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Edward Snowden and spread of encryption blamed after Paris terror attacks

The pointed speculation against Snowden attracted criticism as well.


Patrick Howell O'Neill


Posted on Nov 14, 2015   Updated on May 27, 2021, 3:51 pm CDT

As Paris reels from terrorist attacks that have claimed 129 lives, fierce blame for the carnage is being directed toward American whistleblower Edward Snowden and the spread of strong encryption catalyzed by his actions. 

The latest deadly terror attack is bringing the “crypto wars” further toward the spotlight. The crypto wars refers to a decades-long political battle over the legality and popularity of encryption around the world.

In the years since Snowden revealed the vast surveillance and spying done by Western governments, strong encryption has become an increasingly popular way for people to shield their Internet activity from prying eyes. Encryption is used by everyone from e-commerce websites and human rights activists to American soldiers and Islamist terrorists.

It’s the latter group’s adoption of strong encryption in particular that has attracted so much fiery rhetoric.

Fox News hosts Greg Gutfeld and Dana Perino, George W. Bush’s former press secretary, took to Twitter to directly blame and even curse at Snowden. 

In response to the Charlie Hebdo attacks that hit Paris in January of 2015, France adopted one of the most aggressive surveillance laws in the Western world. That was not enough to stop these attacks.

There is no sign of how the Friday attacks were coordinated and executed. It’s also not clear who exactly carried out the deadly massacres but witness accounts and video feature screams of “Allah Akbar” and mentions of Syria.

On television in America, on-screen experts quickly began speculating that encryption, as well as more precise knowledge of the West’s intelligence capabilities, could have played a role in the attacks.

There is no public information about the planning behind the attack, so any suggestion that Snowden or encryption are to blame is conjecture. The pointed speculation against Snowden attracted criticism as well.

Update 4:39pm CT, Nov. 17: Latest casualty numbers updated.

Illustration by Max Fleishman

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*First Published: Nov 14, 2015, 11:48 am CST