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INTELLIGENCE

French spy bill cleared despite UN criticism

Controversial laws that give France wide-ranging powers of surveillance have been cleared by the country's top court despite criticism from the UN and internet freedom groups.

French spy bill cleared despite UN criticism
The UN's Committee for Human Right's warned against the “excessively broad surveillance powers” that have been granted to French intelligence services.
 
The 18-strong committee is responsible for reviewing compliance with the obligations imposed by the International Covenant on civil and political rights
 
“The committee is concerned by the powers granted to the intelligence services on digital monitoring inside and outside France,” said the committee.
 
The statement continued: “The committee is particularly concerned that the law on military planning and the law on intelligence, grant overly broad powers for very intrusive surveillance on the basis of hardly defined broad objectives, without prior authorisation of a judge and without adequate and independent oversight mechanism.”
 
The law has been touted by the government as a vital update to ageing regulations dating back to pre-Internet days, and was overwhelmingly passed by lawmakers from both left and right, though  with dissident voices among almost every political group.
 
Although it had been in the pipeline for some time, the proposed law gained added support in the wake of the jihadist attacks in Paris in January that left 17 people dead.
 
The new French law allows authorities to spy on the digital and mobile communications of anyone linked to a “terrorist” inquiry without prior authorisation from a judge, and forces Internet service providers and phone companies to give up data upon request.
 
Intelligence services will have the right to place cameras and recording devices in private dwellings and install “keylogger” devices that record every key stroke on a targeted computer in real time.
 
The authorities will be able to keep recordings for a month, and metadata for five years.
 
The experts on the UN committee called on France to take measures “to guarantee that any interference in private life must conform to principles of legality, proportionality and necessity” and that any data gathering is done for specific purposes laid out beforehand.
 
Despite the criticism France's top court ratified pretty much all of the new powers laid out in the bill.
 
That has led to criticism from internet civil liberties groups with in France.
 
In a statement titled “Shame on France” the group La Quadrature du Net said: “By validating almost all surveillance measures provided in the Surveillance Law adopted on 25 June, the French Constitutional Council legalises mass surveillance and endorses a historical decline in fundamental rights.”

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INTELLIGENCE

France to recruit a new generation of tech savvy spies

France is recruiting hundreds of spies who must speak fluent English and know their way around a computer.

France to recruit a new generation of tech savvy spies
Photo: AFP

Faced with intensified terrorist threats and cyber attacks, France's external intelligence services the DGSE (La Direction générale de la sécurité extérieure) are on the hunt for hundreds of new agents.

The DGSE is to reinforce its team with 600 new spies between now and 2019 to bring them to a total of 7000 agents – far below the estimated 21,000 employed by the CIA.

While Hollywood has lead us to think the perfect spy is one with an athletic body that can jump across rooftops and down baddies with an array of gadgets, the DGSE are searching for a different kind of spy.

Ideally one who knows their way around a computer and the internet. As well as tech whizzkids the French intelligence services are also looking for linguists, engineers and analysts preferably straight out of university.

The head of the DSGE, Bernard Bajolet, spoke to students at the National School of Administration at Strasbourg this week to try to stir up some interest and attract some of the brightest brains in the country.

Apart from the possibility of becoming France’s next Jacques Bond, students were enticed with a starting salary of between €33,000 and €35,000.

Hopeful candidates will apply to their specialist pathway: the tech-savvy will need to prove they can hack systems and decrypt codes, while linguists will have to show they can speak not only French and fluent English, but also increasingly required languages Russian, Arabic, or Chinese.