What to learn from the Abdesalam fiasco

Surveillance should only be directed against people who are suspected of (or to commit) serious crimes.

Mass surveillance – of everyone – only creates a bigger haystack, more false positives, and hamper police and intelligence authorities in their efforts to identify real threats.

Take the Abdesalam brothers in the Paris attacks as an example…

Both were known to Belgian authorities; both were suspected to prepare “an irreversible act”. For years.

This is a case of sloppiness, lacking resources and being Belgian.

Belgium might be a dysfunctional mess, but the problem is the same in other countries. The more mass surveillance data, the more police officers gazing at computer screens – the less security and safety.

Authorities all over would need to get serious, pretty quickly. There is no room for public sector inefficiency when it comes to fighting terrorism. There is no room for incompetence and idleness.

And there are no (valid and publicly acceptable) reasons to replace human intelligence with mass surveillance of the entire population.

The Americans might do it. The Russians and Chinese also do it, for sure. But that is no reason that Europe should. This is exactly what makes our liberal democracy so special. In Europe, we trust ordinary and law-abiding people enough to keep out of their private lives.

The Paris attacks were very real, sad and terrifying. The Abdesalm brothers are very real terrorists. This reality underlines that we need other methods to protect us from danger rather than mass surveillance and data retention. We need wise and competent people, knowing what they are doing. If there are any.


• Link: Belgian police knew since 2014 that Abdeslam brothers planned ‘irreversible act’ »

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