Tag Archives: Paris attacks

Ahmed, Nafeez Mosaddeq - ISIS wants to destroy the 'grey zone'. Here's how we defend it - Open Democracy 20151116

After the Paris attacks, it is imperative that we safeguard this arena of co-existence, where people of all faith and none remain unified on the principles of common humanity.

Credit: Mauro Biani (http://maurobiani.it/)/Il Manifesto. All rights reserved.
Credit: Mauro Biani (http://maurobiani.it/)/Il Manifesto. All rights reserved.
At the end of last year, as politicians and pundits cheered on coalition airstrikes in Syria, I wrote this:

“The war on ISIS has already been lost. As regional instability escalates predictably as a direct consequence of the US-UK led non-strategy, ISIS will become stronger, and reactionary terrorist violence against western targets will proliferate – in turn fuelling reactionary and militant responses from western foreign policy establishments.”

Less than a year later, 129 people have been confirmed dead, and 352 injured, from terrorist attacks in Paris.

‘Islamic State’ (ISIS) acolytes conducted a sophisticated operation involving three coordinated teams, striking multiple targets simultaneously, demonstrating a considerable degree of training and planning.

Yet the airstrikes that began last year had been justified by our leaders precisely on the pretext that they would be necessary to prevent ISIS from striking the west.

Although the attacks appear to have been triggered by the drone strike against ‘Jihadi John’, their sophistication reveals that preparations for the operation had been going on for months, at least.

ISIS, in other words, activated sleeper cells with a longstanding presence in France.

But the attacks in Paris must not be viewed in isolation.

So far, world governments have responded as if the ISIS attack came entirely out of the blue, “an act of war” in Hollande’s words, targeted “against France, against the values that we defend everywhere in the world, against what we are: a free country that means something to the whole planet".

While there is truth to Hollande’s words, they are also misleading.

The Paris attacks have occurred on the tail-end of an escalating series of massacres.

On 22 May, an ISIS militant blew himself up at a mosque in Qatif, Saudi Arabia, killing 21 people.

On 20 July, a female suicide bomber killed 31 students in Suruc, a Turkish city close to the Syrian border.

On 13 August, an ISIS bomb detonated at a farmers’ market in an impoverished district of Baghdad killed 80 people, and wounded over 200.

The Paris attacks have occurred on the tail-end of an escalating series of massacres.

On 2 September, an ISIS bombing killed 28 people and wounded 75 at a mosque in northern Sanaa, the capital of Yemen.

Another suicide bomb attack at Sanaa’s al-Balili mosque three weeks later took the lives of at least 25 people, and injured over 36.

On 10 October, ISIS suicide bombers in the Turkish capital, Ankara, killed 102, and wounded 400.

The night before the attacks on Paris, ISIS suicide bombers slaughtered 43 people in Beirut, and injured 250.

The following morning, an ISIS suicide bomber killed at least 19 people and injured 41 at a funeral in Baghdad.

Then, that evening, ISIS militants coordinated the attacks on Paris.

ISIS’s choice of targets reveal a range of ideological motives – sectarian targeting of minorities like Shi’as, Kurds and Yazidis; striking in the heart of Muslim regimes that have joined the anti-ISIS coalition; as well as demonstrating the punitive consequences of attacking ISIS to western publics by hitting them at their most vulnerable, in bars, restaurants and music venues.

The goal, of course, is to inflict trauma, fear, paranoia, suspicion, panic and terror – but there is a particularly twisted logic as part of this continuum of violence, which is to draw the western world into an apocalyptic civilizational Armageddon with ‘Islam.’

Islamic State flag. Wikimedia Commons. Public domain.
Islamic State flag. Wikimedia Commons. Public domain.
ISIS recognizes that it has only marginal support amongst Muslims around the world. The only way it can accelerate recruitment and strengthen its territorial ambitions is twofold: firstly, demonstrating to Islamist jihadist networks that there is now only one credible terror game in town capable of pulling off spectacular terrorist attacks in the heart of the west, and two, by deteriorating conditions of life for Muslims all over the world to draw them into joining or supporting ISIS.

Both these goals depend on two constructs: the ‘crusader’ civilisation of the ‘kuffar’ (disbelievers) pitted against the authentic ‘Islamic’ utopia of ISIS.

In their own literature shortly after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, ISIS shamelessly drew on the late Osama bin Laden’s endorsement of the words of President George W. Bush, to justify this apocalyptic vision: “The world today is divided into two camps. Bush spoke the truth when he said, ‘either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.’ Meaning either you are with the crusade or you are with Islam.”

Continuing in its English-language magazine, Dabiq, ISIS forecasted the “extinction” of the “grey zone” between these two camps:

“One of the first matters renounced by the hypocrites abandoning the grayzone and fleeing to the camp of apostasy and kufr after the operations in Paris is the clear-cut obligation to kill those who mock the Messenger [Muhammad]. The evidences [religious justification based on Islamic sources] for this issue are so abundant and clear, and yet some apostates, who abandoned the grayzone, claimed that the operations in Paris contradicted the teachings of Islam!... There is no doubt that such deeds are apostasy, that those who publicly call to such deeds in the name of Islam and scholarship are from the du’āt(callers) to apostasy, and that there is great reward awaiting the Muslim in the Hereafter if he kills these apostate imāms…”

The strategy behind this call to “kill” apostate Muslims who reject ISIS is also laid out candidly: to terrorise western countries into genocidal violence against their own Muslim populations:

“The Muslims in the West will quickly find themselves between one of two choices, they either apostatize and adopt the kufrī [infidel] religion propagated by Bush, Obama, Blair, Cameron, Sarkozy, and Hollande in the name of Islam so as to live amongst the kuffār [infidels] without hardship, or they perform hijrah [emigrate] to the Islamic State and thereby escape persecution from the crusader governments and citizens... Muslims in the crusader countries will find themselves driven to abandon their homes for a place to live in the Khilāfah, as the crusaders increase persecution against Muslims living in Western lands so as to force them into a tolerable sect of apostasy in the name of 'Islam' before forcing them into blatant Christianity and democracy.”

While Hollande’s reactionary declaration of war is understandable, it falls into the ideological trap laid by ISIS. France’s new state of emergency grants the government extraordinary powers that effectively put an end to democratic accountability, and give law-enforcement and security agencies unaccountable authority to run amok.

