Former Obama Chief of Staff and current mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel once famously quipped:
You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. … This crisis provides the opportunity for us to do things that you could not before.
Such is the natural gravity of politics and to some extent, this instinct is entirely understandable. But in the immediate aftermath of yesterday's tragedy, one exploitation in particular stood out - and in a field of nominees that included crass xenophobic pandering, a proposed reintroduction of the death penalty in France, a reeling Prime Minister and accused sexual predator attempting to lump Palestinians in with al Qaeda, and more tedious invocations of Benghazi, this was no small feat.
This morning, in a softball interview with Morning Joe, former head of the NSA, advocate of ground troops, and go-to defender of blanket surveillance Gen. Hayden was given an uncritical forum to frame the attacks as another reason why the Snowden backlash is Harming American Interests™
[French intelligence] is very good. They have a lot more freedom than we do under American law...
You know I was talking to you guys about twelve months ago here about these massive amounts of metadata the NSA held in storage. This metadata doesn't look all that scary this morning. And I wouldn't be surprised if French [Intelligence] services pick up cell phones associated with the attack and ask the Americans, 'Where have you seen these phones active globally'".
In keeping with Morning Joe's half-asleep tone of Serious Person newsy filler, one would hardly notice that none of what General Hayden said made any sense on its face. Firstly, he vaguely acknowledges that the French already have a metadata collecting law or, in the words of ZNet technology writer Michael Lee, "their own PRISM program". From a July 2013 profile:
An investigative report by French daily paper Le Monde has uncovered what it calls the "French Big Brother": Its own local version of the PRISM-like systems in place in the US and the UK .
The paper's report further claims that the metadata is being used to determine the relationships and connections that people have with others to help provide intelligence...
A Jan 2014 bill solidified this authority under French law.
The second and more controversial government data collection provision is article 20 of the December 18 law that permits French intelligence and security agencies to collect metadata from telecom operators and hosting providers, including in real time.
And none of this stopped the attacks yesterday on Charlie Hebdo's offices. That's the glaring contradiction here: the same argument those oppose to metadata have been making for years - that it's an ineffective tool that makes the hay stack too large - seems to be the case here. The only reason metadata is even possibly relevant to the Charlie Hebdo attacks comes is when Hayden submits a confused, an entirely glossed over hypothetical:
And I wouldn't be surprised if French [Intelligence] services pick up cell phones associated with the attack and ask the Americans, 'Where have you seen these phones active globally".
Sure, okay. Maybe. Maybe not. Thus far the only thing dragnet metadata analysis did is not stop the attacks.
Gone unmentioned, of course, is that Hayden sits on the Board of Motorola Solutions (a board once co-occupied by NYPD Commissioner William Bratton) a company heavily invested in metadata collection and one that profits directly from the recent torrent of anti-terror bills in Australia and the EU. From Oct of last year:
"This is a significant opportunity for Australia's public safety industry. Agencies are already contemplating how to convert the masses of available data into usable intelligence....
The announcement comes as the federal government introduces the so-called third tranche of its anti-terror legislation, the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2014, which is set to force Telstra and other telcos in Australia to retain customers' metadata for two years.
Indeed, though it's unclear what percent directly involves metadata as such, the prospect of increased government surveillance isn't a part of Motorola Solutions business, it's their entire bottom line. Currently, they have over $4 billion in government contracts almost all with the Department of Defense, the DOJ and the Department of Homeland Security. All, of course, entirely unmentioned when introducing Gen. Hayden:
Accenture Federal Services has direct interests in metadata and data analysis with over $4 billion in Defense contracts:
Not only is Hayden pushing a decidedly ideological position (mass, suspicionless surveillance is essential to national security) that turns out has no bearing on the actual events in Paris, he's also, in effect, smuggling in a commercial for a intelligence gathering approach for which he has direct interest in advancing.
Though the titular Joe Scarborough introduces him as a "member of the Chertoff Group", this hardly scratches the surface of his glaring conflicts, a problem NBC news has had many times before. Indeed, a 2008 Pulitzer-prize winning New York Times expose by David Barstow documented their culture of trading military gravitas for NatSec infomericalism:
Hidden behind that appearance of objectivity, though, is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance, an examination by The New York Times has found.
The effort, which began with the buildup to the Iraq war and continues to this day, has sought to exploit ideological and military allegiances, and also a powerful financial dynamic: Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air.
So, here we are again. A highly paid, highly conflicted ex-military man with a web of direct, personal financial interest in exploiting the attacks in Paris is brought on and presented as an objective analyst despite being anything but. It's a practice so common, it's only worthy of note when the self-serving analysis being provided doesn't even have the decency to make any sense.