False-flag events such as the Charlie Hebdo attack serve just fine for governments to justify outrageous policies and procedures which would otherwise be even more unjustifiable and unacceptable.
The supposed threat that terrorism presents to western nations serves many purposes. After 9/11 it was used to justify government powergrabs on many areas, and in the last few years is the cornerstone of increasing cyberspying practices by countries like the United States, England and now France.
If plans in France work out as planned, its secret services may be able to ‘legally’ infiltrate and monitor ‘potential terrorists’ using various techniques of espionage with a simple administrative authorization or without it in case of emergency or imminent risk, according to a bill unveiled by French newspaper “Le Figaro”. This bill sounds and smells a lot like American versions of spying proposals that are already in effect.
The project of the French Socialist government, which will be adopted on Thursday by the Council of Ministers, supposedly aims to provide “a comprehensive legal framework” to secret agents in their intrusive activities into the private life of average citizens with a clear focus on “the principles and purposes”, says the bill.
The drafters set a “limiting” list of reasons justifying the use of “special techniques”. Among them are the national defense, foreign interests, economic or scientific policy, prevention of terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction as well as violence that disrupts the public peace.
As it happens with legislation adopted in other European nations and in the United States, the problem with this type of proposals is that, due to its broad terms, it gives the government the ability to interpret its text in multiple ways to accomodate whatever it wants to frame within the limits of the law.
Specifically, spies can access data connections or intercept communications such as phone calls and emails with a simple administrative approval, without obtaining court approval.
That includes listening through IMSI receptors such as computers or mobile devices; the installation of GPS in vehicles to track their movement; interception of all types of communications even encrypted ones and the placement of microphones and cameras.
The authorization to adopt these procedures may be requested by the Ministers of Defense, Interior and Finance and are subject to the direction and approval of the Prime Minister. Again, as in the case of the Americans, the French Parliament is concentrating more and more power on one political figure and less on the legislative body itself.
According to the bill, the head of government and other authorities should also be informed without delay where the secret services have launched an operation for reasons of urgency with “an imminent threat or a very high risk which renders them unable to perform the operation later.”
The bill provides for the establishment of a National Commission for the Control of Information Techniques (CNCTI) in front of which will be judges of the State Council and the Supreme Court and parliamentarians advised by engineers, lawyers, computer and encoding specialists.
The CNCTI, which replaces another body established in 1991, will “recommend” the interruption of any technique they are using for spying if it is deemed irregular, and may refer to the Council of State, which ultimately could order the destruction of the elements obtained.
Beyond this adversary proceeding, the secret services must destroy the information collected within twelve months and after five years when they are data connections.
One of the peculiarities of the bill is that it requires that telecommunications operators and Internet providers are obligated to extend the period of retention of data connections from one to five years, and transmit it to the secret services at their request.
As decribed above, the new French bill is a direct copy of the policies used by the American National Security Agency which are now being codified as ‘legal’ in France.
The bill also allows for the “immediate collection” of the data of suspects, and anything else that offers clues to the spies such as decrypted and encrypted conversations or information.
The proposal to have this particular practice responds in part to a series of needs identified after the wave of alleged jihadist attacks that took place in France in early January.
As it happened in the UK and in the United States, false flag events such as the Charlie Hebdo attack serve just fine for governments to justify outrageous policies and procedures which would otherwise be even more unjustifiable and unacceptable.