Decent people see tragedy and barbarism when viewing a terrorism attack. American politicians and intelligence officials see something else: opportunity.
Bodies were still lying in the streets of Paris when CIA operatives began exploiting the resulting fear and anger to advance long-standing political agendas. They and their congressional allies instantly attempted to heap blame for the atrocity not on Islamic State but on several preexisting adversaries: Internet encryption, Silicon Valley's privacy policies and Edward Snowden.
"The real objective is to depict Silicon Valley as terrorist-helpers for the crime of offering privacy protections to Internet users."
The CIA's former acting director, Michael Morell, blamed the Paris attack on Internet companies "building encryption without keys," which, he said, was caused by the debate over surveillance prompted by Snowden's disclosures. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) blamed Silicon Valley's privacy safeguards, claiming: "I have asked for help. And I haven't gotten any help."
Former CIA chief James Woolsey said Snowden "has blood on his hands" because, he asserted, the Paris attackers learned from his disclosures how to hide their communications behind encryption. Woolsey thus decreed on CNN that the NSA whistleblower should be "hanged by the neck until he's dead, rather than merely electrocuted."
In one sense, this blame-shifting tactic is understandable. After all, the CIA, the NSA and similar agencies receive billions of dollars annually from Congress and have been vested by their Senate overseers with virtually unlimited spying power. They have one paramount mission: find and stop people who are plotting terrorist attacks. When they fail, of course they are desperate to blame others.
The CIA's blame-shifting game, aside from being self-serving, was deceitful in the extreme. To begin with, there still is no evidence that the perpetrators in Paris used the Internet to plot their attacks, let alone used encryption technology.
CIA officials simply made that up. It is at least equally likely that the attackers formulated their plans in face-to-face meetings. The central premise of the CIA's campaign -- encryption enabled the attackers to evade our detection -- is baseless.