When word got out that the NSA was spying on the French, the government acted with the characteristic outrage we would expect from cheesy eating surrender merchants who happen to own a nuke or two.
It turned out that the French intelligence services operated a similar system, with similarly minimal oversight. While the US is thinking of reining in its spooks because of the public outcry, the French are expanding the programme.
With little public debate, the legislature approved a law that critics warn will markedly expand electronic surveillance of French residents and businesses.
The move was buried under a routine military spending bill. It defines the conditions under which intelligence agencies may gain access to or record telephone conversations, emails, Internet activity, personal location data and other electronic communications.
According to the New York Times, under the law there is none of the messy judicial oversight and allows electronic surveillance for a broad range of purposes, including “national security,” the protection of France’s “scientific and economic potential” and prevention of “terrorism” or “criminality”.
The French government argues that the law, which does not take effect until 2015, does little to expand intelligence powers and claims that those rules have been in place for years.
Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian admitted that the law did effectively expand the existing regime and it reinforces oversight as compared with the current situation.
But this means that the French Government, which was founded in a coup, where they stuck a cake eating monarch’s head on a spike, is not about Liberty at all.
The government has either staked out rights to a vast new range of surveillance practices, or acknowledged that it has already been collecting far more data, under far less regulated circumstances, than people knew about.
Clémence Bectarte, a lawyer for the International Federation for Human Rights told the New York Times that since anything can be placed under the heading ‘national security,’ the government could spy on who it liked.
“There should have been a parliamentary commission and a real public debate,” she said.