France Acts to Reinforce Fight against Terrorism ; 'Exceptional' Measures Are Promised to Increase Surveillance of Targets

By Maia De La Baume; Dan Bilefsky | International New York Times, January 22, 2015 | Go to article overview

France Acts to Reinforce Fight against Terrorism ; 'Exceptional' Measures Are Promised to Increase Surveillance of Targets


Maia De La Baume; Dan Bilefsky, International New York Times


Also Wednesday, France formally charged and detained four men accused of providing logistical support to Amedy Coulibaly, one of the three gunmen involved in the terror attacks in Paris.

Two weeks after the terror attacks in France, Prime Minister Manuel Valls announced "exceptional" measures on Wednesday to fight terrorism, including creating thousands of new counterterrorism jobs to intensify the monitoring of nearly 3,000 people the police consider surveillance targets.

The moves would reinforce a set of existing laws already considered to be among the strictest in Europe, where debates about the balance between security and civil liberties have been playing out for months as the authorities grew increasingly concerned about a rising terrorism threat.

Mr. Valls said that France would provide an additional 425 million euros, about $490 million, to create more than 2,500 jobs to buttress the fight against terrorism and monitor suspects.

A bill aimed at updating the legal framework for intelligence and surveillance operations would also be introduced in Parliament in March, he said.

Among other proposals, Mr. Valls said his government would create a website intended to combat "jihadist indoctrination" as well as expand the number of separate quarters for radical inmates and provide more Muslim chaplains in French prisons.

He also said he would create a specific database listing the names of those who have already been convicted on charges of terrorism or who were members of "a terrorist fighting group." The existence of such a file would force them to "declare any change of address or any trip abroad," Mr. Valls said.

Mr. Valls also said that his government would push for bipartisan discussion of a proposal backed by the opposition Union for a Popular Movement that would create a felony of "national indignity," which could be applied to those who committed terrorist acts by stripping them of their civic and political rights.

Mr. Valls made his announcements at a news conference after France formally charged and detained four men accused of providing logistical support to Amedy Coulibaly, one of the three gunmen involved in the three-day onslaught in which 17 people were killed in and around Paris.

Highlighting the difficulties facing the authorities as they confront the terrorist threat, Le Canard Enchaine, a French weekly, reported that the police had allowed Mr. Coulibaly to leave without serious questioning after a routine traffic stop just eight days before the attacks began in Paris.

His file with the law enforcement authorities was said to have indicated that he should be questioned to extract the maximum amount of information without raising suspicion.

In the wake of what some are calling "France's 9-11," the government is under pressure to prevent further attacks, with growing concerns that the terrorist threat could come from within the country. All three of the men who carried out the attacks were Islamic militants from France.

At the same time, the secular republic is protective of its freedoms, which was highlighted in the response to the attacks against Charlie Hebdo, a target because it published cartoons of Muhammed that Islamic extremists labeled as blasphemous.

French antiterrorism laws were reinforced recently, amid international concern about the threat posed by Europeans returning from training or combat in Syria.

Last year, Parliament passed a law outlining penalties for actions of a terrorist nature by individuals. The law also made it easier for the authorities to block people believed to be Islamist extremists from leaving France, and it authorized the Interior Ministry to void or confiscate the passports of people considered by the intelligence services to be potential threats.

The crime of "national indignity," which Mr. Valls said would be under discussion, was established by Gen. Charles de Gaulle in 1944, to be used against French citizens who had collaborated with the Nazis. …

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