Hollande’s reactionary declaration of war falls into the ideological trap laid by ISIS.

This includes being able to enforce curfews, close public spaces, and even exert control of media. Authorities can now “prohibit passage of vehicles or people,” establish “protection or security zones, where people’s presence is regulated,” exclude from a public space “any person seeking to obstruct, in any way, the actions of the public authorities,” and detain anyone in their homes “whose activity appears dangerous for public security and order.”

The problem is in the open-ended way such vague precepts can be interpreted and executed. Obstructing “in any way” the actions of the state, or activity that “appears dangerous” for “security and order” could, crucially, be used to shut down public criticisms of the French government’s response to the Paris attacks.

Dissent against past or present French foreign and counter-terror policies can easily be construed as “dangerous” or obstructive to those policies. The language also perpetuates the Bush-era ‘with us or against us’ mantra, which ISIS sees as central to its agenda of fracturing what it calls the "grey zone."

Such a sweeping approach to countering ‘extremism’ – interpreted essentially as any ideological threat to the state – has already fuelled social polarization in Britain, where the ‘Prevent’ duty, for instance, is being used to police the thoughts of children as young as three years old.

Leaked government training documents reveal that the British government’s Prevent programme views political activism in general as a potential ‘extremist’ threat to the state’s hegemonic construct of ‘British values’, including environmental, animal rights and anti-nuclear campaigning. These measures are already going some way to fulfil ISIS’s objective of eroding the "grey zone" in the west.

According to Yahya Birt, an academic at the University of Leeds who is part of #EducationNotSurveillance – a national network of parents, teachers, educationalists, activists and academics – cases of unwarranted targeting of Muslim students under the Prevent duty are becoming legion.

“Muslim students are being profiled disproportionately under the government’s mandatory programme simply for displaying an interest in their own faith, or for holding political opinions critical of government foreign policy,” Birt told me. “Far from upholding democratic values, the programme is eroding them, and making perfectly normal, decent British Muslim citizens feel that they are under siege.”

Documented cases include a fifteen-year-old Muslim boy being questioned by police officers on his views about ISIS simply for wearing a ‘Free Palestine’ badge to school and handing out leaflets calling for sanctions on Israel.  The officers told him that he had “terrorist-like beliefs”, and warned him against speaking about his views in school. Another Muslim child was questioned after a classroom lesson about ISIS in which he aired his support for environmental activism.

In the US and France, similar programmes are also underway.

David Frum. Flickr/Policy Exchange. Some rights reserved.
David Frum. Flickr/Policy Exchange. Some rights reserved.
Neoconservatives on both sides of the Atlantic, however, want more.

David Frum, a former Bush speechwriter turned senior editor at the Atlantic, took to Twitter to demand the forcible mass deportation of Arabs who had migrated to Europe over the past two years.

In Britain, Douglas Murray, a director at the Henry Jackson Society in London, told his fellow guests on BBC Sunday Morning Live that “any percentage of Muslims you like” in Britain are ISIS sympathisers.

In a blog in the Spectator the day before, he had claimed: “Islam is not a peaceful religion. No religion is, but Islam is especially not.” Though acknowledging that there are “many peaceful verses in the Quran which – luckily for us – the majority of Muslims live by,” Islam, he went on, is “by no means, only a religion of peace” and “this is the verifiable truth based on the texts.”

Murray’s conception of ‘Us’, it seems, does not include ‘Them’, “Muslims” whom, he believes, are not ISIS suicide bombers purely because they follow their faith selectively.

Islamic theologians who specialize in those very texts unanimously disagree with Murray.

But that matters not, for Murray has previously endorsed the very same policies of forced mass expulsion of European Muslims advocated by Frum – not entirely surprising given that Murray praises Frum profusely in his book,Neoconservativism: Why We Need It (2006).

Pundits like Frum and Murray provide a critically powerful PR service for ISIS. Parading themselves as liberals seeking to defend western civilisation, they call for precisely what ISIS wants: the equation of ‘Islam’ with the ‘Islamic State’; the impossibility of ‘Islam’ co-existing peacefully with ‘the West’; the inherent threat posed by Muslims residing in the west due to their faith; and the need to therefore discriminate against and persecute Muslims in particular.

Pundits like Frum and Murray provide a critically powerful PR service for ISIS.

This sort of far-right sympathizing subsists in direct symbiosis with ISIS’s divisive ideology. It also serves to obscure the deeper more uncomfortable reality that ISIS has emerged and thrived precisely in the context of the ‘war on terror.’

When Hollande declared that the Paris massacre constituted an “act of war”, he appeared to have forgotten that we have been engaged in perpetual war for the last decade and a half, with no end in sight.

The kneejerk relapse to the familiar is understandable – more surveillance, more airstrikes, more thought-policing. Yet it is merely a reversion to what we think we know, rather than a recognition that what we think we know has clearly failed.

It is psychologically easier to frame the Paris attacks as even further evidence of the unfathomable evil of ‘Them’, which must be even more ruthlessly flushed out by ‘Us’.

But the truth staring us in the face is that the Paris attacks offer incontrovertible proof that all our efforts at ruthlessly flushing out terror through mass surveillance, drone strikes, air strikes, ground troops, torture, rendition, the Prevent agenda, and so on and so forth, have produced the opposite result.

AC-130H Howitzer. Flickr/US Air Force. Some rights reserved.
AC-130H Howitzer. Flickr/US Air Force. Some rights reserved.
What we really need is a fundamental re-assessment of everything we have done since 9/11, a full-on, formal international public inquiry into the abject failure of the ‘war on terror.’

The facts, which most pundits and politicians continue to avoid mentioning, speak for themselves. We have spent well over $5 trillion on waging the ‘war on terror’, not just in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, but across the Middle East and central Asia. Over that period, US State Department data shows that terror attacks have skyrocketed by 6,500 percent, while the number of casualties from terror attacks has increased by 4,500 percent.

2004 terrorism estimates from CIA figures.
*2004 terrorism estimates from CIA figures.
Journalist Paul Gottinger, who analysed the data, noted that spikes in these figures coincided with military intervention: “…. from 2007 to 2011 almost half of all the world’s terror took place in Iraq or Afghanistan – two countries being occupied by the US at the time.” And in 2014, he found, “74 percent of all terror-related casualties occurred in Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Syria. Of these five, only Nigeria did not experience either US air strikes or a military occupation in that year.”

