Governments in Europe are ratcheting up plans to increase surveillance and anti-terrorism powers in their respective countries, only days after an attack that killed 12 in an attack on the Paris offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.
In Britain, MI5 is seeking new, yet-to-be-determined powers.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron called on passing legislation that would allow authorities to “access both the details of communications and their content.” The BBC reports that Cameron said that there should not be a “means of communication” which “we cannot read.”
British law requires Internet service providers and phone companies to keep the records of phone calls, text messages and Internet usage of their customers. UK law does not currently require companies to store communication contents but rather the metadata, although that could change if Cameron successfully lobbies parliament to pass his changes.
Several European Union leaders have signed on to a non-binding joint statement that critics contend could open the door to Internet censorship — exactly the opposite of the free speech message coming in the hours and days after the attack.
“We are concerned at the increasingly frequent use of the Internet to fuel hatred and violence and signal our determination to ensure that the Internet is not abused to this end,” the statement says.
The solution that the statement offers is for Internet services providers “to create conditions of a swift reporting of material that aims to incite hatred and terror and the condition of its removing, where appropriate/possible.”
Less controversial is the suggestion that governments use tools to “develop positive, targeted and easily accessible messages; able to counter this propaganda, aimed at a young audience that is particularly vulnerable to indoctrination.”
The French government, which has already passed controversial legislation that allows the government to collect bulk amounts of data among its citizens, is reviewing the failures of the state to prevent the attack. The New York Times detailed the new law last July:
The provision, quietly passed as part of a routine military spending bill, defines the conditions under which intelligence agencies may gain access to or record telephone conversations, emails, Internet activity, personal location data and other electronic communications.
The law provides for no judicial oversight and allows electronic surveillance for a broad range of purposes, including “national security,” the protection of France’s “scientific and economic potential” and prevention of “terrorism” or “criminality.”
The Wall Street Journal reports that France’s prime minister will seek additional surveillance powers:
France is seeking greater assistance from technology firms as part of a plan to beef up domestic surveillance and add to its already heavy legal arsenal to track terror threats in the wake of last week’s deadly attacks.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Tuesday said France would soon propose a new surveillance law aimed at giving intelligence services “all the legal means to accomplish their mission.” Mr. Valls said the country would also reinforce domestic intelligence services, boosting staff levels to track a growing number of potential terrorists.
For its part, the far-right National Front party — known for its anti-immigrant views — is calling on further immigration restrictions, while the center-right party led by former president Nicolas Sarkozy is calling on border controls.
In the United States, defenders of mass surveillance seized on the Charlie Hebdo massacre as an opportunity to defend the NSA’s bulk collection methods.
Only hours after the attack, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) lamented the modest set of NSA reforms proposed last year that were ultimately. The Senate voted 58-42 in support of a bill that would have ended the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records, but failed to reach the 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster.
I fear our intelligence capabilities, those designed to prevent such an attack from taking place on our shores, are quickly eroding. #Paris
— Lindsey Graham (@GrahamBlog) January 7, 2015