We Know With 100% Certainty That Mass Surveillance Hasn't Foiled A Single Terror Plot

We know with 100% absolute certainty that the wiretapping industry – NSA, GCHQ, FRA, etc – has stopped a total of exactly zero terror plots. We can be certain of this fact, as there have been no trials and no convictions of planning widespread destruction. Planning such a crime is almost as serious a crime as executing it, and while there can be secret evidence in some uncivilized countries, the courts and trials themselves are not secret.

In an attempt to justify their existence, the NSA, the GCHQ, the FRA, and other similar governmental agencies in the wiretapping industry tend to say that their existence and actually-criminal operations are justified by the fact that they “foil terror plots” – a textbook example of how the ends justify the means, and of the necessity of upholding the law by systematically breaking it.

We have heard this justification from the NSA, the GCHQ, and the FRA alike, just like from their brethren. However, we know for a certainty that they are lying.

If an act of terror was being planned in some stage sufficienty advanced to talk of it in terms of a “terror plan”, then such planning and preparation is itself a crime. In Sweden, the principal crime is “causing devastation with a hazard to the public” (allmänfarlig ödeläggelse), and that is a crime that carries a prison sentence in the double digits or even life in prison. Planning and preparing for such a crime (“förberedelsebrott”) carries practically as high a sentence as carrying it out.

So if such a planning had actually been discovered, it would be in the courts, and somebody would be on trial for it. That sequence of events is absolutely inescapable. We don’t have secret courts (even if some uncivilized countries insist of having secret evidence); the trials and charges are public, so that the public can hold the judicial branch to proper account under transparency.

But no such charges have been filed, and no such trials have been held, and most importantly, there have been no convictions. It is absolutely and positively unthinkable, that if a terror plot was foiled, that no charges would be filed. If somebody had been discovered to prepare for “devastation with a hazard to the public”, that would mean a very serious crime had been committed with penalties including the harshest possible sentence – life in prison – and such criminals would have been brought to justice exactly 100% of the time, resulting in convictions if there were a “terror plot”.

Seeing how this has not happened, we can be absolutely certain that the wiretapping industry has stopped a total of exactly zero so-called “terror plots”.

In other words, when the governmental agencies of the wiretapping industry are mumbling about having stopped “fifty or so plots but we can’t tell you about them”, they are using a well-established political persuasion method called lying like a fucking weasel.

Rick Falkvinge

Rick is the founder of the first Pirate Party and a low-altitude motorcycle pilot. He lives on Alexanderplatz in Berlin, Germany, roasts his own coffee, and as of right now (2019-2020) is taking a little break.


  1. Otto Mäkelä

    There is always the theoretical possibility that some would-be terror plotters have been classified as “enemy combatants in extrajudicial detention” and placed without trial indefinitely in Camp Delta in Guantanamo Bay. Goodbye, habeas corpus.

    1. Caleb Lanik

      Although our Star Chamber bullshit is fairly common, the US government is unlikely to pass up a chance to have a massive media circus public trial to “prove” how amazingly necessary the surveillance state is.

  2. RB

    Spot on ! I find it funny that DOWN HERE, in reality land, people actually still trust each other. It’s THEM that seem to be too paranoid and feel the need for ever increasingly mass surveillance. Even Merkel’s phone now ?! lol I am sure she is all for transparency , if that naked picture of her when she was younger is anything to go by 🙂 ! BUT, that was taking it too far, id say ! They are pushing the envelope more than they should, and if i was to guess, they might end up getting more than they can chew. There is only so much people can take…

  3. Vidyut

    It is the same case in India. Every time the debate over both censorship as well as invasions of privacy arise, I ask this. Never got a reply. Not once. The reason for censorship in India is given to prevent communal conflict. In reality, data released by google on censorship requests shows that most requests are trying to silence political criticism. Additionally, there have been several instances of rioting that were clearly organized and the internet was probably used to organize, and they caught the government completely unawares. Neither did the snooping reveal these threats nor did government creating laws enabling arbitrary censorship prevent incitement from reaching its targets and spreading.

  4. Googla

    What are you talking about? there have been plenty of trials against terrorists planning attack,s in Denmark for example.http://politiken.dk/indland/ECE1883968/landsretten-giver-12-aar-for-terrorplaner-mod-jppolitikens-hus/

    And the fact that mass surveillance exists has probably stopped hundreds or maybe thousands of terror attacks from being carried out all over the world.

    We can deabte over how much mass surveillance helps the fight against terrorism and other crimes, but to claim it has no effect at all is just stupid.

    1. Patrik

      Notice that it was SÄPO that got the intel on the guy in the article, i.e. NOT the spy agency FRA. I couldn’t tell from the article whether mass surveilance had anything to do with it. Notice that Rick’s not saying we never catch any terrorists – only that mass surveilance never does. Traditional policework and sometimes dumb luck gets them every now and then.

      Mass surveilance, OTOH, produced spectacular and boneheaded reactions like when the police busted into the homes of some immigrant in Sweden who happened to say he had an “explosive headache” in a telephone conversation with a friend. That’s the only such raid I can remember reading about, and from that we can learn the following:

      1. An innocent remark in a foreign language that gets misunderstood by a translator IS ACTED UPON by the police when they think it’s a terrorist.

      2. Since we don’t hear about lots of raids on private citizens that say phrases on the phone that can be misunderstood or raids on real terrorists, that means such information IS RARELY AVAILABLE. I.e. mass surveilance doesn’t produce a significant number of leads.

      If the surveilance machine is dependant on the support of the public for its existence (i.e. if we really have a leash on this watchdog) then it has a vested interest in appearing to be doing good. So much so that some agencies have fabricated accusations in the past to appear to be more effective (read up on MI5).

