Insanity Rules: Disgusting Politicians Push For More Surveillance And Less Encryption... Based On Nothing
from the make-it-stop dept
And, indeed, on Monday it was made clear that no one actually has any idea how the planning was done and there isn't yet known evidence of encryption:
A U.S. security official said there is no evidence yet demonstrating that the Paris attackers used a particular method for communicating, or whether any technology they used was encrypted in a particular way.Of course, that statement is as meaningless as the one from the anonymous official claiming they did use encryption, because it's just a random namely "official." And, of course, it wouldn't be surprising at all if they did use encryption, because that's how people communicate safely. And it's not because of Snowden. As we noted yesterday, terrorists have known to use encrypted communications for well over a decade.
Still, none of this has stopped the insane grandstanding on the issue. CIA Director John Brennan kicked it off by taking a potshot at Snowden along with privacy advocates and tech companies -- again, based on nothing:
"In the past several years, because of a number of unauthorized disclosures and a lot of handwringing over the government’s role in the effort to try to uncover these terrorists, there have been some policy and legal and other actions that are taken that make our ability collectively, internationally to find these terrorists much more challenging," he said. "I do hope that this is going to be a wake-up call particularly in areas of Europe where I think there has been a misrepresentation of what the intelligence security services are doing by some quarters that are designed to undercut those capabilities."Brennan also ridiculously claimed that the terrorists had "gone to school" based on the Snowden disclosures, which again, defies all logic and historical reporting of how widely encrypted communications were used prior to this.
And then all the usual fear mongerers started to pile on. Let's start with the surveillance state's number one defender, Senator Dianne Feinstein:
Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat, said she’s asked Silicon Valley companies to help law enforcement and intelligence agencies access communications that have been encrypted -- or scrambled to evade surveillance -- if terrorists are using the tools to plan attacks.But that's idiotic. Does she feel the same way about the telephone? Or paper? Or cars? These are all tools that terrorists use as well, but she's not calling for them to be broken. Blaming the tools is a ridiculous move -- especially for a politician who should know better.
“I have asked for help. And I haven’t gotten any help,” Feinstein said Monday in an interview with MSNBC. “If you create a product that allows evil monsters to communicate in this way, to behead children, to strike innocents, whether it’s at a game in a stadium, in a small restaurant in Paris, take down an airliner, that’s a big problem.”
But, of course, she wasn't the only one. Senator John McCain -- who once was a strong defender of encryption in the late 90's, has apparently gone to the other side as he's been taken by unrealistic fears:
Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said on MSNBC Monday that "it’s time we had another key that would be kept safe and only revealed by means of a court order."Except, of course, that doesn't work. And McCain has been told that won't work and will make everyone less safe... and yet he's still pushing for it.
Rep. Michael McCaul, chair of the House Homeland Security Committee got in on the stupid game as well:
“The dark space of the Internet is becoming a breeding ground for terrorist communications, recruitment and plotting,” said McCaul, a Texas Republican. “Our inability to monitor encrypted messages on social media apps, and the terrorists’ awareness of that, compounds the danger America and the West face.”You know what would put us in even greater danger? Undermining encryption and giving up our keys.
NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton also repeated the nonsensical claim that tech companies, in better protecting users from hackers, were somehow helping the terrorists:
Technology has been "purposefully designed by our manufactures so that even they claim they cannot get into their own devices after they’ve built them," Bratton said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.All of this is based on a weird kind of idiocy. It's wrong on so many levels: (1) strong encryption helps protect citizens, not harm them; (2) terrorists already know how to use strong encryption and they have for years; (3) backdooring encryption won't stop people from using non-backdoored encryption; (4) there's still little to no evidence that snooping on everyone's communications actually stops any terrorist plots. But a big tragedy happened and thus, politicians feel like they need to "do something" and that "doing something" seems to be to attack the technology that actually makes us safer. It's insanity on a massive level.
"They need to work with us right now," Bratton said. "In many respects, they’re working against us."
And the press is playing right into it. The NY Times may have dropped that original story, but came back with one claiming that the attacks had "reopened the debate on encryption." No, they did not. The debate is over. Undermining encryption is dangerous and bad news for everyone. As we noted, the intelligence community's top lawyer, Robert Litt, flat out said just a few weeks ago that he and his friends were waiting for the next terrorist attack in order to push for backdoors in encryption. This is the playbook that was planned all along and most of the press is falling for it.
Thankfully, there are a few exceptions. Kim Zetter at Wired pointed out how the whole narrative is wrong and that backdooring encryption won't help at all. And Alex Howard at the Huffington Post put up a similar story. But for much of the mainstream press, they're playing right into the surveillance state's game plan, repeating the stupid talking points on encryption, based on zero actual facts, and then insisting that the debate is somehow open again.
There is no debate. Yes, the surveillance state supporters want to undermine our security and undermine encryption, but there's no actual debate here. Actual experts know that this is a bad move and a dangerous one that will put many more people at risk. Exploiting an attack in Paris (right after France expanded its own surveillance efforts) is hardly a good excuse for undermining the safety of basically everyone.