Simultaneously, even as the US-led anti-ISIS coalition has accelerated attacks on the group in Iraq and Syria, the group has only grown in power. Latest figures suggest the group now has some 80,000 fighters at least, up from last year’s estimates of around 20,000 to 31,500.

It would be naïve in the extreme, then, to pretend that the rise of ISIS has nothing to do with the string of failed or failing states that have been wrought in the region in the aftermath of such interventions, in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria.

But more than that, there is the far more uncomfortable question of the regional geopolitics that continues to feed ISIS under the nose of coalition airstrikes.

There is the far more uncomfortable question of the regional geopolitics that continues to feed ISIS.

The leading players in the anti-ISIS coalition, many of whom are Muslim regimes considered to be staunch allies of the west, have provided billions of dollars of funding and military support to the most extreme Islamist militants in Syria.

Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, Kuwait and Turkey played lead roles in funneling support to groups affiliated with al-Qaeda, including the ISIS precursors al-Qaeda in Iraq and al-Qaeda in Syria (Jabhat al-Nusra), in their western-backed bid to oust Bashir al-Assad.

Due to porous links between some Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels, other Islamist groups like al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham, and ISIS, there have been prolific weapons transfers from ‘moderate’ to Islamist militant groups, to the extent that the German journalist Jurgen Todenhofer, who spent 10 days inside the Islamic State, reported last year that ISIS is being “indirectly” armed by the west: “They buy the weapons that we give to the Free Syrian Army, so they get western weapons – they get French weapons… I saw German weapons, I saw American weapons.”

Meanwhile, it is not even clear whether our own allies in the anti-ISIS coalition have stopped funding the terror entity. In his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee in September 2014, General Martin Dempsey, then chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, was asked by Senator Lindsay Graham whether he knew of “any major Arab ally that embraces ISIL”. General Dempsey replied: “I know major Arab allies who fund them.”

Senator Graham, clearly taken aback by the blunt response, quickly attempted to play down the damning implications: “they were tried [sic] to beat Assad. I think they realise the folly of their ways. Let’s don’t [sic] taint the Mideast unfairly.”

Never mind that the most senior US military official confirms the Pentagon’s full awareness that its own allies in the anti-ISIS coalition are simultaneously “funding” ISIS while purportedly bombing the group.

Paris tribute. Demotix/David Pauwels. All rights reserved.
Paris tribute. Demotix/David Pauwels. All rights reserved.
Such linkages between our geopolitical allies and the terrorists we are purportedly fighting in Iraq-Syria came to the fore when it emerged that Syrian passports discovered near the bodies of two of the suspected Paris attackers were fake.

Police sources in France had told Channel 4 News that the passports were likely forged in Turkey.

French officials now concede that one of the suicide bombers, Omar Ismail Mostefai had been on a “watch list” as a “potential security threat” in 2010, and was known to have links with “radical Islam.”

But according to a Turkish official, Turkish intelligence had tipped off French authorities “twice” about Mostefai before the Paris attacks.

Earlier this year, the Turkish daily Today’s Zaman reported that “more than 100,000 fake Turkish passports” had been given to ISIS. Erdogan’s government, the newspaper added, “has been accused of supporting the terrorist organization by turning a blind eye to its militants crossing the border and even buying its oil… Based on a 2014 report, Sezgin Tanrıkulu, deputy chairman of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) said that ISIL terrorists fighting in Syria have also been claimed to have been treated in hospitals in Turkey.”

But it is far worse than that. A senior western official familiar with a large cache of intelligence obtained this summer told the Guardian that “direct dealings between Turkish officials and ranking ISIS members was now ‘undeniable’”.

ISIS, in other words, is state-sponsored.

The same official confirmed that Turkey is not just supporting ISIS, but also other jihadist groups, including Ahrar al-Sham and Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria. “The distinctions they draw [with other opposition groups] are thin indeed,” said the official. “There is no doubt at all that they militarily cooperate with both.”

Turkey has played a key role in facilitating the life-blood of ISIS’s expansion: black market oil sales. Senior political and intelligence sources in Turkey, Iraq, and the Kurdistan Regional Government confirm that Turkish authorities have actively facilitated ISIS oil sales through the country.

ISIS, in other words, is state-sponsored – indeed, sponsored by purportedly western-friendly regimes in the Muslim world who are integral to the anti-ISIS coalition. Turkey, for instance, plays a central role in both the CIA and Pentagon-run rebel training and assistance programmes.

To what extent, then, did our unquestionable geopolitical alliance with Turkey, our unwavering commitment to empowering allies like Turkey to fund Islamist militants of their choice in Syria, contribute to the freedom of movement those militants used to execute the Paris operation?

Gare de Lyon. Flickr/Jon Siegel. Some rights reserved.
Gare de Lyon. Flickr/Jon Siegel. Some rights reserved.
All this calls for a complete re-think of our approach to terrorism. We require, urgently, an international public inquiry into the colossal failure of the strategies deployed in the ‘war on terror.’

How has over $5 trillion succeeded only in permitting an extremist terror-state, to conquer a third of Iraq and Syria, while carrying out a series of assaults on cities across the region and in the heart of Europe?

The re-assessment must accompany concrete measures, now.

First and foremost, our alliances with terror-sponsoring dictatorships across the Muslim world must end. All the talk of making difficult decisions is meaningless if we would rather sacrifice civil liberties instead of sacrificing profit-oriented investments in brutal autocracies like Saudi Arabia, which have exploited western dependence on its oil resources to export Islamist extremism around the world.

Addressing those alliances means taking decisive action to enforce punitive measures in terms of the financing of Islamist militants, the facilitation of black-market ISIS oil sales, and the export of narrow extremist ideologies. Without this, military experts can give as much lip-service to ‘draining the swamp’ as they like – it means nothing if we think draining it means using a few buckets to fling out the mud while our allies pour gallons back in.

Secondly, in Syria, efforts to find a political resolution to the conflict must ramp up. So far, neither the US nor Russia, driven by their own narrow geopolitical concerns, have done very much to destroy ISIS strongholds. The gung-ho entry of Russia into the conflict has only served to unify the most extreme jihadists and vindicate ISIS’s victim-bating claim to be a ‘David’ fighting the ‘Goliath’ of a homogenous “kafir” (infidel) crusader-axis.

