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Monday, November 30, 2015


Blame by what mechanism?

by Tom Sullivan

Going to talk about the Paris and Colorado Springs attacks, but first...

On Saturday, the government's program for bulk collection of phone records ended, sorta:

The language in the US Justice Department statement is far from inspiring, written in bland legalese, but it still represents an important victory for the whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The statement, dated 28 November 2015, says: “Final temporary reauthorization of the Section 215 bulk telephony metadata data program in the US expires.”

But only sorta, says Marcy Wheeler:

Just a tiny corner of the phone dragnet will shut down, and the government will continue to collect “telephony metadata records in bulk … including records of both U.S. and non-U.S. persons” under EO 12333. Hypothetically, for every single international call that had been picked up under the Section 215 dragnet and more (at a minimum, because NSA collects phone records overseas with location information), a matching record has been and will continue to be collected overseas, under EO 12333.

They’re still collecting your phone records in bulk, not to mention collecting a great deal of your Internet records in bulk as well. BREAKING.

What interests me here is how a former government official (and a former George W. Bush press secretary) can blame Snowden somehow for the Paris attacks. Glenn Greenwald took to the pages of the L.A. Times last week to counter that claim:

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.

Greenwald continues, "CIA officials simply made that up" about Snowden. It is just as likely the attackers laid their plans in face-to-face meetings. Nevertheless, As someday it may happen that a victim must be found, the CIA has got a little list. They've got a little list.

What the Snowden disclosures actually revealed to the world was that the U.S. government is monitoring the Internet communications and activities of everyone else: hundreds of millions of innocent people under the largest program of suspicionless mass surveillance ever created, a program that multiple federal judges have ruled is illegal and unconstitutional.

So, I'm just wondering. If Snowden's disclosure of illegal and unconstitutional government spying is somehow to blame for motivating terrorism in Paris (by people who need no further motivation), why can't the makers of the doctored videos that allege Planned Parenthood sells "baby parts" be somehow to blame for motivating what the Justice Department reportedly considers domestic terrorism against Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs? And Carly Fiorina too, for vigorously hyping the "baby parts" narrative? Not saying they are somehow to blame – Robert “no more baby parts” Dear's motivations are still unclear – but the murky mechanism for assigning Snowden blame for Paris might seem, on its face, to apply to assigning blame for Colorado Springs as well. And if not, why not? Just looking for the operative principle here. Or is it lack of principles?