France‘s ‚Civil War‘ of 2021: Anti-Terrorism Bill Unveiled While Ex-Generals Warn of Islamist Threat

Written by | Saturday, May 1st, 2021
@Eubulletin

France is preparing to punish ex-generals and acting offers who signed a letter published in a right-wing magazine warning of a civil war with Islamists. About 1,000 servicemen and women, including some 20 retired generals, put their names to the letter that blames “fanatic partisans” for creating divisions between communities, and said Islamists were taking over whole parts of the nation’s territory. “The hour is grave, France is in peril,” the signatories said. The French government has promptly condemned the letter, with the country’s defence minister, Florence Parly, saying earlier this week (26 April) that “these are unacceptable actions … There will be consequences, naturally.” The letter was first published on 21 April – the 60th anniversary of a failed coup d’état by French military in Algiers. While far-right leader Marine Le Pen, a candidate in next year’s presidential election, has spoken out in support of the former generals, the French defence minister tweeted: “Two immutable principles guide the action of members of the military with regard to politics: neutrality and loyalty.”
Meanwhile, an anti-terrorism bill that would enable French security services to increase its use of a controversial “algorithm” technique to detect potential threats was presented to the French cabinet (28 April). It comes just days after a policewoman was stabbed to death in Rambouillet, some 60 km southwest of Paris, in a suspected terror attack. The text essentially reinforces an arsenal of provisions that already exist but that the executive wants to be set in stone. The most controversial measure concerns the so-called “algorithm” technique which allows the automated processing of connection data to detect threats while extending it to web addresses (URLs). The bill would also increase the time allowed for collecting computer data to two months from one month currently and for the authorities to store that “dead” data for up to five years for research and development purposes and to advance the artificial intelligence of the intelligence services’ “black boxes”.
Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin defended the new legislation by noting that two of the 35 terrorist attacks foiled in the country since 2017 had been “thanks to the digital traces” left by the perpetrators and that nine recent attacks were not preventable with current resources.” “Terrorists have changed their way of communicating,” he went on, saying that the perpetrators of the deadly knife attacks against teacher Samuel Paty and the Nice basilica had communicated only via Facebook and Messenger, and not by telephone. The proposed law would also enable authorities to seize electronic devices during “home visits” to offenders if they refuse to give access to their contents. Measures against people considered “particularly high-risk” of re-offending would be strengthened and would include the obligation to establish a residence in a given place for up to five years after the end of their sentence.

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