Patriot Act idea surfaces in France

Predictably, the attack on the Paris based magazine Charlie Hebdo last week has produced a public outcry for tightening security against terrorism in the nation. Some are calling for draconian measures to rein in terrorist activity, but the type of laws which followed the attacks of 9/11 in the US are not likely forthcoming.

Though the country has seen massive manhunts and the arrest of dozens of suspects, it appears that the French people’s love of civil liberty will derail efforts to enact the US Patriot Act style legislation championed by former prime minister Nicolas Sarkozy.

The feeling here is that anti-terrorist laws are already robust – indeed they have been studied with a view toward implementation by a number of other countries including the US. And in fact, in order to roundup possible perpetrators of the recent carnage, authorities have relied on laws and methods that heretofore would have been considered unlikely regarding free speech. Some people have been detained for making remarks which support or justify terrorism.

The former French prime minister, Dominique de Villepin, warned against such actions, or the implementation of stricter laws,

The spiral of suspicion created in the United States by the Patriot Act and the enduring legitimization of torture or illegal detention has today caused that country to lose its moral compass.

He is joined on the right by another former prime minister, Francois Fillon, in opposition to fundamental changes in the law.

Abuses of the Patriot Act are seen to foment terrorist activity and aid in the recruitment of jihadists, and are abhorred by more than 80 percent of French citizens already unenamored with US surveillance practices. Furthermore, it has been pointed out that the results of US legislation have proven inconclusive, and in fact the Patriot Act is still causing ripples in the US a decade after being enacted.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in US Congress, which is tasked with the potential re-authorization of the law. The recent release of information detailing torture tactics used by US agencies against suspected terrorists has invigorated the debate.

It should be pointed out that at the very least there is talk of a debate over new European laws to combat terrorism. This is in stark contrast to the political climate in the US after 9/11, and the fear and hysteria which spawned the Patriot Act and its subsequent abuses. The details of any new French legislation are unclear, but discussion has focused on increased Internet surveillance and granting new authority to remove content. Cooler heads, though, are urging restraint rather than a rush to restrict freedom.

France has bolstered its terrorism laws several times since 2001, and has been viewed by the US as a strong partner in the war on terrorism. The laws restricting speech in support of terrorism are only one such example of sterner measures, and their trial procedures have often seemed to already favor prosecutors over defendants. Therefore, despite the recent terrorist attacks, Frenchmen seem satisfied with the status quo and reluctant to adapt draconian new laws. It remains to be seen if this is the right path.

Stan Ward has enjoyed writing for 50 years. Writing has been a comfortable companion to a successful business and teaching career for him. Find him on Google+.

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2 responses to “Patriot Act idea surfaces in France

  1. “…despite the recent terrorist attacks, Frenchmen seem satisfied with the status quo and reluctant to adapt draconian new laws. It remains to be seen if this is the right path”.

    Is treating your entire population as guilty until proven innocent ‘the right path’? Is bowing to terrorists and changing your entire society ‘the right path’? Is the potential destruction of not just free speech but democracy ‘the right path’ in combating a few thousand crazies?

    Our world has changed immensely since the terrorist attacks on the US in September 2001. The ‘leader of the free world’ has used the opportunity as an excuse to invade another country and force regime change. We have seen the creation of laws around the world that can be (and are) used to stifle free speech and prevent the exposure of abuses of power. And we have learned that governments are spying on their own citizens to an unprecedented degree.

    The direction of the world’s major democracies in the last fourteen years has been away from democracy. Western governments spent the 90s trying to figure out what boogie-monster they could use to frighten people now that the Soviet Union had disintegrated, and have spent the first fourteen years of this millennium persuading us to be afraid of terrorism. We ignore reality, and the fact that we are more likely to die in a car accident that in a terrorist attack, and listen to fear-mongers selling fear to ensure they keep control of the unruly populace.

    We overturn democratically elected governments because we don’t like their flavour, and ignore coups in countries that we have somehow decided ‘can’t handle democracy’. Maybe democracy is not the best system of government, it’s just better than all the alternatives – but it seems that we are turning our backs on democracy in our mindless belief in what we are told to fear.

    So yes, people who can see through the scare-mongering can respond and say “No more! There is no excuse for further government control and monitoring of everything we do!” We will then watch the sheep sit back as their governments once more ignore reality and instead focus on self-interest.

    1. Hi Stephen,

      As with all Stan’s articles, his views are his alone, and do not reflect those of the rest of the BestVPN staff.

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