News Release

Liberté?

The Guardian reports: “Since the Paris attacks on Friday night, France has been living under a nationwide state of emergency not seen since 1961. … The procedure harks back to the start of the Algerian war in the 1950s, giving exceptional powers to authorities…”

While some are claiming that increased government surveillance is needed after the attacks on Paris, TechDirt reports: “France Already Expanded Surveillance Twice In The Past Year — Perhaps Expanding It Again Is Not The Answer?

BARRY LANDO, barrylando at gmail.com
Lando, who lives in London and Paris, is a former producer with “60 Minutes.” His books include Web of Deceit about the history of Iraq. His piece “Total War” notes that severe civil liberties restrictions were in place the last several months in France.

COLEEN ROWLEY, rowleyclan at earthlink.net, @ColeenRowley
Rowley, a former FBI special agent and division counsel whose May 2002 memo to the FBI Director exposed some of the FBI’s pre-9/11 failures — was named one of TIME magazine’s “Persons of the Year” in 2002. Rowley wrote to the FBI Director again in February 2003 with some hard questions about the reliability of the evidence being adduced to “justify” the impending invasion of Iraq. She now warns of terror attacks being used as pretexts for official agendas. She also warns that bulk collection of personal data by government is not only counter to liberty, but counterproductive to the alleged goal of stopping attacks. See her piece in the Guardian: “The Bigger the Haystack, the Harder the Terrorist is to Find.”

MARCY WHEELER, emptywheel at gmail.com@emptywheel
Wheeler writes widely about the legal aspects of the “war on terror” and its effects on civil liberties. She blogs at emptywheel.net.

She just wrote the piece “Metadata Surveillance Didn’t Stop the Paris Attacks,” which states: “Since terrorists struck Paris last Friday night, the debate over whether encryption prevents intelligence services from stopping attacks has reignited. The New York Times and Yahoo reported on vague claims that the terrorists’ use of encryption stymied investigators who might have thwarted their plans. CIA Director John Brennan made equally vague comments Monday morning, warning that thanks to the privacy protections of the post-Snowden era, it is now ‘much more challenging’ for intelligence agencies to find terrorists. Jeb Bush piled on, saying that the United States needs to restore its program collecting metadata on U.S. phone calls, even though that program won’t be shut down until the end of this month.

“Following a terrorism incident as shocking as the Paris attacks, it is no surprise that politicians and the intelligence establishment would want to widen American spying capabilities. But their arguments are conflating the forest — bulk metadata collection — and the trees: access to individual communications about the attack. To understand why that’s the case, start with this tweet from former NSA and DHS official Stewart Baker: ‘NSA’s 215 program’ — and by association the far larger metadata dragnet of which the domestically focused phone-metadata program is just a small part — ‘was designed to detect a Mumbai/Paris-style attack.’

“Only it didn’t.

“The United States and United Kingdom’s metadata collection that focuses on the Middle East and Europe is far more extensive than the phone dragnet being shut down later this month, and its use has far more permissive rules. This dragnet is mostly limited by technology, not law. And France — which rewrote its surveillance laws after the Charlie Hebdo attack earlier this year –has its own surveillance system. Both are in place, yet neither detected the Nov. 13 plot. This means they failed to alert authorities to the people they should more closely target via both electronic and physical surveillance. In significant part, this system appears to have failed before it even got to the stage at which investigators would need to worry about terrorists’ use of encryption.”