November 16, 2015

As Predicted: Encryption Haters Are Already Blaming Snowden (?!?) For The Paris Attacks

It really was less than two months ago that we noted that, having lost the immediate battle for US legislation to backdoor encryption, those in the intelligence community knew they just needed tobide their time until the next big terrorist attack. Here was the quote from Robert Litt -- the top lawyer for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence from September:
Although “the legislative environment is very hostile today,” the intelligence community’s top lawyer, Robert S. Litt, said to colleagues in an August e-mail, which was obtained by The Post, “it could turn in the event of a terrorist attack or criminal event where strong encryption can be shown to have hindered law enforcement.”
Well, as you already know, on Friday there was a tragic and horrifying terrorist attack in France that killed over 100 people. And it took basically no time at all for defenders of the surveillance state to start... blaming Snowden and encryption? It started with the usual talking heads, such as former George W. Bush press secretary and current Fox News commentator, Dana Perino, who seriously seemed to blame Snowden for the attacks based on... who knows what.
And then there was her Fox News colleague Greg Gutfeld, speculating that the attacks may have been planned in secret thanks to "whistleblowers."
Robert Litt must have been smiling. And then, he was helped along even further by the stenographers at the NY Times, who reported over the weekend that the attackers "used encryption technology" based entirely on anonymous "European officials."
The attackers are believed to have communicated using encryption technology, according to European officials who had been briefed on the investigation but were not authorized to speak publicly. It was not clear whether the encryption was part of widely used communications tools, like WhatsApp, which the authorities have a hard time monitoring, or something more elaborate. Intelligence officials have been pressing for more leeway to counter the growing use of encryption.
Here's the link to that article, but as I type this, it now shows the following:
Perhaps the NY Times realized that publishing such rampant speculation without confirmation meant that they were getting played like fiddles by the intelligence community in their game to undermine encryption. Either way, the original article is available (for now) at the Internet Archive

No matter what, the argument is pure bullshit. Of course they probably used encryption, becauselots of people use encryption to communicate, and there's no way in hell that they suddenly decided to use encryption "because Snowden." As Glenn Greenwald has helpfully chronicled, the press has noted that terrorists have known to use encryption to avoid having their communications spied upon since before 9/11. Here's just one example in an article stuffed with many, many more:

The idea that it was suddenly because of Snowden's revelations that the attackers decided to communicate via encryption defies all common sense, and anyone making that suggestion seems to be publicly displaying a near total ignorance on history -- most likely for political gain. Meanwhile, the speculation over how the attackers communicated has led some to claim (without any evidence to support it) that they may have been communicating via the PlayStation 4. I'm pretty damn sure that the PS4 does not include end-to-end encryption, so even if that does turn out to be true, it would seem to undermine the earlier claims of encryption being the problem. 

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