Ignore the NSA — France, too, is sweeping up data

The New York Times reports: Days after President François Hollande sternly told the United States to stop spying on its allies, the newspaper Le Monde disclosed on Thursday that France has its own large program of data collection, which sweeps up nearly all the data transmissions, including telephone calls, e-mails and social media activity, that come in and out of France.

Le Monde reported that the General Directorate for External Security does the same kind of data collection as the American National Security Agency and the British GCHQ, but does so without clear legal authority.

The system is run with “complete discretion, at the margins of legality and outside all serious control,” the newspaper said, describing it as “a-legal.”

Nonetheless, the French data is available to the various police and security agencies of France, the newspaper reported, and the data is stored for an indeterminate period. The main interest of the agency, the paper said, is to trace who is talking to whom, when and from where and for how long, rather than in listening in to random conversations. But the French also record data from large American networks like Google and Facebook, the newspaper said.

Le Monde’s report, which French officials would not comment on publicly, appeared to make some of the French outrage about the revelations of Edward J. Snowden, a former N.S.A. contractor, about the American data-collection program appear somewhat hollow. [Continue reading…]

That France’s political leaders — like those of every other Western democracy — are hypocrites will probably not come as news to the French or anyone else. But in reporting this, the New York Times appears to be assuming its default position: always defend governmental power — the power that this newspaper and its reporters mainline like heroin.

Mass surveillance? Everyone’s doing it. Let’s move on to the next story (and get a pat on the head from the White House).

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