Tag Archives: The Guardian

GCHQ accused of 'persistent' illegal hacking at security tribunal - The Guardian 20151201

GCHQ accused of 'persistent' illegal hacking at security tribunal - The Guardian 20151201

UK government monitoring station admits hacking devices for the first time during case brought by Privacy International and internet service providers

GCHQ carries out “persistent” illegal hacking of phones, computers and networks worldwide under broad “thematic” warrants that ignore privacy safeguards, a security tribunal has heard.

Microphones and cameras on electronic devices can be remotely activated without owners’ knowledge, photographs and personal documents copied and locations discovered, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) has been told.

GCHQ, the government monitoring station in Cheltenham, has for the first time in a court case admitted that it carries out computer network exploitation (CNE) – commonly known as hacking – both in the UK and overseas.

Some CNE operations are said to be “persistent” – where listening programs are left on targeted devices – while others are “non-persistent”, where the monitoring ends with each internet session.

The claim that the government’s hacking activities are disproportionate and illegal has been brought by Privacy International and seven international internet service providers.

The case is being heard at the IPT, which deals with complaints about the intelligence services and surveillance by government organisations. The four-day hearing is at the Rolls Building in central London.

“The [legal] regime governing CNE … remains disproportionate,” Ben Jaffey, counsel for Privacy International, told the tribunal. “Given the high potential level of intrusiveness, including over large numbers of innocent persons, there are inadequate safeguards and limitations.”
GCHQ's spy malware operation faces legal challenge
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The case has been brought in the wake of revelations by the American whistleblower Edward Snowden who exposed the extent of surveillance carried out by the US’s National Security Agency and the UK’s GCHQ.

Snowden’s documents referred to GCHQ’s CNE capabilities, the tribunal was told, including “a programme called Nosey Smurf which involved implanting malware to activate the microphone on smartphones; Dreamy Smurf, which had the capability to switch on smartphones; Tracker Smurf, which had the capability to provide the location of a target’s smartphone with high precision; and Paranoid Smurf, which ensured all malware remained hidden”.

One illegal aspect of GCHQ’s hacking, Jaffey said, is making changes to targeted computers, an activity that undermines their later use as evidence. “What parliament did not authorise was CNE that impairs the operation of a computer …” he said.

“If state authorities are permitted to alter or impair the operation of a computer, the reliability and admissibility of such evidence will be called into question, as will the need to disclose a past CNE operation to the defence.”

In 2013, the tribunal was told, 20% of GCHQ’s intelligence reports contained information derived from hacking.

The reliance of the intelligence services on what are termed “thematic” warrants – that do not name individuals or addresses but rely on generalised categories of people or places – are an “exorbitant” extension of normal powers, Jaffey told the tribunal.

Under section five of the Intelligence Services Act, he said, proper safeguards are being bypassed so that groups as widely defined, for example, as “all mobile telephones” in Birmingham could be targeted.

Some of the intelligence oversight commissioners, such as Sir Mark Waller, had recently warned in their reports that the security agencies’ interpretation of thematic warrants were “very arguable”, Jaffey pointed out.
Snowden surveillance revelations drive UK and US policy in opposite directions
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Newly released documents from the long-running case include a warning from Ross Anderson, professor of security engineering at Cambridge University, that “it is only a matter of time before CNE causes fatal accidents”.

Citing denial of service attacks by online protesters in Oregon, USA, who hijacked hospital servers, installed malware and interfered with medical equipment, Anderson said: “Computers are becoming embedded in ever more devices, on which human societies depend ever more in ways that are complex and ever harder to predict.”

In a written response, Ciaran Martin, director of cyber security at GCHQ, said: “[We] never carry out reckless and irresponsible CNE operations ... GCHQ’s processes for CNE include an expert risk assessment panel.”

The documents include a “gist” – or summary – of internal GCHQ advice to staff about the legality of hacking. They explain that: “The [Intelligence Services Act] warrant and authorisations scheme is a mechanism for removing liability that would otherwise attach to interference with property such as computers, phones and routers. This interference would otherwise be a criminal offence under the Computer Misuse Act.”

Another GCHQ instruction states: “CNE involves gaining remote access to computers and networks and possibly modifying their software without the knowledge or consent of the owners and users with the aim of obtaining intelligence ... CNE operations carry political risk. These risks are assessed by the relevant team – consult them at an early stage if you’re considering a CNE operation”

Lawyers for GCHQ argue that its CNE activities are “proportionate”. They dismissed Privacy International’s claims as “extreme allegations” that do not accurately describe the reality of GCHQ’s operations.

