Thursday, July 4, 2013

France Is Shocked, Shocked to Learn That Everybody's a Sinner

I heard from my fellow blogger Arun Kapil that one of our mutual readers was disappointed that I hadn't discussed Edward Snowden's revelations about NSA monitoring of electronic communications. It seemed to me more a matter of American than of French politics, and in any case Snowden's revelations were not among my highest priority concerns. But two recent reports have made the topic relevant to French politics.

First, France, presumably under American pressure, refused overflight permission to an aircraft carrying Bolivia's president, apparently in the belief that Snowden might be aboard. Given François Hollande's hectoring of the US for spying on French citizens, this was a bit much. Jean-Luc Mélenchon had called for France to welcome Snowden as a hero and political refugee--also a bit much--and now Hollande, who had gone out of his way to criticize the NSA, was  apparently truckling under to American pressure. A real profile in courage.

And today Le Monde tells us what of course we already suspected. France is no babe in the woods in the matter of electronic espionage. Indeed, it seems that the DGSE is collecting "the totality" of the electronic communications of French citizens, and, what is more, the information is not used solely for external security purposes but shared with other agencies:
Le Monde est en mesure de révéler que la Direction générale de la sécurité extérieure (DGSE, les services spéciaux) collecte systématiquement les signaux électromagnétiques émis par les ordinateurs ou les téléphones en France, tout comme les flux entre les Français et l'étranger : la totalité de nos communications sont espionnées. L'ensemble des mails, des SMS, des relevés d'appels téléphoniques, des accès à Facebook, Twitter, sont ensuite stockés pendant des années.

Les gendarmes ont aussi fait appel à cet outil dans des affaires de pédophilie. La police judiciaire peut, enfin, solliciter les moyens de la DGSE via la Direction centrale du renseignement intérieur, la DCRI. Les données, obtenues en dehors de toute légalité, entrent alors souvent dans la procédure judiciaire sous la forme de renseignements anonymes.
Let him who is without sin cast the first stone. The NSA at least maintains the pretense of legality with the fig leaf of the FISA court. The French intelligence services seem to be under no such restraint, although, to be sure, the FISA court hasn't proved to be much of one. This seems to be a case of "what can be done will be done." Frankly, I'm resigned to it.


Massilian said...

I did read Le Monde this evening and learn that in an a-legal but not yet strictly illegal manner (!) the french DGSE collects and stores all private electromagnetic signals (phones calls, sms, mails, google search etc.) just as the NSA. All this information can be accessed without any legal control by different government agencies, the heat generated by the computers warms the whole DGSE building (which is a positive point by ecological standards). Well, IMHO this is explicitly the STASI dream come true. This means that at least the french "security agencies" including the police as well as the NSA, have unlimited, unrestricted, uncontrolled access to everyone’s private life at least in terms of contacts, network and information flux. Well, wise friends, if that is ok with you, if you don’t feel theatened or incensed by that, if you're resigned to it, if you think there ain’t much we can do about it, that’s cool, just eat and enjoy your Soylent Green and complain about the noise made by the whistleblowers. “What me worry ?” said Alfred E. Neuman.

Mitch Guthman said...


I understand that you are resigned to whatever it is that you've reigned yourself to. What I'm curious about is why?