Every military escalation has been followed by a further escalation, because ISIS itself was incubated in the militarized nightmare of occupied Iraq and Assad-bombed Syria.

Thirdly, and relatedly, all military support to all actors in the Syria conflict must end. Western powers can pressurise their Gulf and Turkish state allies to end support to rebel groups, which is now so out of control that there is no longer any prospect of preventing such support from being diverted to ISIS; while Russia and Iran can withdraw their aid to Assad’s bankrupt regime. If Russia and France genuinely wish to avoid further blowback against their own citizens, they would throw their weight behind such measures with a view to force regional actors to come to the negotiating table.

Talk of ‘solidarity’ is not merely empty sloganeering.

Fourthly, it must be recognized that contrary to the exhortations of fanatics like Douglas Murray, talk of ‘solidarity’ is not merely empty sloganeering. The imperative now is for citizens around the world to work together to safeguard what ISIS calls the "grey zone" – the arena of co-existence where people of all faith and none remain unified on the simple principles of our common humanity. Despite the protestations of extremists, the reality is that the vast majority of secular humanists and religious believers accept and embrace this heritage of mutual acceptance.

But safeguarding the "grey zone" means more than bandying about the word ‘solidarity’ – it means enacting citizen-solidarity by firmly rejecting efforts by both ISIS and the far-right to exploit terrorism as a way to transform our societies into militarized police-states where dissent is demonized, the Other is feared, and mutual paranoia is the name of the game. That, in turn, means working together to advance and innovate the institutions, checks and balances, and accountability necessary to maintain and improve the framework of free, open and diverse societies.

It is not just ISIS that would benefit from a dangerous shift to the contrary.

Incumbent political elites keen to avoid accountability for a decade and a half of failure will use heightened public anxiety to push through more of the same. They will seek to avoid hard questions about past failures, while casting suspicion everywhere except the state itself, with a view to continue business-as-usual. And in similar vein, the military-industrial complex, whose profits have come to depend symbiotically on perpetual war, wants to avoid awkward questions about lack of transparency and corrupt relationships with governments. They would much rather keep the trillion-dollar gravy train flowing out of the public purse.

Appelbaum, Jacob - We need more, not less democracy - Open Democracy 20151120

I hope you'll join me in installing free software for freedom, fighting against mass surveillance, and refusing to be instrumentalised by those who have failed us – our intelligence services.

This article is taken from Jacob Appelbaum's opening remarks at the World Forum for Democracy 2015.

We are speaking here in a very intense context. I feel very sorry for what has happened in Paris and in Beirut, and for the context that seems to have taken American wars and brought them to European soil.

With that said, the responses that I have seen have been terrifying, and not merely in the technological realm. And while I am a technologist, I am also a human being, and I refuse to be pigeon-holed into merely speaking about technology.

Some of the things that I have heard raised for me a great deal of historical terror, and I wish to say, especially to the people who are here, who are European residents like I am now, that I encourage you to learn from the mistakes of my country, in the wake of our most recent, horrific, terrorist attack.

I feel that we have responded with wars, and because those wars have come to your doorstep, we actually see grave interventions with more violence, which in fact feed into what Daesh wants. Daesh wants to have more war.

They want to eliminate the grey zone where anyone with a beard, anyone who is a Muslim, anyone who looks different, will be treated as an outsider and will be harmed. They want to enlargen the xenophobia, they want more violence, and so we should consider whether or not that is what we wish.

Daesh wants to have more war.

We also see that the intelligence services have absolutely failed us. The intelligence services of the world claim that encryption is a problem. But the evidence has come out that, in fact, the attacks in Paris were perpetrated by people who used credit cards in their real name, who used unencrypted text messages to say things like 'let’s go'.

No one is asking how these people are doing arms-trafficking – those are physical goods that do not travel through the internet. How is it the case that the intelligence services have failed so badly, and that they seek instead to distract and to counter-accuse, and to suggest encryption, something that people don't understand, is the issue?

How about the fact that the United Kingdom has a plan to do things with its intelligence services, such as the JTRIG department, where they specifically target religious minorities for political harassment. Why is it that the UK is allowed, and in fact encouraged even, to harass minorities into becoming informants, and if not, will threaten them with stripping them of their citizenship? Their citizenship, which is effectively the right that grants all other rights.

This is a core contributing problem. It is not technology or encryption that is the core contributing problem. It is intolerance, it is a lack of openness, a lack of welcoming, it is this fear of the other that we see.

And this idea that we have even heard in France this week, that there should be pre-emptive arrests and internment of Muslims, this must not happen. It is absolutely against the rule of law and even if it were legal, it is against fundamental civil liberties.

When the attack in Paris occurred, I was in Kuwait, and I was attending an artistic event held by the French ambassador, and I was very shocked by what had occurred. What I found when talking with people was they were not as sympathetic as I would have expected. It was not that they did not care, but they said instead to me something that struck me.

They said, our brothers and sisters are dying in Syria: 250,000 of them so far. More than a million people have died in Iraq and Afghanistan, and you're talking about a couple of hundred people in Paris. We feel you, now you feel us.

What then, might we learn from this?

Violence in Aleppo. Narciso Contreras/Freedom House/Flickr. Some rights reserved.
Violence in Aleppo. Narciso Contreras/Freedom House/Flickr. Some rights reserved.
Is the answer to commit more violence? Is the answer to undermine our fundamental liberties? To add backdoors to technology? Is the answer, for example, to suggest that the problem is with technology? I think that it's not. But it is additionally problematic to suggest that we need a reduction of evil – it suggests that we don't need to study and look to the root causes. For example, pacifism is much more powerful if we consider that it is a choice, and that we choose that when we have the ability to do violence.

It is simply the case that violence is to eschew dialogue, it is to get rid of that dialogue, and so to respond with violence is absolutely a tragedy upon a tragedy, upon a tragedy. We will not bomb Syria into peace, at best we may bomb it into submission. Submission is not the same as peace.

Submission is not the same as peace.

Instead, we should consider the humanity. For example, today on the news we've seen suspects of terrorism, and they've been killed, and the news has stated that no civilians were killed. What is a suspected EU citizen if not a human being? If not a civilian? Each and every person here could be accidentally killed, as a Brazilian man was by the UK secret services after the tube bombing in London. That person was an innocent person, and because their rights were suspended, because they were treated as if they were an other, they were killed and they had no due process.