“Over the last year the threat to the UK from international terrorism has continued to increase,” James Eadie QC, for GCHQ, told the tribunal in written submissions. “GCHQ and other intelligence agencies must develop innovative and agile technical capabilities to meet these serious national security challenges. Computer network exploitation is one such capability … CNE may, in some cases, be the only way to acquire intelligence coverage of a terrorist suspect or serious criminal in a foreign country.”

The legal regime governing its deployment provides “stringent safeguards” for CNE activities, Eadie added. “It is denied that GCHQ is engaged in any unlawful and indiscriminate mass surveillance activities.”

Commenting on the hearing, Caroline Wilson Palow, general counsel at Privacy International, said: “The light-touch authorisation and oversight regime that GCHQ has been enjoying should never have been permitted. Perhaps it wouldn’t have been if parliament had been notified in the first place that GCHQ was hacking. We hope the tribunal will stand up for our rights and reign in GCHQ’s unlawful spying.”

The seven internet service providers involved in the case are: GreenNet, Riseup Networks, Mango Email Service, Jinbonet from Korea, Greenhost, Media Jumpstart, and Chaos Computer Club.

Some sessions of the IPT are closed and held in secret. The case continues.

Al Gore says Snowden revealed crimes against US Constitution

Al Gore: Snowden 'revealed evidence' of crimes against US constitution - The Guardian 20131106

Speaking at McGill University in Montreal, Gore said the NSA's efforts to monitor communications had gone to 'absurd' lengths

Former US vice-president Al Gore has described the activities of the National Security Agency as "outrageous" and "completely unacceptable" and said whistleblower Edward Snowden has "revealed evidence" of crimes against the US constitution.

Gore, speaking Tuesday night at McGill University in Montreal, said he was in favour of using surveillance to ensure national security, but Snowden's revelations showed that those measures had gone too far.

"I say that as someone who was a member of the National Security Council working in the White House and getting daily briefings from the CIA," Gore said, in comments reported by the Canadian Press.

Gore had previously said he believed the practice of the NSA collecting US citizens phone records was unlawful and "not really the American way", but his comments on Tuesday represent his strongest criticism yet.

Asked about Snowden, the NSA whistleblower whose revelations have been reported extensively by the Guardian, Gore said the leaks had revealed uncovered unconstitutional practices.

"He has revealed evidence of what appears to be crimes against the Constitution of the United States," Gore said.

Snowden faces criminal charges for leaking classified information to The Guardian and other media outlets. He remains in exile in Russia.

Gore, the former vice-president, 2000 Democratic presidential nominee and 2007 Nobel Peace Prize winner, said the NSA's efforts to monitor communications had gone to "absurd" lengths, the Canadian Press reported.

"When you are looking for a needle in a haystack, it's not always wise to pile more hay on the haystack," he said.

Gore said he doubted the far-reaching scope of the NSA's surveillance would be allowed to continue.

"I think they will have to pull this back," he said. "I think you will see a reining in."

Al Gore predicts lawmakers will rein in surveillance after Snowden leaks - The Canadian Press 20131106

Former U.S. Vice-President Al Gore speaks at McGill University Tuesday, November 5, 2013 in Montreal.

MONTREAL – Former U.S. vice-president Al Gore predicted Tuesday that lawmakers in his country would rein in intelligence agencies in the wake of leaks by whistleblower Edward Snowden, who revealed massive secret government surveillance programs.

While Gore said he favoured surveillance to ensure security, he described the efforts made public by the former Central Intelligence Agency employee as “outrageous” and “completely unacceptable.”

“I say that as someone who was a member of the National Security Council working in the White House and getting daily briefings from the CIA,” he said.

Snowden, who is wanted by U.S. authorities, revealed a widespread intelligence gathering effort by the National Security Agency to the media, saying the NSA had eavesdropped on telephone calls and snooped through Internet records to discover terrorist plots.

The U.S. government has charged him with unauthorized communication of classified material and theft of government property under the Espionage Act although he has fled the United States and gained sanctuary in Russia.

Gore said the revelations are disturbing to say the least.

He has revealed evidence of what appears to be crimes against the Constitution of the United States

“He has revealed evidence of what appears to be crimes against the Constitution of the United States,” he said.

Gore said governments throughout history have understandably conducted surveillance to protect their security but added that efforts have gone to “absurd” lengths and are counter-productive.

