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France gets its own 'Patriot Act' in wake of 'Charlie Hebdo' attack

Steve Dent, @stevetdent
July 24, 2015
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Liberté, égalité, fraternité? Maybe strike the first one off that list. While some US lawmakers are trying to pare down the Patriot Act, the French constitutional court has just allowed police to monitor pretty much anyone they want without a warrant. The "Loi Renseignement," or Surveillance Act was first proposed in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris, and approved by legislators in May. It's now the law of the land, and Prime Minister Manuel Valls tweeted that "France now has a security framework against terrorism that respects liberties." However, many folks disagree with that sentiment, and France's constitutional court itself strongly opposed the lack of oversight.

Dubbed "French Big Brother" by opponents, the law will enable intelligence agencies to record any calls, text messages and internet activity using "black boxes." They'll be backed by the Prime Minister's office and aided by French carriers, who don't have much say in the matter. Authorities will also be able to execute wireless phone taps, install hidden cameras and more under the new laws. What most offends critics like Amnesty International, however, is the "warrantless" part. Though police and intelligence will need to consult a panel made up of judges, MPs and senators, their recommendations are not binding.

Over 100,000 people signed a petition against the act, which Amnesty International called "a major blow to human rights in France." It added that "the surveillance measures authorized by this law are wildly out of proportion." However, a French advocacy group called La Quadrature du Net told EUobserver that it's ready to challenge the law in the EU's Court of Human Rights. "Mass surveillance is part of an intolerable and oppressive machine, which is by nature the seed of totalitarianism."

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