We should look to the Norwegians for a response, rather than the Americans. After Breivik committed egregious acts of racist, violent, terrorism, Norway decided that they would choose a path of more democracy, one where instead of alienating and pushing people away, instead Norway as a country would continue to do things in the way that they had always done them, refusing to terrorise, refusing to allow the terrorists to change Norwegian society. We should look to that. We should not follow the American example, we should follow the Norwegian example of more democracy and not violence.

And so in fact the response we should consider is the response of expanding our liberty. Yes, we must fight extremism, specifically we should fight the extremism that states have no limits on what they may do or how they may do it. The Council of Europe and the Court of Human Rights exists here today because we understand from history that that is a lie.

States commit terrorism, just as others can, and we must not forget that that lesson is a hard won lesson. If we want to get rid of violent extremists, we must remember that extremists silence us with violence or threats of violence. So we must be extreme in our openness, in our welcoming nature, we must be extreme in a commitment to justice, and with an absolute refusal to push away refugees.

We must remember that we have an obligation to refugees that comes from a history where others did not act correctly, without that obligation. There is an extremism that is correct, that we have an unlimited right to form and to hold beliefs, that these rights must not be abridged. This includes the right to a trial, and our right to face an accuser. And there's a new notion: that we will all be free, and will remain free as long as we submit to endless security checks, border controls, mass and targeted surveillance, and mandatory identification for nearly all interactions. But this notion of freedom is simply incompatible with freedom as we understand it, through the Court of Human Rights, through individual and through societal values of liberty.

NSA, Fort Meade. Wikimedia Commons. Public domain.
NSA, Fort Meade. Wikimedia Commons. Public domain.
And we see political opportunism, such as by Robert Bob Litt from the intelligence community, who suggests for example that “the legislative environment is very hostile today”, however, “it could turn in the event of a terrorist attack or criminal event where strong encryption can be shown to have hindered law enforcement.”

There is a value, he said, “in keeping our options open for such a situation”. Those people are as despicable as terrorists when they would seek to exploit the deaths of these people, to erode our liberties for their own personal power.

We must be extreme in our openness, in our welcoming nature, we must be extreme in a commitment to justice.

So there is technology today that helps us to confirm, to ensure, and to expand our liberties, where we have a right to read, and we have a right to speak freely, and a responsibility to be good to each other. These people wish to weaken our infrastructure, they wish to enable private and government censorship on the internet, they call for back doors, or front doors which would put us at risk.

There are two things you can do right now if you would like. First, you can install Signal on your smartphone, which will give you encrypted voice calls and text messages without backdoors, beating targeted and mass surveillance. I encourage you to do that now, it’s free software, and it’s free of cost. And you can install the Tor browser, which will give you the ability to browse the web and to be anonymous on the internet, where you'll actually be able to do things without leaving a data trail where spies can twist it and harm you later. And where it will make it more difficult for people to target you for other kinds of cyber-crime. Both of them are free software, implemented for freedom.

Remember, it is the same intelligence services who want backdoors today, who are exploiting this tragedy, who exploited Vodafone in Greece, to wiretap the prime minister, who did mass surveillance on all of Europe. We cannot trust them. It is the intelligence services of the US and the UK that use their surveillance systems to enable extra-judicial assassination.

We should secure the internet, and to ensure that such things are more difficult, if not impossible. Our security situation today is not a matter of security versus privacy. Our security requires strong privacy, and our security requires autonomy, it requires transparency and accountability, it requires free speech, it requires fundamental human rights to be respected. And rather than less democracy, we need more democracy. Rather than less secure systems, we need more secure systems. And we need to use them, to run them, and to fund them.

I hope you'll join me in installing free software for freedom and fighting against mass surveillance, and refusing to be instrumentalised by the people who have failed us – our intelligence services.

Snowden and Surveillance after Paris - Open Democracy 20151203

There’s little evidence that “mass surveillance” catches potential terrorists, but it does risk catching innocents. More conventional police methods are more effective against terrorism.

Heavy police presence at Place de la Republique, November 17, 2015.
Heavy police presence at Place de la Republique, November 17, 2015. Demotix/ Michael Debets. All rights reserved.
The Friday 13 events in Paris were horrendous – bloody and heartless attacks without warning on innocent civilians enjoying a warm November evening, in restaurants and bars, at a concert and a soccer game. A few days before, I had been walking through neighbouring districts, taking in the sights and sounds of a great city.Unfortunately, French responses thus far follow a familiar pattern… So border checks were increased with ramped-up databases and reinforced surveillance.

Anyone who knows about security-and-surveillance could guess what would happen. Security authorities would want more powers and governments would gauge how far they could go. Of course, it’s understandable that any government in that position will wish to reassure the population with visible signs of security. But governments do tend to rush headlong into new counter-terrorism measures after a major attack like that in Paris. Sometimes they are desperate to show that they are doing something.

Events like these are also viewed as ideal opportunities to make policy changes. As Naomi Klein shows in Shock Doctrine, some governments have for many years exploited crises to push through controversial law or policy. A recent example is shootings on Parliament Hill in Canada’s capital city, Ottawa, in October 2014. Although motivations were mixed they were unequivocally labeled as terrorist by the Harper government and were followed swiftly by a new bill, C-51, that became law in June 2015. The law expanded information-sharing and the mandate of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

Learning from the past

While tightened security may seem like a good plan, changing the rules and demanding greater powers for security and intelligence services in the wake of attacks may not be wise. Sober judgment, not knee-jerk responses, is called for. After the Charlie Hebdo attacks earlier in 2015, the French introduced new laws for warrantless searches, ISPs to collect communications metadata, and trimmed oversight for agencies. This time – in November – some borders were temporarily closed and a 3-month state of emergency was declared.The evidence that what Snowden and others call “mass surveillance” produces better ways of tracking terrorists is hard to find.

We saw it, classically, in the US after 9/11, but also in the UK after 7/7, where detention-without-charge, and a new offence of glorifying terrorist acts appeared in the 2006 Terrorism Act. Similar events have occurred in several other countries. Unfortunately, French responses thus far follow a familiar pattern. Given its location, these reactions are also European ones. The porous internal borders under the Schengen agreement mean that the external European frontier is seen as vulnerable. So border checks were increased with ramped-up databases and reinforced surveillance.