“When you are looking for a needle in a haystack, it’s not always wise to pile more hay on the haystack,” he said quoting a scholar on the CIA.

The former senator said while he appreciated the work of intelligence services, he doubted the excesses would be allowed to continue and noted some states are already passing laws or putting referendum questions to their constituents.

“I think they will have to pull this back,” Gore told a brief question period at McGill University where he delivered the Beaverbrook Annual Lecture. “I think you will see a reining in.”

He said he was not just concerned about overblown efforts in government surveillance but also by corporations who mine the Internet for information on users’ viewing and buying habits so they can target advertising.

“We have a stalker economy,” Gore said.

He added that there is already a backlash in foreign countries that is costing U.S. firms business. Gore said the other countries — he did not name them — have complained they fear the U.S. companies will turn over whatever data they acquire on consumers to the NSA.

Gore, who has embraced environmental activism with warnings about climate change since leaving the White House in 2000, drew on his new book “The Future Six Drivers of Social Change” for his talk.

He focused mainly on the impact of technological advances, comparing the communication revolution now underway with the Internet to the widening reach of the printing press when it was invented to spread information and knowledge.

Gore said that like the printing press, the Internet is easily accessible, participatory and has few if any gatekeepers.

He spoke about the creation of a “global mind” brought about through the development of worldwide digital communications, allowing people to connect easily with each other and intelligent machines.

Gore said that interconnectivity is driving new attitudes to capital, labour, consumer markets and government. Among the changes that need to take place are a re-evaluation of short-term goals and the definition of growth in capital to take a more long-term, bigger picture view.

He noted that many of the people embracing the changes are young and said that the future is in their hands.

“These times now call for young men and women such as you to shape the future and make it what it should be,” he told the university crowd.

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Al Gore: NSA's secret surveillance program 'not really the American way' - TheGuardian 20130614

Former vice-president – not persuaded by argument that program was legal – urges Congress and Obama to amend the laws

Al Gore: 'I am not sure how to interpret polls on this, because we don't do dial groups on the bill of rights.'
The National Security Agency's blanket collection of US citizens' phone records was "not really the American way", Al Gore said on Friday, declaring that he believed the practice to be unlawful.

In his most expansive comments to date on the NSA revelations, the former vice-president was unsparing in his criticism of the surveillance apparatus, telling the Guardian security considerations should never overwhelm the basic rights of American citizens.

He also urged Barack Obama and Congress to review and amend the laws under which the NSA operated.

"I quite understand the viewpoint that many have expressed that they are fine with it and they just want to be safe but that is not really the American way," Gore said in a telephone interview. "Benjamin Franklin famously wrote that those who would give up essential liberty to try to gain some temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

Since the 2000 elections, when Gore won the popular vote but lost the presidency to George W Bush, the former vice-president has tacked to the left of the Democratic party, especially on his signature issue of climate change.

Gore spoke on Friday from Istanbul where he was about to lead one of his climate change training workshops for 600 global activists. Such three-day training sessions on behalf of the Climate Reality Project are now one of his main concerns.

Unlike other leading Democrats and his former allies, Gore said he was not persuaded by the argument that the NSA surveillance had operated within the boundaries of the law.

"This in my view violates the constitution. The fourth amendment and the first amendment – and the fourth amendment language is crystal clear," he said. "It is not acceptable to have a secret interpretation of a law that goes far beyond any reasonable reading of either the law or the constitution and then classify as top secret what the actual law is."

Gore added: "This is not right."

The former vice-president was also unmoved by some recent opinion polls suggesting public opinion was in favour of surveillance:

"I am not sure how to interpret polls on this, because we don't do dial groups on the bill of rights," he said.

He went on to call on Barack Obama and Congress to review the laws under which the NSA expanded its surveillance. "I think that the Congress and the administration need to make some changes in the law and in their behaviour so as to honour and obey the constitution of the United States," he said. "It is that simple."

He rejected outright calls by the Republican chair of the house homeland security committee, Peter King, for prosecution of journalists who cover security leaks, such as the Guardian's Glenn Greenwald.

Gore did say, however, that he had serious concerns about some aspects of the testimony offered by national intelligence director James Clapper during testimony to the Senate intelligence committee last March.

Clapper, in response to pointed questions from Democratic senator Ron Wyden, had said during that appearance that the NSA did not collect data on Americans.

