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Metadata Surveillance Didn’t Stop the Paris Attacks


Metadata Surveillance Didn’t Stop the Paris Attacks

Marcy Wheeler

ince terrorists struck Paris last Friday night, the debate over whether encryption prevents intelligence services from stopping attacks has reignited. The New York Times and Yahoo reported on vague claims that the terrorists’ use of encryption stymied investigators who might have thwarted their plans.


It's worth noting that US congress has chosen to exclude from effective collection the vast number of prepaid phones and devices. True, the NSA can listen in on them but lack any means of knowing who is communicating, particularly if used only once and thrown away. Senator Schumer introduced a bill in 2010 to require registration of all prepaids, but it was allowed to die in committee and never re-introduced. The reason is evident: the big companies like Verizon make millions selling such devices and the big sellers like Walmart don't want to waste time and money doing the paperwork. Only when metadata collection can produce corporate profits is it enacted into law.

Since the money is made selling the metadata systems to the government, and not in analyzing the collected data, most of these projects do little or nothing to identify terrorists. That would simply be too manpower-intensive at this stage of technology to generate significant profits, even if the work is outsourced to private firms.

The great weakness of the industrialized world when facing the handful of actual terrorists is that its governments cannot act unless it is profitable to the corporations that own those governments. Only multi-billion dollar projects, like new wars, appeal to corporations.


Brennan and the rest of the corporate state employees blurt out whatever talking points come to them at the moment. Yesterday everything was Assad's fault, today Snowden, tomorrow he'll say Putin did it, that's always a good stand by.
The truth of the matter is that when something like the Paris attacks happen, Brennan and the CIA mob, the corrupt Pentagon corporate generals and many others all do high fives and break out the twenty one year old scotch whiskey. They want funding, that's what they want, that's what they want, that's....what they want. Just an update of the old song.

The worst part is they are just as silly and childish as the guy playing the toy guitar with a plastic pork chop.


The Sherlock Holmes series would not have been so popularly received were there not something to this idea that the genuine Criminal Mind will find ways to outwit the agencies of authority... every time.

Ms. Wheeler lays out a logical blueprint; but at the end of the day, who's to say precisely what the most secreted labyrinth of agencies in the history of the world... is actually doing?

Meta-data is like knowing a blurred camera is on you when you take a shower. Reading your emails and listening in on actual conversations brings to mind the morality of the peep-creep.

Why would a facility be built (Bluffdale, Utah) to arguably house ALL data if only meta-data was on the menu? (They could be burying it all until such time as they had the technical tools to find all needles buried in all communications' haystacks.)

And why is there any basis for believing ANYTHING that surveillance agencies (their members sworn to secrecy and given the church-of-state's Indulgence in the form of alleged immunity from lying, breaking laws, and doing harm) divulge? They only want the public to know so much. The spooks lied about what Snowden exposed even after evidence was in plain view. Then they tried to demonize the individual who pointed out THEIR lawlessness, rather than fix the problem!

Very real violations of long-established Civil Liberties continue in large measure due to a False Flag that did what it was intended to do: scare a percentage of the population into a submission to Absolute Fatherland style fuhrer-knows-best Authority.

As in "who guards the guards?" the issue is that of respective power. Agencies that have and want "all the goods on us" while themselves remaining underground and beneath the scrutinizing eyes of society, unaccountable, and lacking in any demonstrable respect for basic human liberties...cannot be trusted for what they say.


Ms. Wheeler does a good job of dissecting the Spy State's Official Story... unfortunately, this rabbit hole goes much deeper.


All true, but let us not forget that all those billions spent on surveillance have given us the Homeland Security NTAS warning system, which has replaced the earlier color-coded warning system. The system has proven completely useless in predicting terrorist attacks, but it probably does serve to induce fear into the population, as needed, when support for endless war begins to lag. This, from an agency that told us to use duct tape to seal our windows and doors, back in the 90s when there was fear of gas attacks and, more recently, to cover local water reservoirs with plastic sheeting when there was fear of terrorists poisoning our water supplies. Metadata collection is the duct tape ploy for spying on us in the digital age. At least with duct tape, there are other uses. Handy stuff to have around the home.


You have to want to stop it before you can stop it.


In addition, if a group knows that electronic surveillance is in effect, how smart do they have to be not to use electronic media? Slow communication is still communication.


Is mass surveillance focused on threats to people

Or threats to power?


It seems fairly obvious that highly organised crime or terror groups will avoid communicating in open ways. They can use heavy encryption, steganography etc, or they can meet in cafe's or parks. They will do whatever it takes to keep their communications secret. Grabbing everyone’s phone conversations, web browsing, emails and messaging will violate the privacy of the entire citizenry, and yet utterly fail to catch organised terrorists. The best they could hope for is to catch the backyard varieties, and then only the ignorant ones.


Exactly. It's like being overrun by giant rats and them saying "Look, we built a better mousetrap!"

I didn't see it, but I can just imagine Brennan sniffing about how "our hands are tied." Would that was so. And a gag would be nice also.


Totally correct and no one knows or even can know how deep the "rabbit hole" goes and what's really down there at the bottom, or if there is a bottom. If they swore on a stack of Bibles that they had stopped spying, how would people know if they were lying?

I believe the Shadow Secret Government Deep State's reply will be to take the public position and begin circulating the meme that failure only proved that there needs to be more spying so that next time the self-styled defenders of "our security" will have what they say they need to "do the job." If the amount of weaponry in the defensive actions don't stop the enemies from coming the solution that will be put forth will be to "throw more money" at the problem, that, they will say, the fault lies with those who want to cut "defense" spending. They will contend that people are trying to have "safety on the cheap" that will put everyone at greater risk so more money can be "given" to all 47 percent of the "rakers" out here.

This line of specious "reasoning" will likely resonate with much of the populace, as it did for the Ronald Reagan "Star Wars" bogus nuclear shield.

I put this out there in the hope that all the good communicators, especially those who have the talent and connectedness to influence public opinion, will anticipate this and have facts and rebuttals ready to answer back.


i have read that the Imams who fomented the 1979 Iranian revolution, under the harsh repression of the Shah's secret police SAVAK, communicated by walking to each others' homes, and talking with one another. Slow, but they communicated very effectively, and they were not killed by SAVAK.


I agree with your assessment/prognosis. Dark times...