Paris attacks should be ‘wake up call’ for more digital surveillance, CIA director says

Paris attacks should be ‘wake up call’ for more digital surveillance, CIA director says

U.S. and European officials are calling for expanded government surveillance powers in the wake of Friday’s deadly terrorist attacks in Paris, which have killed at least 129 people.

Addressing the violence Monday at a Washington conference, CIA director John Brennan blamed public “handwringing” over U.S. surveillance programs as an obstacle to catching terrorism suspects.

“I do hope that this is going to be a wake-up call,” Brennan said.

Brennan’s comments reflect growing pressure to grant new digital authorities to law enforcement days after the blasts in Paris. Speaking in Washington Monday, European Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova said “targeted access” to personal data is becoming “crucial” to terror investigations. And British officials debated Sunday whether to fast-track sweeping new legislation that would allow police to monitor citizens’ Web browsing.

The renewed push to empower intelligence services undercuts a years-long backlash against domestic spying triggered by the revelations of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. It also revives a major debate over the effectiveness of surveillance laws, months after France approved a controversial expansion of police authority in the wake of attacks against satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Despite giving the government greater powers, the new law “did nothing to stop these attacks,” said Nate Cardozo, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The French law, passed in May and reviewed by the country’s highest constitutional authority in July, gives officials the ability to monitor the phone calls and e-mails of terror suspects without a warrant. It also requires Internet providers to collect and analyze information about French Internet users, and make that information available to intelligence agencies.

The draft British law, known as the Investigatory Powers Bill, would force telecom companies to keep records of their customers’ Web activities for up to a year, allowing officials to search through that online history. It would also require tech companies to give law enforcement access to consumers’ encrypted Internet communications — a controversial proposal among privacy advocates. British Prime Minister David Cameron, along with a former U.K. terrorism legislation official, have suggested speeding the bill to passage. But others, such as Home Secretary Theresa May, cautioned against the move.

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