"I was troubled by his direct response to Senator Wyden's very pointed question," Gore said. "I was troubled by that."

Gore has long had qualms about the expansion of the surveillance state in the digital age. He made those concerns public this year in his latest book, The Future: Six Drivers of Social Change, in which he warned: "Surveillance technologies now available – including the monitoring of virtually all digital information – have advanced to the point where much of the essential apparatus of a police state is already in place."

Within hours of the Guardian's first story about the NSA, the former vice-president tweeted: "In digital era, privacy must be a priority. Is it just me, or is secret blanket surveillance obscenely outrageous?

He said on Friday: "Some of us thought that it was probably going on, but what we have learned since then makes it a cause for deep concern."

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders call for Edward Snowden to face trial - The Guardian 20151014

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders call for Edward Snowden to face trial - The Guardian 20151014

Democrats spar over NSA at presidential debate, with Sanders acknowledging Snowden had ‘played very important role’ in ‘educating the American public’

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders sparred over Edward Snowden during Tuesday’s Democratic presidential debate with both calling for him to face trial, but with the Vermont senator saying he thought the NSA whistleblower had “played a very important role in educating the American people”.

Clinton was unmoved by public approbation for Snowden, who exposed the depths of US and UK surveillance to media including the Guardian in 2013.

“He broke the laws of the United States,” she said. “He could have been a whistleblower, he could have gotten all the protections of a whistleblower. He chose not to do that. He stole very important information that has fallen into the wrong hands so I think he should not be brought home without facing the music.”

Snowden has said he did not believe he was granted adequate protection from reprisal under whistleblower laws. Laws protecting whistleblowers in intelligence agencies are written differently from laws protecting others who oppose their employers – including in the government – on grounds of conscience, and are generally considered comparatively weak.

Sanders – Clinton’s main challenger for the Democratic nomination – was more lenient. “I think Snowden played a very important role in educating the American public,” the Vermont senator said. He, too, said that Snowden had broken the law and suggested that he ought to be tried. “I think there should be a penalty to that,” he said. “But I think that education should be taken into consideration before the sentencing.”

Jim Webb, the Virginia senator and former secretary of the navy, said the decision should be left to the courts, and Martin O’Malley, the former Maryland governor, agreed with Clinton. Lincoln Chafee, the former Rhode Island governor, was the only candidate to say he would bring Snowden back to the US as a hero; that answer drew a positive response online.

Clinton’s claim that the information Snowden made public “has fallen into the wrong hands” could be reference to a disputed Times of London story that the leak exposed undercover agents. It could also refer to Snowden’s own admission that inadequate redaction of classified images he supplied to the New York Times was “a fuck-up”.

Ewen MacAskill, the Pulitzer prize-winning Guardian journalist who worked on the Snowden story, has pointed out that no evidence has ever been put forward suggesting that the Snowden documents were hacked or that Snowden himself handed the material to any person or agency other than reputable news outlets.

When moderator Anderson Cooper asked Clinton whether she regretted voting for the Patriot Act, she gave a flat: “No.”

“I don’t,” she said. “I think that it was necessary to make sure that we were able after 9/11 to put in place the security that we needed.” Clinton did allow that the act’s notorious section 215, which allowed for essentially unlimited data collection, had been interpreted overbroadly.

The provisions of the Patriot Act, a law broadening the powers of American intelligence and law enforcement agencies passed just weeks after 9/11, have widely been criticized as too broad and being without accountability. Among them are the expansion of the secret Fisa court system and a framework for the standards for the collection of personal information from citizens who are not suspected or accused of any crime.

Sanders – who voted against the act multiple times, including against its original incarnation in the House of Representatives – said unequivocally that he would end bulk data collection by the NSA.

Clinton demurred. “It’s not easy to balance privacy and security but we have to keep them both in mind,” she said.

Timm, Trevor - Intelligence agencies pounce on Paris attacks to pursue spy agenda - The Guardian 20151117

Timm, Trevor - Intelligence agencies pounce on Paris attacks to pursue spy agenda - The Guardian 20151117

CIA director John Brennan thinks privacy advocates undermine counter-terrorism work. But snooping on everyone won’t protect us

Government officials are wasting no time in attempting to exploit the tragedy in Paris to pass invasive anti-privacy laws and acquire extraordinary new powers that they have wanted for years. In the process, they are making incredibly dishonest arguments and are receiving virtually no pushback from the media.