Boosting intelligence-sharing was another promise, related to the threat of ISIS and to activities such as terrorist financing. At the same time, security was enhanced in other world cities such as New York, in the wake of attacks. Some of this makes sense, but how much? Surely, as a recent CEPS report notes, a more measured approach would be to ask what has worked in the past, not just what has been done before?

Does mass surveillance work?

Does allowing intelligence agencies to collect more data – what Snowden and others call “mass surveillance” – or increasing powers of arrest and detention, and removing checks and balances, really improve things? The evidence that these produce better ways of tracking terrorists is hard to find. More is not necessarily better when it comes to data. In 2013, the White House claimed that more than 50 terror plots had been uncovered by the NSA’s methods. But in 2014 two independent reviews showed that in 255 terrorism cases investigated by the NSA, only four were the result of using phone metadata and none of the four prevented attacks.

Edward Snowden is clear about this. Reflecting on the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, he pointed out that these occurred despite the mass surveillance programs introduced there in 2013. Observing that French law was now one of the most intrusive and expansive laws in Europe, he commented that it still didn’t stop the attack. They’re simply “burying people under too much data,” he said. By and large, conventional police work, based on targeted surveillance of suspects, is what produces results.

After the November attacks in Paris, American agencies were quick to blame Snowden – along with internet encryption and Silicon Valley privacy policies. CIA director John Brennan lashed out, saying that the surveillance leaks had undermined security – this despite the great care taken by Snowden not to copy any documents that might carry such risks. The New York Times argued that in fact Paris was a case of failure to act on information the authorities already had. As for encryption, the Paris attackers used none.

Police work and targeted surveillance

If one reads, now over many years, the reports of terror cells being busted or of potential terrorists being apprehended, there is almost no mention of big data or intelligence-sharing. Many criminologists insist that, by and large, conventional police work, based on targeted surveillance of suspects, is what produces results. This is why carefully considered responses to terrorist tragedies are so badly needed.

As criminologist Peter Fussey reminds us, in some notorious cases, members of the public stepped in to avert tragedies – such as the flight AA93 shoe-bomber, Times Square and the Thalys train attack at Pas-de-Calais. As he says, community tip-offs, informants, and police doggedly following known suspects is much more likely to produce results than expanded police powers and reduced oversight. In case after case, we have seen that intelligence agencies knew about those who committed atrocities but failed to – as they say – connect the dots.In case after case, we have seen that intelligence agenciesknew aboutthose who committed atrocities but failed to – as they say – connect the dots.

Actually studying terrorist attacks that have been thwarted, comparing them with those that succeeded – as Erik Dahl has done – leads to the discovery that what works is “specific, tactical-level intelligence – of the sort typically gathered through on-the-ground domestic intelligence collection and surveillance.” Not only this. Dahl argues that “connecting the dots” may not be the ideal solution. His careful examination of thwarted attacks convinced him that “intelligence analysis alone – especially the big-picture, long-range analysis so often prized – will not prevent surprise attacks and head off intelligence failure.”

This means that less data collection may actually produce better results – because then the authorities will be able to focus on analyzing what data they already possess. High tech solutions to terrorism may sound plausible but in reality they often compound the problem. Edward Snowden, a surveillance operative with a high level security clearance, saw this for himself at the NSA. “The reason these [Charlie Hebdo] attacks happened,” he said, was that “we had too much surveillance. We didn’t prioritize because we’d wasted too many resources watching people who didn’t present a threat.”

Collateral damage

At the same time, indiscriminate surveillance creates new risks; innocent “suspects,” the chilling effects of everyone being tracked and checked and the denial of democracy – which ironically is a victory for terrorists. Terrorism arises, it seems, from groups that despise diversity and who seek national, political or religious homogeneity. The parallel suicide bomb attacks in Beirut were primarily directed at Shiite Hezbollah, that ISIS does not regard as true Muslims. It makes no sense if liberal democracies, that pride themselves on seeking fairness within diversity and on guaranteeing the rights of minorities and their most disadvantaged members, end up marginalizing dissent.

Security-driven surveillance today is very enamoured of big data ‘solutions’ – seen especially in the application of new analytics to seeking out suspects. While there may well be appropriate ways of using the so-called ‘data deluge’ created by internet and particularly social media use, the current trend is towards prediction and preemption. It’s when big data surveillance uses new modes of analytics not just to predict who might have violent proclivities, but also, as Ian Kerr and Jessica Earle warn, to take preemptive action, thus limiting their range of options – say, by placing them on a no-fly list – that privacy, due process and the presumption of innocence loom large as potential problems.

And it goes without saying that the same process that sucks up ‘suspects’ may well ingest not only those whose profile seems to suggest a wish to attack physically, but also those raising questions about government activities – including non-violent peace protesters or environmental groups. Terrorists accept risk and thus precautionary measures are also used, that make more people eligible for scrutiny. Thus it is not only practically important that methods of surveillance be found that do not have a high risk of impugning the innocent, it is also symbolically significant.

Fears and futures

After 9/11, I argued that one of the worst outcomes of the various responses to terrorism is the fomenting of fear. Without for a moment discounting the appalling suffering and loss associated with the Paris attacks – or any others – it must be said that some responses to such atrocities are also highly dangerous. At the far end of fear-mongering is the proposal from US presidential contender Donald Trump to establish a database of American Muslims. If he were not so popular this could be discounted as fascist fanaticism.

But the trouble with many surveillance responses is that they do so well what marks surveillance today – a process of social sorting that classifies populations in order to treat different groups differently. Thus what is done requires utmost care. Categories have consequences. Security agencies and forces have to discern between different levels of risk but there are ways of doing this that do not automatically prejudice some populations.

When security agencies make their case for more data, more sophisticated analytics, they often make it sound as if these were neutral technologies. They hate their “bulk collection” being labelled “mass surveillance.” Neither term is adequate, but what these terms tell us is that the technologies cannot somehow be ripped out of their social-political milieu. Their names express particular positions, so the challenge is to acknowledge the differing views and subject them to assessment in terms of the goals of surveillance.

