For US allies, paradigm shift in intelligence collection
PARIS: Fearful of an expanding extremist threat, countries that for years have relied heavily on US intelligence are quickly building up their own capabilities with new technology, new laws and - in at least one case - a searing debate on how much the American government should be allowed to spy on their own citizens.
Responding to a jihadi movement that is successfully recruiting people from around the world, France and Canada are both passing laws that would dramatically ramp up their surveillance apparatus. In France, lawmakers are on the verge of approving a bill that would let the government install “black boxes” to collect metadata from every major phone and Internet company. Canada’s measures were rushed through after a two separate attacks in October 2014 on Canadian soldiers including one that ended when the gunman stormed Parliament and was shot to death by guards and police. France’s law went into high gear after the January terror attacks on the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket that left 20 dead, including the gunmen. Analysts say it’s not so much a question of diminishing cooperation with the US - the revelations of Edward Snowden have ultimately done little to harm relationships between allies - as a push to increase domestic capacities ill-equipped to face the rising threat of Islamic State and other jihadi groups. “These are not people coming from the outside, these are not people who are taking plane trips, they are not people who attracted notice outside our countries. These are people who come from the heart of our society,” said Alain Chouet, a former French intelligence official who recently returned from an extended trip to Canada where he debated the measures in both countries. “International cooperation in this area isn’t hugely useful.”
Collection of metadata
Technologically, France goes the furthest with the planned creation of a ‘Made in France’ mass collection of metadata that has the potential to go beyond a National Security Agency program. Where the NSA collected landline metadata for nearly every US citizen but never really got into scooping up cell data, France is pushing to essentially vacuum up and analyze everything - landline, mobile and Internet metadata.
The law authorizing that NSA program is set to expire June 1, but the U.S. House of Representatives last week passed legislation ending the collection by the government and only allowing the NSA to ask telephone companies for the metadata on a case-by-case basis. That bill may still face changes in the US Senate. The Canadian proposals are more measured, but would till dramatically expand domestic intelligence capabilities, legalize some collection of metadata, and allow spy services to take over recruiters’ social networking accounts to “counter-message” as well as delete online material from anywhere in the world that promotes terrorism against Canadians. Unlike the French proposals, the Canadian measures began coming under strong public opposition as time went on, including an open letter from 60 executives and a Twitter campaign that included a dire warning this month from author Margaret Atwood: “See you in the slammer, kids.”—AP