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Intelligence agencies pounce on Paris attacks to pursue spy agenda

By       Message Trevor Timm     Permalink
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Reprinted from The Guardian

CIA director John Brennan thinks privacy advocates undermine counter-terrorism work. But snooping on everyone won't protect us

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People gather in tribute to the victims of the Paris attacks at the Place de la Republique.
(Image by Photograph: Abaca / Barcroft Media)
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Government officials are wasting no time in attempting to exploit the tragedy in Paris to pass invasive anti-privacy laws and acquire extraordinary new powers that they have wanted for years. In the process, they are making incredibly dishonest arguments and are receiving virtually no pushback from the media.

Absent any actual information or evidence so far about intelligence failures leading up to the deplorable terrorist attack in Paris, pundits spent the weekend speculating that Edward Snowden and surveillance reform were to blame for the fact that the attack went undetected. Then on Monday, in an epic episode of blame shifting, the CIA director, John Brennan, reportedly said privacy advocates have undermined the ability of spies to monitor terrorists. He explained:

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"Because of a number of unauthorized disclosures and a lot of hand-wringing over the government's role in the effort to try to uncover these terrorists, there have been some policy and legal and other actions that are taken that make our ability collectively, internationally to find these terrorists much more challenging," adding that there is a "misrepresentation of what the intelligence security services are doing."

Read Brennan's comments carefully because they are very revealing. When he says "legal actions," he's referring to the fact that multiple federal courts have ruled that the government's secret mass surveillance on millions of Americans is illegal. So it sounds like the CIA director is saying it's a shame that intelligence agencies can't operate completely above the law any more, and is scapegoating any failings on his agency's part on accountability that is the hallmark of any democracy. (Though he still can apparently operate above the law.)

More importantly, Brennan's comments are incredibly dishonest. The post-Snowden USA Freedom Act passed by Congress reformed exactly one of the countless mass spying programs the US runs. It was the one that sucked up the phone calls of Americans only, and here's the thing: it has been active this whole time and isn't scheduled to shut down until the end of the month.

Anytime an official laments surveillance reform or attempts to blame Snowden they should be confronted with these facts. Unfortunately, so far they've just been met with head nods and no follow-up questions about their own conduct.

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http://pressfreedomfoundation.org

Trevor Timm is a co-founder and the executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation. He is a writer, activist, and lawyer who specializes in free speech and government transparency issues. He has contributed to  The (more...)
 

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