If fears are generated by terrorism then, in a reflex action, fears are further fomented by shortsighted and insensitive anti-terrorism. If we don’t want a future fractured by fear then avoiding such inappropriate actions would be a good start. And reading dire dystopian treatments of surveillance futures may not help either. While Snowden often quotes Orwell, his activities promote a different approach from that of the author of Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Making a difference

Snowden insists – and proves it by his own example – that any and all can help to make a difference. These are not problems that can be solved overnight by some hastily concocted laws or a furious rush to foreclose freedoms. Indeed, these exacerbate our situation. Surveillance today touches us all and we all need to take action, however small, to change things for the better. As Jacob Appelbaum says, we need more democracy, not less.

If we’re to make a difference, three things stand out for me: Let’s remember what we really want – the common good, human flourishing. We can complain about what we don’t want or even worry about dystopian scenarios but it’s the positive vision that unites. Integrated and harmonious communities have consistently been shown to foster good security. Second, let’s support coordinated political action, as a new European report proposes, locally, nationally and internationally, on what are appropriate surveillance measures. Third, let’s expand digital citizenship, making positive and creative use of the very resources that some surveillance agencies (mis)use to fuel fear. As Engin Isin and Evelyn Ruppert point out, this means both claiming digital rights for all and acting in ways that promote digital democracy.

There is an acute and growing tension between the concern for safety and the protection of our freedoms. How do we handle this? Read more from the World Forum for Democracy partnership.

Michael Morell: ‘It’s all back in Snowden’s lap’ - Politico 20151118

‘It’s all back in Snowden’s lap’ - Politico 20151118

Former CIA Acting Director Michael Morell on how the NSA leaker’s revelations might have led to the Paris attacks.

Michael Morell, the former acting head of the CIA, says the Paris attacks have exposed how freely the Islamic State was able to operate in a chastened environment in which intelligence gathering was partly shut down after Edward Snowden’s exposure of National Security Agency surveillance in 2013. Now, Morell says, the need for greater security is on everyone’s mind — especially since the terrorist group has threatened an attack on the U.S. In his recently published book, The Great War of Our Time: The CIA’s Fight Against Terrorism From Al Qa’ida to ISIS, Morell accuses Snowden of aiding in the rise of the Islamic State. In an interview on Tuesday with Politico Magazine National Editor Michael Hirsh, Morell elaborates on the damage he believes the leaker has done.

Michael Hirsh: How did the Snowden revelations help the Islamic State, and did they somehow lead to the Paris attacks?

Michael Morell: First, ISIS went to school on how we were collecting intelligence on terrorist organizations by using telecommunications technologies. And when they learned that from the Snowden disclosures, they were able to adapt to it and essentially go silent … And so, part of their rise was understanding what our capabilities were, adjusting to them so we couldn’t see them. No doubt in my mind. And the people who say otherwise are just trying to defend Edward Snowden.

Two — and much more damaging: The Snowden disclosures created this perception that people’s privacy was being put at significant risk. It wasn’t only the Snowden disclosures about [Section] 215 [of the PATRIOT Act, allowing for the mass collection of telephone metadata] that created that, it was the media’s handling of it. The media went to the darkest corner of the room, the CNNs and the FOXes etc. of the world, those people who have a 24/7 news cycle. In those early days, if you were watching CNN, they were saying the NSA is listening to your phone calls. It’s reading your emails. When you call your grandma in Arkansas, the NSA knows. All total bulls–t. They made the public more concerned about the privacy issue than the legitimate facts should have done. And so, the result of that was everything you’ve seen. The constraining of 215. The IT companies building encryption without keys. That is all, at the end of the day, back in Snowden’s lap, in my view.

As far as Paris goes, we don’t know for sure yet how these guys communicate among themselves and how they communicated back to the ISIS leadership in Iraq and Syria, but I’m fairly confident we’re going to learn they used these encrypted communication applications that have commercial encryption and are extremely difficult for companies to break — and which the companies have made the decision not to produce a key for. Even if the government goes to them with a warrant, they can’t give them anything because they don’t have a key. These companies made these decisions about encryption when they were finding it very difficult to sell their products overseas because the Snowden disclosures created the impression that the U.S. government was inside this hardware and software produced by them. They needed to do something to deal with the perception.

Hirsh: And did this reduction in our intelligence capability open the way to the attacks in Paris?

Morell: Here’s what I do. I listen to what U.S. officials say, and I’m able to read between the lines based on my experience. I think I’m seeing an attack that was conceived, planned an organized from Raqqa, from the ISIS leadership. i think I see a Mohammad Atta-like character in this guy who’s still at large. The kind of mastermind. You put all that together and what this is at the end of the day is the first ISIS-directed attack in the West. They’ve had directed attacks elsewhere, in Kuwait for example, and every day in Iraq. This is the first one outside the region … That’s what makes this so significant. What [CIA Director] John Brennan said yesterday is really important. He said we know they have other attacks in the pipeline. We also know that nine to 12 months ago, they made a decision to build an attack capability in western Europe, and what we saw in Paris was the first manifestation of that.

We also know that they would like to conduct attacks here. So I don’t know if they’ve started to build that capability here or how far along it is. But I’m convinced they will develop that here unless they’re severely degraded. So how does Snowden play into all that? I think that it shows they communicated among themselves in a way we couldn’t see.

Hirsh: But absent the Snowden disclosures, if all these methods had not been exposed, do you think that U.S. intelligence would have detected the plotting that led to the Paris attacks?

Morell: Don’t know. But it certainly would have given us a fighting chance.

Hirsh: Does Edward Snowden have blood on his hands?

Morell: To be fair, do I believe he contributed to the rise of ISIS? Yes. Would they have gotten there without the help he provided them? Probably. Would they have been able to conduct this attack in Paris without him? Maybe. So the honest answer is I don’t know.

Hirsh: You say we need to ‘severely degrade’ ISIS in order to prevent an attack on the U.S. What do you mean by that?

Morell: I’d say two things. This strategy, this policy, is not achieving its aims. I don’t see how anyone could come to any other conclusion. Here’s the two things that have to happen:

You have to take away their safe haven. One of the lessons we’ve learned from the last 25 years of terrorism is that groups that have safe havens are able to develop external attack capabilities in a way that groups that don’t have safe havens are not. So we need to find a way to squeeze them significantly in their safe haven. Taking away territory that really matters to them is really, really important because it prevents them from focusing on external attacks.