Absent any actual information or evidence so far about intelligence failures leading up to the deplorable terrorist attack in Paris, pundits spent the weekend speculating that Edward Snowden and surveillance reform were to blame for the fact that the attack went undetected. Then on Monday, in an epic episode of blame shifting, the CIA director, John Brennan, reportedly said privacy advocates have undermined the ability of spies to monitor terrorists. He explained:

Because of a number of unauthorized disclosures and a lot of hand-wringing over the government’s role in the effort to try to uncover these terrorists, there have been some policy and legal and other actions that are taken that make our ability collectively, internationally to find these terrorists much more challenging”, adding that there is a “misrepresentation of what the intelligence security services are doing”.

Read Brennan’s comments carefully because they are very revealing. When he says “legal actions”, he’s referring to the fact that multiple federal courts have ruled that the government’s secret mass surveillance on millions of Americans is illegal. So it sounds like the CIA director is saying it’s a shame that intelligence agencies can’t operate completely above the law any more, and is scapegoating any failings on his agency’s part on accountability that is the hallmark of any democracy. (Though he still can apparently operate above the law.)

More importantly, Brennan’s comments are incredibly dishonest. The post-Snowden USA Freedom Act passed by Congress reformed exactly one of the countless mass spying programs the US runs. It was the one that sucked up the phone calls of Americans only, and here’s the thing: it has been active this whole time and isn’t scheduled to shut down until the end of the month.

Anytime an official laments surveillance reform or attempts to blame Snowden they should be confronted with these facts. Unfortunately, so far they’ve just been met with head nods and no follow-up questions about their own conduct.

Brennan is not the only opportunist seizing on the tragedy to gain more power. The New York police commissioner, Bill Bratton, called it a “game changer” and, insinuated new legislation that would outlaw encryption was necessary by adding: “[Encryption] is something that is going to need to be debated very quickly because we cannot continue operating where we are blind.”

On the other side of the Atlantic, politicians in the United Kingdom, which already has the most expansive surveillance laws in the western world, are using the tragedy to attempt to rush through their even more invasive, new mass-spying bill that aims at allowing police to see the websites every citizen visits and to force companies like Apple to backdoor their encrypted tools.

We have no idea if these particular terrorists responsible for the barbaric and abhorrent acts that occurred in Paris last week used encryption to communicate – the only evidence is a couple of vague anonymous quotes from unnamed “officials”. But given that now billions of people are using encryption in the modern world – whether it’s iPhones, Facebook’s WhatsApp or a host of open-source tools – it’s no surprise that along with countless law-abiding citizens, bad people are using it too. (Just as murderers in the US also drive cars available to everyone for getaways and white-collar criminals use lawfully purchased paper shredders to further their crimes.)

But the idea that this is somehow Snowden’s fault is preposterous: it’s been well documented in virtually every mainstream newspaper that terrorists have been using sophisticated encryption tools since the 1990s – long before anyone knew Snowden’s name. Yet know-nothing pundits have been allowed to spew this slander without a hint of pushback from interviewers despite the abundant evidence to the contrary.

Glenn Greenwald meticulously detailed how Snowden or tech companies like Apple are just convenient scapegoats for intelligence agencies with almost unlimited budgets, extraordinary powers and virtual immunity that are also responsible for policies that often only exacerbate the terrorism problem rather than mitigate it.

Completely ignored in the debate is also the fact that even with encryption becoming more widespread, intelligence agencies still have ample resources to track the phones of terrorism suspects, see everyone they are talking to and hack their phones and computers if they need to see their communications. That’s the thing about the Snowden revelations: you’ll never hear anyone say that the US or French government shouldn’t be conducting surveillance of suspected terrorists with proper court oversight. Of course they should. It’s surveilling everyone else’s communications without a warrant that is the problem.

Strong end-to-end encryption is vital for billions of ordinary citizens’ privacy and security and undermining it would have severe consequences. As the Electronic Frontier Foundation said in a statement on Monday: “any ‘backdoor’ into our communications will inevitably (and perhaps primarily) be used for illegal and repressive purposes rather than lawful ones”.

The fact that officials are so eager to push for extraordinary new powers in the wake of this attack is not surprising. It was just a couple of months ago that the Washington Post published leaked emails from the general counsel for the director of national intelligence, Bob Litt, in which he said that although the legislative environment is very hostile today “it could turn in the event of a terrorist attack or criminal event where strong encryption can be shown to have hindered law enforcement” and that there’s value in “keeping our options open for such a situation”.

