For a while now the New York Times has blotted its street cred by printing Apple adverts pretending they are news, but it appeared that when it did the same thing for government spooks, it got out of its depth rather fast.
Earlier this week it ran a story which claimed that the Paris attackers were able to get away with their diabolical deeds because they used encrypted communications which the government could not spy on.
The story was straight from the hymn book that government spooks and their right-wing government cronies have been chanting from for ages. Namely that to protect people from terrorists, government spooks need encryption keys.
However there was one problem with the story – it was untrue.
On Sunday, the Times published a story citing unidentified “European officials” who told the outlet the attackers coordinated their assault on the French capital via unspecified “encryption technology.”
The “Euro officials” said it was unclear whether the encryption was part of widely used communications tools, like WhatsApp, which the authorities have a hard time monitoring, or something more elaborate.
The story was pulled and all references to the word and now a second story replaces it with the word “encrypt” removed. Politico published a story Sunday quoting Belgium Interior Minister Jan Jambon naming PlayStation 4 as a difficult communication platform to “decrypt”. French authorities said they confiscated at least one of the video game consoles from one attacker’s belongings.
“’The most difficult communication between these terrorists is via PlayStation 4,”’ the minister said, three days before the terrorist attacks in Paris. ‘”It’s very, very difficult for our services — not only Belgian services but international services — to decrypt the communication that is done via PlayStation 4.’”
But the PS4 method of communication is not really encryption. It forces spooks to monitor in game conversations or coded methods like spelling words with dropped items or shooting walls. These are hard to monitor.
But what the New York Times and its ilk are unaware of is that there are moves afoot in the intelligence community to get the government to reverse its stance on mass surveillance using Paris as an excuse.
Former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell said he suspects the Paris attacks will weigh heavily on the encryption fight.
“I think what we’re going to learn is that these guys are communicating via these encrypted apps, the commercial encryption, which is very difficult, if not impossible, for governments to break, and the producers of which don’t produce the keys necessary for law enforcement to read the encrypted messages,” Morell said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday.
“We need to have a public debate about this,” he continued. “We have in a sense had a public debate — that debate was defined by Edward Snowden, and the concern about privacy. I think we’re now going to have another debate about that — it’s going to be defined by what happened in Paris.”