The other thing we‘ve learned from the last 20 years of counterterrorism is the significant value you get from removing leadership from the battlefield in degrading the organization. You have to have a military and intelligence approach to removing leadership that results in rapid frequent removals from the battlefield. It’s got to be one, two a week, not just one or two every three or four months.

Hirsh: At his news conference on Monday, President Barack Obama challenged his critics to say specifically what they would do differently from what he’s already doing. If you’re not going to send a lot of troops — and no one is really advocating that — what would you do differently?

Morell: I think it’s a false choice. I do not think the president is saying that, but I think it’s a false choice between what we’re doing today and U.S. boots on the ground during the fighting. That’s how it’s being painted, but there is actually a significant spectrum between those two options, and I think there’s a lot of room to go to right on that spectrum without getting to U.S. boots on the ground. One example: I see significant value in putting a much larger number of U.S. special forces guys on the ground very close, if not in front lines, whether with the Kurds or Iraqis, etc.— to both provide advice and to call much more precision airstrikes.

Hirsh: We’re not doing that already?

Morell: I don’t think so, not in large numbers. And I don’t think they’re that close to the battlefield.

And as far as planning goes, the key question in the situation room should be: If the Paris attacks happened here, what would we do? We shouldn’t wait for an attack to happen before we start asking that question and answering it.

Hirsh: Do you really think ISIS intends to attack the United States? Isn’t that just braggadocio? Why are they talking about it if they really intend to do it?

Morell: Because there’s one great lesson from history we need to keep on re-learning. It is that sometimes your adversaries tell you exactly what they’re going to do. How many times did [Osama] bin Laden say prior to 9/11 that he was coming after the U.S.? ISIS made clear that when they established their caliphate in Iraq and Syria, they were coming after the United States too.

Glenn Greenwald - Why the CIA is smearing Edward Snowden after the Paris attacks - Los Angeles Times 20151125

Glenn Greenwald - Why the CIA is smearing Edward Snowden after the Paris attacks - Op Ed Los Angeles Times 20151125

Decent people see tragedy and barbarism when viewing a terrorism attack. American politicians and intelligence officials see something else: opportunity.

Bodies were still lying in the streets of Paris when CIA operatives began exploiting the resulting fear and anger to advance long-standing political agendas. They and their congressional allies instantly attempted to heap blame for the atrocity not onIslamic State but on several preexisting adversaries: Internet encryption, Silicon Valley's privacy policies and Edward Snowden.

The real objective is to depict Silicon Valley as terrorist-helpers for the crime of offering privacy protections to Internet users.

The CIA's former acting director, Michael Morell, blamed the Paris attack on Internet companies "building encryption without keys," which, he said, was caused by the debate over surveillance prompted by Snowden's disclosures. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) blamed Silicon Valley's privacy safeguards, claiming: "I have asked for help. And I haven't gotten any help."

Former CIA chief James Woolsey said Snowden "has blood on his hands" because, he asserted, the Paris attackers learned from his disclosures how to hide their communications behind encryption. Woolsey thus decreed on CNN that the NSA whistleblower should be "hanged by the neck until he's dead, rather than merely electrocuted."

In one sense, this blame-shifting tactic is understandable. After all, the CIA, the NSA and similar agencies receive billions of dollars annually from Congress and have been vested by their Senate overseers with virtually unlimited spying power. They have one paramount mission: find and stop people who are plotting terrorist attacks. When they fail, of course they are desperate to blame others.

The CIA's blame-shifting game, aside from being self-serving, was deceitful in the extreme. To begin with, there still is no evidence that the perpetrators in Paris used the Internet to plot their attacks, let alone used encryption technology.

CIA officials simply made that up. It is at least equally likely that the attackers formulated their plans in face-to-face meetings. The central premise of the CIA's campaign — encryption enabled the attackers to evade our detection — is baseless.

Even if they had used encryption, what would that prove? Are we ready to endorse the precept that no human communication can ever take place without the U.S. government being able to monitor it? To prevent the CIA and FBI from "going dark" on terrorism plots that are planned in person, should we put Orwellian surveillance monitors in every room of every home that can be activated whenever someone is suspected of plotting?

The claim that the Paris attackers learned to use encryption from Snowden is even more misleading. For many years before anyone heard of Snowden, the U.S. government repeatedly warned that terrorists were using highly advanced means of evading American surveillance.

Then-FBI Director Louis Freeh told a Senate panel in March 2000 that "uncrackable encryption is allowing terrorists — Hamas, Hezbollah, Al Qaedaand others — to communicate about their criminal intentions without fear of outside intrusion."

Or consider a USA Today article dated Feb. 5, 2001, eight months before the 9/11 attack. The headline warned "Terror groups hide behind Web encryption." That 14-year-old article cited "officials" who claimed that "encryption has become the everyday tool of Muslim extremists."

Even the official version of how the CIA found Osama bin Laden features the claim that the Al Qaeda leader only used personal couriers to communicate, never the Internet or telephone.

Within the Snowden archive itself, one finds a 2003 document that a British spy agency called "the Jihadist Handbook." That 12-year-old document, widely published on the Internet, contains instructions for how terrorist operatives should evade U.S. electronic surveillance.

In sum, Snowden did not tell the terrorists anything they did not already know. The terrorists have known for years that the U.S. government is trying to monitor their communications.

What the Snowden disclosures actually revealed to the world was that the U.S. government is monitoring the Internet communications and activities of everyone else: hundreds of millions of innocent people under the largest program of suspicionless mass surveillance ever created, a program that multiple federal judges have ruled is illegal and unconstitutional.

That is why intelligence officials are so eager to demonize Snowden: rage that he exposed their secret, unconstitutional schemes.

But their ultimate goal is not to smear Snowden. That's just a side benefit. The real objective is to depict Silicon Valley as terrorist-helpers for the crime of offering privacy protections to Internet users, in order to force those companies to give the U.S. government "backdoor" access into everyone's communications. American intelligence agencies have been demanding "backdoor" access to encryption since the mid-1990s. They view exploitation of the outrage and fear resulting from the Paris attacks as their best opportunity yet to achieve this access.

The key lesson of the post-9/11 abuses — from Guantanamo to torture to the invasion of Iraq — is that we must not allow military and intelligence officials to exploit the fear of terrorism to manipulate public opinion. Rather than blindly believe their assertions, we must test those claims for accuracy. In the wake of the Paris attacks, that lesson is more urgent than ever.