “God complex.” Should we have been “tolerant” of Charles Manson and his mass-murdering groupies in the 1960s, or David Koresh and his child-harem compound (Reno’s overreach notwithstanding, the guy was a serious whack job)? Should Japan have simply shrugged when Shoko Asahara recruited people to kill their fellow citizens on a Tokyo subway and nearly acquired his own personal nuke?

Islam is a mental illness, as all religions are. But there is just something stubborn about this one that renders it immune to mitigating the symptoms in the way that Christianity and Judaism have been largely diluted in the West.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is right: Islam needs its own Reformation, leading up to an Enlightenment at which point enough people will say “this is bullshit” that it can finally be contained — if not cast outright into the dustbin of history. But for some reason it just isn’t happening, and if it’s not going to, then the West has a duty to its people to isolate it, target it and let every last one of these 2 billion sheep-shaggers slaughter themselves to oblivion — far away from where anyone in the Americas, Europe, the Far East and Australasia can know about it or care.

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