More Bulletins from Einstein Laboratories

This just in! “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

France Already Expanded Surveillance Twice In The Past Year — Perhaps Expanding It Again Is Not The Answer?
by Mike Masnick, Tech Dirt
Tue, Nov 17th 2015 9:35am

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.

Insanity Rules: Disgusting Politicians Push For More Surveillance And Less Encryption… Based On Nothing
by Mike Masnick, Tech Dirt
Tue, Nov 17th 2015 8:23am

(S)urveillance state supporters were quick to rush in and blame Ed Snowden and call for undermining encryption in response to the attacks in Paris last week — and they did so based on no factual information whatsoever. There was, briefly, a NY Times article quoting anonymous “officials” claiming that the attackers had communicated via encrypted channels. That article eventually disappeared entirely (with no explanation from the NY Times). If that’s true, it would not be surprising, because terrorist groups have long used encryption — as have tons and tons and tons of law abiding folks. Blaming encryption seems particularly dumb.

(T)his 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.

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.

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.

Is There Any Evidence In The World That Would Convince Intelligence Community That More Surveillance Isn’t The Answer?
by Mike Masnick, Tech Dirt
Tue, Nov 17th 2015 11:47am

We’ve already discussed how the usual surveillance state defenders quickly rushed into action following the Paris attacks to demand more surveillance — and also noted that the two attacks in Paris in the past year happened despite that country expanding its own surveillance laws twice in the past year (once right before the Charlie Hebdo attack and once soon after). And all of that raises a simple question in my mind:

If the intelligence community and its supporters will call for greater surveillance and less encryption even after the surveillance capabilities have been shown not to work at all — is there any evidence at all that will convince them that maybe this is not the right idea? It’s a strange kind of argument that repeatedly points to its own failures… and follows it up with “well, that proves we need more of that!”

Such an argument, by itself, seems self-refuting, because there is no other side. If things are working okay, call for more surveillance. If the surveillance doesn’t work, just call for more surveillance. It’s the default answer to anything, and thus these calls should be ignored. The fact that the surveillance community wants more power is not news and it’s not surprising. It’s not because of the Paris attacks — they’re always asking for this and they’ve mostly gotten it. And it didn’t work.

A sober analysis would suggest that perhaps it’s time to try something different. But that’s not how these things tend to go apparently.

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