Shocker: The French Have a Cyber-Snooping Program Too
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  • Jim__L

    It’s actually possible to transmit messages with the message headers (meta-data) in the clear, while the actual message content is encrypted.

    So you know who’s whispering to whom, but you have to glean from context what they’re whispering about.

    Does that sound like a workable compromise, here? Trust that intelligence agencies aren’t looking at content, but verify that they can’t actually decode it.

    • There’s a lot of work to be done before that kind of encryption is easy to use and is pervasive in the Internet’s structure for a solution like this to be truly workable.

      Furthermore, it’s best to think of encryption in terms of an arms race rather than as something that you apply or don’t.

      • Jim__L

        Yes, there are a whole lot more details to be discussed to implement this broad strategy. I’m trying to keep at least some of my posts short here… 😉

  • wigwag

    Professor Mead is absolutely right, but with that said, indicting Snowden under the Espionage Act is way over the top. The debate that Prodessor Mead acknowledges is important wouldn’t be occurring in the United States, France or anywhere else but for Snowden’s actions.

    As we celebrate the Fourth of July it pays to contemplate what our founders would have thought of Snowden. John Adams, tge father of the Alien and Sedition Acts might have supported throwing the book at him. I suspect that others including Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin might have been willing to cut the confused young man a little slack.

    • jeburke

      Nonsense. One of the first acts of the Continental Congress in 1775 was to create a Secret Committee of Correspondence, America’s first intelligence agency, on which Franklin served. A year later, Adams and Jefferson served together on the Committee on Spying which, among other things, wrote the nation’s first espionage act, decreeing the death penalty for spying. Beginning with his assumption of command of the Continental Army in 1775, Washington committed a lot of resources to intelligence with Congress’s support. One program involved large-scale interception of mail which was, not incidentally, opened and read by another secret committee of Congress on which Franklin served. And members of Congress decreed for themselves and officers of the government an oath of secrecy very much like the one Snowden took but spurned.

      Also, it should be noted that nothing in the Alien and Sedition acts had anything to do with intelligence gathering or supposed “spying on Americans” so that’s a red herring.

      • Kavanna

        The committees of correspondence were not intelligence services. The US didn’t have one until the Civil War, and even then it, it was primitive by modern standards.

  • Corlyss

    Everyone with the technical skills and toys to do it does it. The pros know this. The pols know this. The only reason it’s a big whoop now is because some choose to demagogue the issue as if they didn’t know what they know.

  • Kavanna

    So the French policy isn’t that different from the US. “Metadata” means all the information about the message, not the message itself — the envelope, not the letter. That much is allowed under US law, without a warrant.

    However, the standing laws and precedents covering these policies don’t allow indiscriminate collection of even metadata. The US policy certainly violates at least the spirit of the relevant laws (FISA, Patriot Act, etc.).

    I don’t know about the French laws. But I bet that the protection for citizens and the use of wiretapping warrants is similar to the US case.

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