It seems like I found more bad news steeped in absolute stupidity than good news today. It's the same old encryption-is-evil yada yada from various intelligence agency spokesmen, as well as a bill that was introduced to reauthorize the flipping Patriot Act. The good news? The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe declared that mass surveillance doesn't prevent terrorist attacks.
UK CT cop claimed tech firms are 'friendly to terrorists'
Although a UK police chief didn't name names or say the word 'encryption,' he claimed that some technology firms are "friendly to terrorists."
Reuters reported that Britain's top anti-terrorism cop Mark Rowley chided tech companies for their lack of "corporate social responsibility." He said, "Some of the acceleration of technology, whether it's communications or other spheres, can be set up in different ways. It can be set up in a way which is friendly to terrorists and helps them ... and creates challenges for law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Or it can be set up in a way which doesn't do that."
After blaming Edward Snowden for leaking documents that have made tech companies "less comfortable" working with law enforcement, as well as serving to keep bad guys "better informed," Rowley refused to name the tech companies or finger which tech most irked him. Instead, he said:
"We all love the benefit of the internet and all the rest of it, but we need their support in making sure that they're doing everything possible to stop their technology being exploited by terrorists. I'm saying that needs to be front and center of their thinking and for some it is and some it isn't."
DHS beating encryption-is-bad drum
Beating the same encryption-is-evil drum at the RSA conference, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said, "Encryption is making it harder for your government to find criminal activity, and potential terrorist activity." While he didn't go so far as to exclaim 'think of the children,' Johnson did claim, "Our inability to access encrypted information poses public safety challenges."
"Let me be clear: I understand the importance of what encryption brings to privacy. But, imagine the problems if, well after the advent of the telephone, the warrant authority of the government to investigate crime had extended only to the U.S. mail."
Let's see…despite being able to get a warrant to spy on a person's phone, law enforcement is increasingly turning to stingrays, fake cell tower-like simulators which suck up the communications of anyone and everyone nearby. Law enforcement would rather drop criminal charges than admit how they are using the mass spying devices. Somehow, a non-disclosure agreement with a company such as StingRay manufacturer Harris Corporation trumps the rights of Americans to know.
Regarding Johnson's reference to the mail, even though fewer people use snail mail, USPS still photographs each piece of mail and shares it with agencies that request info. In 2014, USPS approved about 50,000 such requests. If potential abuses and the results of that audit don't concern you, there's even more monitoring going on at some post offices than most folks know. For example, a Denver post office was using a "mysterious" device that captured customers' license plates and facial features until it was discovered. An hour after FOX31 Denver discovered the hidden camera inside a utilities box, "the device was ripped from the ground and disappeared."
As EFF attorney Lee Tien said, "Part of being a responsible, constitutional government is explaining why it is doing surveillance on its citizens." He added, "The idea that we give up that privacy simply because we use the U.S. mail is, I think, a silly idea."
Yet despite license plate readers and all the other surveillance, DHS Johnson has added his voice to the likes of FBI Director Comey, wanting a backdoor in encryption too…the better to spy on you, my dear.
Johnson told RSA conference goers:
"In the name of homeland security, we can build more walls, erect more screening devices, interrogate more people, and make everybody suspicious of each other, but we should not do this at the cost of who we are as a nation of people who cherish privacy and freedom to travel, celebrate our diversity, and who are not afraid."
Not just "freedom," as he specified freedom types like the freedom to travel. Humph, the TSA has previously claimed that using your hard-earned money to buy a plane ticket doesn't get you the freedom to fly; oh heck no, as flying is a "privilege" that can be yanked for something as small as not wanting to talk to a TSA behavior-detection officer. Or for tweeting the wrong thing in a world of social media monitoring that can allegedly help "read your mind."
Mass surveillance doesn't prevent terrorist attacks
We don't need more spying; we need less. Mass surveillance practices exposed by Snowden "endanger fundamental human rights" and "divert resources that might prevent terrorist attacks," according to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).
"Mass surveillance does not appear to have contributed to the prevention of terrorist attacks, contrary to earlier assertions made by senior intelligence officials. Instead, resources that might prevent attacks are diverted to mass surveillance, leaving potentially dangerous persons free to act."
At least I hope that's accurate, as Google suggested the PACE site may be hacked.
Bill introduced to reauthorize the Patriot Act
But hey, endangering fundamental human rights by mass spying didn't stop Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell from introducing a bill to reauthorize the flipping Patriot Act again and all the controversial surveillance authority that goes with it.
The National Journal reported, "Under the bill, Section 215 of the post-9/11 Patriot Act would be extended until December 31, 2020. The core provision, which the National Security Agency uses to justify its bulk collection of U.S. phone records, is currently due to expire on June 1."
If that frustrates you, then you are not alone. CDT policy counsel Harley Geiger nailed it when he said:
"The Senate majority leader's bill makes no attempt to protect Americans' privacy or reform ongoing NSA surveillance programs that do not provide any tangible benefit to national security. For Americans concerned about government intrusion in their lives, the bill is a kick in the stomach."