      If they have a different mission altogether, on the other hand… Or, possibly they are like Hoover and just have enough dirt on everyone that matters that they can do whatever they please.

      1. scandinavianpirate

        “Or, possibly they are like Hoover and just have enough dirt on everyone that matters that they can do whatever they please.”

        Yes that’s what I’m afraid of. They got dirt on all potential politicians and can shit-talk and spread rumors about them as they please and if there is need.

        Clearly any politician voicing against surveillance institution would be a #1 threat to the spies and all their dirty internet surfing would be outed – that is – if they don’t manage to find anything immoral they’ve really Done In Real Life.

  5. juan c

    in Mexico, federal prisions have a huge amount of “illegal” cellphone traffic, that is, inmates using phones in their cells. a lot of crimes get done that way (virtual/real kidnappings and assasination contracts, for example). and the state has the power and technology IN PLACE to block them and prevent crime. however, they choose not to, and instead opt to “monitor and record their every conversation” in hopes they will get past the small tme crooks and get info on the big boys. and, so far, they have done nothing. just like the world powers spying on every citizen, in hopes of catching a glimpse of armaggedon before it strikes, so, when exactly do they stop listening and act? inaction is justified by waiting for a “big thing”, and acting before time, it’s just exposing themselves. but no “thing” is big enough ever. or, maybe, just as it happens in mexico’s federal prisions, the side business of selling phonebooks and cellphone cards to the inmates has something to do with it.
    I can’t say that this strategy won’t work; but i can say it hasn’t.

    1. Googla

      Some Jails in Mexico are semiopen filled with lowsentence prisoners I guess it is them that you are talking about here. Blocking celltraffic is probably not feasible there as it would be very exensive and also block legal communications.

      Listening in on prisoners celltraffic is probably very effective for the authorities who by the way probably isn¨t selling phonecards and phonebooks.

      1. juan c

        no, i’m talking about high level federal prisons (there are 3, and 9 more in progress… which have so many problems, they’re taking twice as long to finish).
        blocking cellphones isn’t illegal if you have a court order, since prisoners may have certain rights suspended (like, you know, freedom of transit and stuff). and you’re right, authorities don’t always sell phonebooks and cards, sometimes they just charge a fee to the ones doing it.
        in low level “semi open” (whatever you mean by that) prisons, authorities charge visitors an entrance fee, or you can buy a suite with booze, drugs, girls and exotic animals. cellphones aren’t an issue there.
        and that’s just what the newspapers publish… people who have relatives in, tell more interesting stories.
        the point is, as per the article, that surveillance isn’t honest about its goal. while “predicting and protecting” sounds nice and p.c., there’s actually a lot of other things the government pursues with them, with usually less honorable intentions, and higher priority. all for the children! ah, the children….

      2. Ninja

        Blocking celltraffic is probably not feasible there as it would be very exensive and also block legal communications.

        It is feasible. In fact there are signal blockers available for limited indoor uses which means the outdoors option exists. However it poses another question: why are the phones allowed in? Because there’s corruption in the chain.

        Listening to VERY DAMNED SPECIFIC lines WITH WARRANTS is probably a very effective way indeed. And it’s called basic investigative work. Mass surveillance is very different, illegal and people with a small trace of sanity don’t approve it.

        1. Googla

          Some phones obviosulsy are in the hands of the prisoners because the agencies want to wiretap them. Probably thousands of crimes have been solved or stopped this way. But of course not all criminals are so stupid but luckily for law enforcement agencies most are.

  6. Jeff Talada

    There isn’t a crime until one is committed. Until a terrorist actually blows something up or is caught in the act of trying to blow something up, a crime hasn’t been committed. The planning could be construed as freedom of expression. What the FBI does is they try to find people who are capable of going through with it and they give those people help, finally nabbing them in the act. But there is the question of whether a person would’ve been able to do it without the FBI’s help.

    1. Anonymous

      Doesn’t the US have laws against criminal conspiracy (that is, a conspiracy to commit a crime)?

  7. Anonymous

    Justifications for this culture of paranoia and terror that justifies mass surveilance often reminds me of human behaviour in old ages that relied on charms of all kinds to be safe.
    But now instead of it being some magical gadget pleasing the gods and keeping us safe, it is the giant government keeping us safe with its surveilance.
    In the past it was fear and ignorance that gave people the notion that if they carried a magical rock and no tigers attacked, surely it was proof that said magical rock was protecting them.
    Today, fear and ignorance still drives a lot of people. Truly sad.

  8. illutian

    lol…just because there’s no public trial doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Only reason it’s not made public is because the Public would realize that the Government, ruled by the Global Elite, they so worship despises them and wants nothing more than to silence any who oppose them……one ‘drone strike, car bomb, suspicious death’ at a time.

  9. David Collier-Brown

    To be fair, one also has to answer the counter-arguement that the police would not be told that the data came from the security services, or would know but trump up “discovered at a traffic stop” kind of evidence to conceal the security involvement. In most countries, illegal wiretap evidence cannot be used: only this week was a case in the U.S. attributed to information from the NSA.

    My own expectation, by the way, is that the security services would trumpet the news to the skies, knowing that in Canada they can depend on Ministerial orders to overide the courts and incarcerate suspects.


  10. theUnluckyFish

    I agree with everything in the blog except: “courts and trials themselves are not secret”. While trials and courts should not be secret – we seem to have a modern day problem with that in the form of FISA.

    While the NSA may indeed use secretly collected information at public trial to try and validity to the gross violations of privacy – I disagree that even such would indicate unwarranted snooping should be allowed.

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