Now we are faced with that situation. We are all appalled by the shocking events in Paris, but let’s not use them as an excuse to change our way of life and strip so many law-abiding citizens of their rights.

Timm, Trevor - Paris is being used to justify agendas that had nothing to do with the attack

Timm, Trevor - Paris is being used to justify agendas that had nothing to do with the attack - The Guardian 20151120

The Paris attackers weren’t Syrian, and they didn’t use encryption, but the US government is still using the carnage to justify attempts to ban them both

The aftermath of the Paris terrorist attacks has now devolved into a dark and dishonest debate about how we should respond: let’s ban encryption, even though there’s no evidence the terrorists used it to carry out their crime, and let’s ban Syrian refugees, even though the attackers were neither.

It’s hard to overstate how disgusting it has been to watch, as proven-false rumors continue to be the basis for the entire political response, and technology ignorance and full-on xenophobia now dominate the discussion.
First, there’s the loud “we need to ban encryption” push that immediately spawned hundreds of articles and opinions strongly pushed by current and former intelligence officials the day or two after the attacks, despite the government quietly admitting there was no evidence that the attackers used encryption to communicate. It was a masterful PR coup: current and former intelligence officials got to sit through a series of fawning interviews on television where they were allowed to pin any of their failures on Edward Snowden and encryption – the bedrock of privacy and security for hundreds of millions of innocent people – with virtually no pushback, or any critical questions about their own conduct.

The entire encryption subject became a shiny scapegoat while the truth slowly trickled in: as of Tuesday, it was clear that American and/or French intelligence agencies had seven of the eight identified attackers on their radar prior to the attacks. The attackers used Facebook to communicate. The one phone found on the scene showed the terrorists had coordinated over unencrypted SMS text messages – just about the easiest form of communication to wiretap that exists today. (The supposed ringleader even did an interview in Isis’s English magazine in February bragging that he was already in Europe ready to attack.)

As an unnamed government official quoted by the Washington Post’s Brian Fung said, if surveillance laws are expanded the media will be partly to blame: “It seems like the media was just led around by the nose by law enforcement. [They are] is taking advantage of a crisis where encryption hasn’t proven to have a role. It’s leading us in a less safe direction at a time when the world needs systems that are more secure.”

As dishonest as the “debate” over encryption has been, the dark descension of the Republican party into outright racism and cynically playing off the irrational fears of the public over the Syrian refugee crisis has been worse. We now know the attackers weren’t Syrian and weren’t even refugees. It was a cruel rumor or hoax that one was thought to have come through Europe with a Syrian passport system, but that was cleared up days ago. But in the world of Republican primaries, who cares about facts?

Virtually every Republican candidate has disavowed welcoming any refugees to the US, and they are now competing over who is more in favor of banning those who are fleeing the very terrorists that they claim to be so against.

It doesn’t matter that the US has a robust screening system that has seen over 750,000 refugees come to the United States without incident – the Republican-led House has now voted to grind the already intensive screening process to a virtual halt (they were disgracefully joined by many Democrats). Chris Christie said the US should refuse widows and orphans. Rand Paul introduced a law to bar the entire Muslim world from entering the US as refugees. Donald Trump has suggested he would digitally track every Muslim in the county.

As The Intercept’s Lee Fang documented in detail, the rhetoric spewing from the mouths of the Republican Party sounds almost word for word like the racists during World War II that wanted the US to refuse Jews on the basis that they might be secret Nazis.

Even the supposedly establishment Republicans have debased themselves with rhetoric that one can only hope that one day they regret. This video of Jeb Bush struggling to explain why he would create a religious litmus test for refugees and how families are going to “prove” they’re Christian is truly cringeworthy. As Barack Obama said in his admirable condemnation of Bush and others on Tuesday, such talk is “shameful” and “un-American.”

One can say a lot of awful things about Jeb’s brother, George W Bush, including that his disastrous wars that led to the Isis mess we are in now, but he did do one thing right: he was always willing to publicly speak out in favor of the vast majority of Muslims who are peaceful and abhor terrorism just like everyone else. As Chris Hayes noted, not a word of this touching speech Bush gave at an Islamic Center a week after 9/11 would ever be uttered by any of the Republican candidates today. Instead they compete over who can disparage and debase the Muslim community with the broadest brush stroke.

There are plenty of questions to ask in the aftermath of the attacks to learn how terrorism can better be prevented in the future. Instead public discourse has veered so far off-course that it’s hard to see when it will return.