Police Just Found Phone & USB Stick Belonging To Paris Suicide Bomber, After Misplacing It For Almost Two Years

from the but-encryption-is-the-problem dept

Remember how, right after the Paris bombings, people started blaming encryption for the attacks, despite the fact it was later revealed that most of the planning was done in the open and communication occurred via unencrypted SMS messages? As we noted, it seemed pretty clear that the bombings were an intelligence and law enforcement failure rather than an encryption problem.

Now, just to add more evidence to that conclusion in the most ridiculous way possible, apparently Brussels police just found a mobile phone and USB stick that had belonged to one of the suicide bombers in the Paris attacks, Brahim Abdeslam. The police had seized the phone and USB stick during a drug raid back in February of 2015… and promptly misplaced them entirely. They were found under a stack of papers. Really.

A cell phone belonging to Paris attacks suicide bomber Brahim Abdeslam that had been mislaid by Belgian police was found under a pile of documents in a Molenbeek police station, local media reported Tuesday.

Officers seized the phone and a USB stick belonging to Abdeslam during a drugs raid in Brussels in February 2015. Following the November 2015 attacks in Paris, authorities wanted to analyze the phone for details about the terror plot, but it could not be found.

According to local media, the phone was found by chance last week in Molenbeek, the area of Brussels where Abdeslam and others involved in the Paris and Brussels attacks lived.

And yet people want to blame encryption. And, yes, of course police make mistakes and misplace stuff, but perhaps law enforcement should be focused on trying to prevent those kinds of things by being more careful in how they handle evidence before they rush off to blame things like encryption.

This all gets back to a larger point that we’ve tried to make all along about the whole “going dark” thing: good police detective work will almost always beat out merely breaking into phones. Encryption is useful in protecting messages, but it doesn’t hide all activity — and those who are planning criminal or terrorist attacks quite frequently leave lots of other evidence around. Blaming encryption, rather than law enforcement and intelligence efforts, is a lazy solution. It’s a way to cover up for a failure to do their jobs with the already quite powerful tools they have at their disposal.

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Comments on “Police Just Found Phone & USB Stick Belonging To Paris Suicide Bomber, After Misplacing It For Almost Two Years”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

But for the existence of encryption...

Ah, but you see this is a case of encryption preventing the apprehension of criminals and prevention of crimes.

Encryption’s sole purpose is to prevent police and government agents from finding and catching criminals.

As soon as they acquired the laptop and USB stick they ‘lost them’, preventing them from being used to prevent future criminal acts.

Therefore the only possible explanation is that both devices were so encrypted that the devices themselves turned into physical manifestations of encryption, preventing police from finding them in time to do any good.

Had encryption been outlawed as soon as it was created the police never would have lost the devices, and the future terrorist attack could have been prevented as a result.

My T3 is better than your 100Mb fibre says:

That's what you get for capping cop IQ at 110

The whining keeps getting louder but it’s to hard to do our jobs!!


telling the truth is also to hard or checking your own newspaper apparently( do the cap reporter IQ as well?)


Chuck says:

Not acceptable

“And, yes, of course police misplace stuff”

Well they’re not supposed to. One of the most stringent procedures that any PD in the world has to follow is the proper logging and handling of evidence. This stuff should’ve never been on anyone’s desk, and never under any stack of papers. It should’ve been bagged AT THE SCENE and transported directly back to an evidence locker without passing go, collecting $200, or getting anywhere near a “stack of papers.”

Also, they’re cops. They shouldn’t have stacks of papers lying around. File folders and cardboard boxes exist for a reason.

I mean, holy shit, think about this. The 9/11 attacks were in planning for more than 3 years. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that there’s some useful intel on the flash drive (yeah, probably nothing on the phone by now). What if the “stack of papers” had been chucked into a box and sent to records storage without anyone noticing the flash drive, and then a few months from now some asshat blows up the Eiffel Tower.

And that’s why cops, even in their paperwork, MUST be held to a higher standard. No, “they misplace things” is NOT OKAY. They’re the police. They have extraordinary power and thus extraordinary responsibility, because whether it’s shooting first and asking questions later, or losing critical evidence in an ACTUAL terrorism case (not to be confused with the FBI entrapment jobs) people really can literally die when cops don’t do their jobs right, 100% right and 100% of the time.

Of course, the blue wall will prevent anyone from being punished in any way for this, no matter how outright horiffic a f**kup this may be.

Anonymous Coward says:

this is something to remember

for when they’ll be asking for a golden backdoor key to encryption.
Also the fact it took more than a year to notice shows these guys don’t do a minimum yearly inventory run. The sooner you notice these discrepancies the better the chances of undoing them, because people tend to forget, move on to other jobs, die in accidents or in the line of fire and the item can get misplaced again by a second person down the line.

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