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By Luis Miranda, The Real Agenda
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France nears approval of Surveillance State measures

Tuesday, May 5, 2015 7:02
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Installing tracking devices in cars, bugging of private places or, if deemed necessary, the entry into homes, will also be allowed with an administrative authorization, without intervention of judges. The French National Assembly will vote on Tuesday on the controversial law that would allow wiretapping and cyber spying on any ‘suspicious citizen’ without judicial control. The law, whose justification was “fears of new attacks in France”, would legalize the access to private data by the secret services without the need to show proof of any person’s relation to a crime or even the intent to commit a crime. For the government, it is a “necessary” law that protects individual rights. For specialists and citizens’ associations, it is a “liberticidal” law, that is supported by all main political forces. If apporved, the new law will allow the French secret services to intercept communications, access networks and databases and to compel operators to provide the metadata of people in real time. Additionally, secret services may also access the contents of conversations or messages. To do this, the law provides that spies can be alerted automatically of suspicious activity by communications companies, search engines or black box networks to warn of behaviors that should be monitored. Also, law enforcement will have access to the algorithms in such practices. In sum, the technology and communication companies have merged with the French government into a massive and powerful Surveillance State. The new law would also allow the secret services to use systems called IMSI Catcher, by which spyware can capture and record all data from phones or computers of alleged suspects, but that indiscriminately also sweeps everyone else’s communications, no matter how disconnected they are from the alleged suspect. Installing tracking devices in cars, bugging of private places or, if deemed necessary, the entry into homes, will also be allowed with an administrative authorization, without intervention of judges. Among the reasons provided by the French government to allow for the commission of such a wide array of spying practices is the supposed usefulness of a massive surveillance state in the prevention of terrorism, organized crime or “collective violence”, the dangers for “national independence, national defense or territorial integrity” through the potential interference of foreigners in the economic, industrial or scientific interests” of France. Requests for the use of the spying practices cited above may be ordered by the ministries of Defense, Interior, Economy and Justice, which are members of a so-called National Commission for Control of Information Techniques composed by two deputies, two senators, two members of the State Council, two judges and a computer expert. These people will forward all requests to the French Prime Minister who will have the power to authorize the execution of the spying. In case of emergency, spies can act immediately and report after action. The premise that law enforcement may act first and ask questions later is common to most pieces of legislation approved by Western governments in the name of keeping their citizens safe. The project, approved by the Cabinet in March, has been defended in the Assembly by the head of the government, Manuel Valls, who pointed at all times to the jihadist attacks in January as an excuse to give himself unlimited spying power. Valls has said that the police have avoided another half dozen attacks, although he has shown no proof to validate such statement. For Valls, “in special situations, special laws are needed.” According to him, the new law that enables government agencies to violate all existing privacy laws still maintains respect for individual rights and freedoms. But not everyone is as sure as Valls about the consequences of the unlimited surveillance power of the French government. For example, the Ombudsman for the Rights of France, Jacques Toubon, has issued a statement expressing his “reserves” about giving the secret services the powers that the new law now provides. The same feeling has come from dozens of associations of citizens, the union of the judiciary and a few deputies who have announced their vote against or who have abstained from voting. According to the president of the National Consultative Committee on the Rights of Man, Christine Lazerges, the law runs the risk of falling into “a generalized, undifferentiated surveillance.” There is a risk, she says, of “endangering the rule of law by draconian drift”. Associations such as the Red Square, 24 hours to 1984, Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders have launched several initiatives to protest and warn the public. But the negative reactions to the approval of the law has not stopped there. Dozens of MPs received calls from citizens who wanted to express their disapproval and even Valls received a document with 119,000 signatures opposing the law. Furthermore, a company dedicated to computer data storage has threatened to leave France. In reaction to massive popular opposition and while facing a lot of criticism and doubts, President Francois Hollande, in an unprecedented move, has said he will send the law to the Constitutional Court for consideration. 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