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Rand Paul, Edward Snowden among Political Targets after Paris Attacks

Created: 16 November, 2015
Updated: 18 October, 2022
2 min read

The terrorist attacks in Paris evoked sympathy from Americans of all stripes. Numerous politicians also used the incident to connect the Paris attacks and surveillance to score political points, including against NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

ISIS immediately claimed responsibility for the attack and issued a statement. No public information about the coordination of the attacks has been released, but a theory that the attackers communicated through the Playstation 4 is circulating.

Earlier this year, Vice News issued a Freedom of Information Act request for a Defense Intelligence Agency report examining the reported national security damage caused by Snowden. The report was almost entirely redacted, leaving the claims of damage only speculative.

Regardless, a number of political figures have assigned blame for the Paris attacks to Snowden and other critics of government surveillance policies.

Hitting at Sen. Rand Paul after Paul chastised him over his immigration record, Sen. Marco Rubio retorted, "He's been one of the leading figures trying to gut American intelligence programs."

Rubio's reply presumably referred to Paul's efforts to curtail government spying.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also aimed at Paul, calling the Kentucky senator's concerns about overreach a matter that is only "theoretical in some committee in Washington DC where they get to blow hot air and talk theories."

Former George W. Bush press secretary Dana Perino tersely wrote on Twitter, "Also, F Snowden. F him to you know where and back."

Fox News personality Greg Gutfeld speculated, presumably about Snowden, "if the attack was aided through 'whistleblowers' leaking what the NSA cannot penetrate, will that be part of the movie?"

Despite the vexations of some about past privacy debates, there have been few questions asked about whether the surveillance policies exposed by Snowden and assailed by Paul would have thwarted the Paris attacks.

Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the subject of a Paul filibuster in May, expired on June 1, but the passage of the USA Freedom Act restored a number of powers, albeit in different modes. Among those is the storage of phone data with telecommunications companies until the government requests it, thus leaving data collection essentially intact.

As for France, following the January attacks on Charlie Hebdo, their government inaugurated an aggressive surveillance law permitting "monitoring phone calls and emails and implanting bugs without judiciary verification." The legislation also had French Internet service providers install systems to filter all traffic and record it.

There is a tendency to jump to conclusions immediately after tragedies to push agendas, even when few facts are known. As more information about the Paris attacks emerges, it may ultimately reinvigorate the debate on privacy and lead to a public discussion about which surveillance policies are necessary and which represent overreach.