A truly superb New York Times editorial this morning mercilessly shames the despicable effort by U.S. government officials to shamelessly exploit the Paris attacks to advance long-standing agendas. Focused on the public campaign of the CIA to manipulate post-Paris public emotions to demonize transparency and privacy and to demand still-greater surveillance powers for themselves, the NYT editors begin:
It’s a wretched yet predictable ritual after each new terrorist attack: Certain politicians and government officials waste no time exploiting the tragedy for their own ends. The remarks on Monday by John Brennan, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, took that to a new and disgraceful low.
The editorial, which you should really read in its entirety, destroys most of the false, exploitative, blame-shifting claims uttered by U.S. officials about these issues. Because intelligence agencies knew of the attackers and received warnings, the NYT editors explain that “the problem in [stopping the Paris attacks] was not a lack of data, but a failure to act on information authorities already had.” They point out that the NSA’s mass surveillance powers to be mildly curbed by post-Snowden reforms are ineffective and, in any event, have not yet stopped. And most importantly, they document that the leader of this lowly campaign, CIA chief John Brennan, has been proven to be an inveterate liar:
It is hard to believe anything Mr. Brennan says. Last year, he bluntly denied that the C.I.A. had illegally hacked into the computers of Senate staff members conducting an investigation into the agency’s detention and torture programs when, in fact, it did. In 2011, when he was President Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, he claimed that American drone strikes had not killed any civilians, despite clear evidence that they had. And his boss, James Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, has admitted lying to the Senate on the N.S.A.’s bulk collection of data. Even putting this lack of credibility aside, it’s not clear what extra powers Mr. Brennan is seeking.
Indeed, what more powers could agencies like the CIA, NSA, MI6 and GCHQ get? They’ve been given everything they’ve demanded for years, no questions asked. They have virtually no limits. Of course it’s “not clear what extra powers Mr. Brennan is seeking.” It’s like trying to buy a Christmas gift for Paris Hilton: what do you give to an omnipotent, terrorism-exploiting agency that already has everything it could ever dream of having?
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