PARIS, France, January 7, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — Police surveillance of the French population is set to increase as new measures quietly installed by the government last month were approved on Tuesday by the Council of State, the highest administrative court that has the power of assessing the legality of decisions made by the administration.
The new dispositions were published discreetly on December 2 with the signatures of prime minister Jean Castex and interior minister Gérald Darmanin. The next day, an internet news outlet specialized in digital news and new technologies exposed the move, revealing that under the government decrees, population surveillance records set up by law enforcement bodies may include information regarding “political opinions, philosophical and religious beliefs, or trade union membership.”
Surveillance records may now also include “health data that reveal particular danger,” such as mental health problems or psychiatric internment.
The decrees modified existing dispositions by allowing surveillance records to extend to groups and associations: “legal entities” as opposed to individuals who to date were the only people on whom “files” could legally by started.
These government measures are executive decisions over which Parliament has no control and is not consulted. For the French, they came out of the blue at a point in time when the government and the presidential party “La République en marche” were facing demonstrations against a “global security law” presently still under discussion. The draft law aims to allow private agencies to carry out police missions, as well as drone surveillance, and would prohibit citizens from posting footage showing identifiable law enforcement personnel online.
Left-wing entities such as Amnesty International, the communist labor union CGT and other trade unions, as well as left-wing media criticized the decrees for having shifted and enlarged the rights of the police. Activities of the historic “Renseignements généraux” — the French equivalent of the “Special Branch” — which kept voluminous (and sometimes frankly fanciful) data files about political activists and opponents as well as potential terrorists were so decried that the body was dissolved in 2008, to be replaced by a new entity that also absorbed the “DST” or counter-espionage agency.
Surveillance has continued in a different form, not always with success as regards Islamic terrorism, as supposedly dangerous individuals with special “S” files have been able, over the years, to participate in deadly attacks.
The fight against terrorism is certainly one of the aims of the controversial government decrees, but under cover of security, personal beliefs, convictions, health data covered by medical confidentiality and mere “opinions” are now susceptible of being filed by law enforcement bodies, while until now only “activities” posing a threat to public security could be registered.
In other words, only active “radicals” could in principle be identified, registered and monitored. Now, professing certain beliefs (Islamic, but also Christian or Catholic) or political preferences (such as monarchism or anti-LGBT convictions, in theory), allows the French police or “gendarmes” to gather and keep information for future use and ongoing surveillance of individuals and groups. Read Full Article >