Police Just Found Phone & USB Stick Belonging To Paris Suicide Bomber, After Misplacing It For Almost Two Years

Belgium police misplaced a USB drive that belonged to one of the suicide bombers from the Paris Attack. The drive was lost for nearly two years before police recently found it.

So it wasn’t the fault of “encrypted iPhones”. 

Remember how, right after the Paris bombings, people started blaming encryption for the attacks, despite the fact it was later revealed that most of the planning was done in the open and communication occurred via unencrypted SMS messages? As we noted, it seemed pretty clear that the bombings were an intelligence and law enforcement failure rather than an encryption problem. 

Now, just to add more evidence to that conclusion in the most ridiculous way possible, apparently Brussels police just found a mobile phone and USB stick that had belonged to one of the suicide bombers in the Paris attacks, Brahim Abdeslam. The police had seized the phone and USB stick during a drug raid back in February of 2015… and promptly misplaced them entirely. They were found under a stack of papers. Really.

A cell phone belonging to Paris attacks suicide bomber Brahim Abdeslam that had been mislaid by Belgian police was found under a pile of documents in a Molenbeek police station, local media reported Tuesday. 

Officers seized the phone and a USB stick belonging to Abdeslam during a drugs raid in Brussels in February 2015. Following the November 2015 attacks in Paris, authorities wanted to analyze the phone for details about the terror plot, but it could not be found. 

According to local media, the phone was found by chance last week in Molenbeek, the area of Brussels where Abdeslam and others involved in the Paris and Brussels attacks lived.

And yet people want to blame encryption. And, yes, of course police make mistakes and misplace stuff, but perhaps law enforcement should be focused on trying to prevent those kinds of things by being more careful in how they handle evidence before they rush off to blame things like encryption. 

This all gets back to a larger point that we’ve tried to make all along about the whole “going dark” thing: good police detective work will almost always beat out merely breaking into phones. Encryption is useful in protecting messages, but it doesn’t hide all activity — and those who are planning criminal or terrorist attacks quite frequently leave lots of other evidence around. Blaming encryption, rather than law enforcement and intelligence efforts, is a lazy solution. It’s a way to cover up for a failure to do their jobs with the already quite powerful tools they have at their disposal.

Via TechDirt