Former CIA Director Michael Morell said in a recent interview with Politico’s Michael Hirsh, that Edward Snowden was responsible for the recent terrorist attacks in Paris. Morrell went on to deny the extent of the NSA data collection program and deny that the program posed a privacy risk for American citizens. Morell also said that since the world knows the extent of the US spying programs, terrorist groups like ISIS are able to learn how to avoid detection. Morell, of course, neglected to mention that French authorities were warned various times about the attacks before they happened, and allowed the attackers to slip through their fingers in an environment that was already a total police state.
In the interview, Morell said:
First, ISIS went to school on how we were collecting intelligence on terrorist organizations by using telecommunications technologies. And when they learned that from the Snowden disclosures, they were able to adapt to it and essentially go silent … And so, part of their rise was understanding what our capabilities were, adjusting to them so we couldn’t see them. No doubt in my mind. And the people who say otherwise are just trying to defend Edward Snowden.
Two—and much more damaging: The Snowden disclosures created this perception that people’s privacy was being put at significant risk. It wasn’t only the Snowden disclosures about [Section] 215 [of the PATRIOT Act, allowing for the mass collection of telephone metadata] that created that, it was the media’s handling of it. The media went to the darkest corner of the room, the CNNs and the FOXes etc. of the world, those people who have a 24/7 news cycle. In those early days, if you were watching CNN, they were saying the NSA is listening to your phone calls. It’s reading your emails. When you call your grandma in Arkansas, the NSA knows. All total bulls–t. They made the public more concerned about the privacy issue than the legitimate facts should have done. And so, the result of that was everything you’ve seen. The constraining of 215. The IT companies building encryption without keys. That is all, at the end of the day, back in Snowden’s lap, in my view.
As far as Paris goes, we don’t know for sure yet how these guys communicate among themselves and how they communicated back to the ISIS leadership in Iraq and Syria, but I’m fairly confident we’re going to learn they used these encrypted communication applications that have commercial encryption and are extremely difficult for companies to break—and which the companies have made the decision not to produce a key for. Even if the government goes to them with a warrant, they can’t give them anything because they don’t have a key. These companies made these decisions about encryption when they were finding it very difficult to sell their products overseas because the Snowden disclosures created the impression that the U.S. government was inside this hardware and software produced by them. They needed to do something to deal with the perception.
Morell spoke with conviction, but his fear mongering and blaming overlooked the fact that attempted terrorist attacks are usually successful because of failed, incompetent or ignored intelligence on the part of the government. In the case of the attacks in Paris, the government had prior knowledge that it was going to take place, and were warned numerous times that something was being planned. The government either ignored the threats or failed to provide an adequate solution for them before they took place.
Police and government agents even allowed suspects to slip through their fingers on several occasions, one of them, who is still on the run, was even able to get through a police ID check after the attack. These failures in government intelligence and security have nothing to do with encryption or the fact that people all over the world now know that they are being spied on. This same argument of “national security” has been used to keep unpopular programs away from public view for many generations.
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John Vibes is an author and researcher who organizes a number of large events including the Free Your Mind Conference. He also has a publishing company where he offers a censorship free platform for both fiction and non-fiction writers. You can contact him and stay connected to his work at his Facebook page. You can purchase his books, or get your own book published at his website www.JohnVibes.com.
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