If the aftermath of 9/11 taught us anything, it is that centralized governments slouching toward totalitarianism never let a crisis go to waste. And, in a corollary, citizens are far more credulous and trusting when they have just experienced a trauma.
So, in the wake of the Paris attacks, it doesn’t surprise me at all that the intelligence community is calling for ever more lenient restrictions on their data collection and powers. And people are giving it to them. In fact, the intelligence community that just failed to protect Paris is leveraging the Paris attacks to also be free from accountability. How? By blaming Snowden. Of course:
In Woolsey’s accounting, Snowden, the former U.S. National Security Agency contractor who leaked a vast trove of classified documents detailing the extent and workings of the American intelligence apparatus, now has “blood on his hands” and is responsible for the atrocities visited on Paris on Friday evening. The attacks left at least 129 people dead and hundreds wounded, many of them critically.
It was Snowden’s unprecedented leak of top secret information about how U.S. and U.K. spy agencies monitor and track people around the world, Woolsey said, that led terrorist groups like ISIS and al Qaeda to adapt their methods of communication to avoid surveillance, adopting more secure channels, including those offering end-to-end encryption.
There are so many things wrong with this. For one, terrorists were already switching to encrypted channels. A month or so before Snowden leaked his information, terrorists coordinated the Boston bombing with basically no hiccups.
Data collection just isn’t able to stop terrorists. Old-school infiltration is probably our best bet, yet most industrialized countries are foregoing increased field agents in order to invest in ever wider electronic nets. We can see how that’s been working out: not well.
But the worst part of this whole thing is that people will actually believe that Snowden is to blame, that our intelligence communities should be free from accountability (for our protection) and that their powers should be unlimited (again, for our protection). Yet these terrorist attacks keep happening. And they will keep happening. Why? Because they work. We’re afraid. We’re terrorized. And it’s impossible to use a centralized power to remove a local threat. It’s like trying to remove fleas from a dog with a rake.
If you really want to see an end to terrorism, we’ve got to stop selling our freedoms and liberties away. A well-armed citizenry can do more to stop terrorism than a centralized intelligence community with an inter-drag-net. Right now, the far more robust surveillance program has failed to thwart a single terrorist attack. No one talks about that. Our old, less centralized, less expensive, less intrusive, more constitutional way of combating terrorism was just as effective as this one. But, by all means, keep blaming real patriots for the failures of tyranny. That’s clearly been working out great for us.