Deadly Paris Terrorist Attacks Further Increase Counterterrorism Measures in France

January 30th, 2015

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By CHHS Extern Jackie Togno

The French government has been under immense pressure to increase national security in the wake of the deadly Paris attacks where seventeen people were killed earlier this month. People throughout France are now in fear of future attacks and many believe that the terrorist threat has yet to be subdued within the country. Although it is already considered one of the strictest countries in Europe in terms of national security policy, the French government has responded with increased counterterrorism methods to prevent further acts of terror.

Just two weeks after the attacks, France announced that it plans to spend an estimated $490 million towards new counterterrorism security measures. Among the changes, more than 10,000 troops have been deployed to schools, mosques, and synagogues in order to protect French citizens. President Francois Hollande explained that the five-year military development budget program will “cut 18,300 positions over the next 4 years” instead of its anticipated 25,800 jobs. 2,600 counterterrorism officers will also be hired; 1,100 of whom will be used specifically for intelligence services. Today, there are nearly 3,000 people the police consider surveillance targets, posing potential threats to France’s national security. The counterterrorism officers will conduct more intensive surveillance and investigations than the police.

In addition to increased manpower, France’s new security measures focus on legislation geared towards monitoring potential threats more closely. The proposed law will reinforce a set of existing laws already considered to be among the strictest in Europe. Under Article 421-1 of the French Penal Code, for example, ordinary offenses constitute acts of terrorism when “committed intentionally in relation to an individual or collective undertaking, the purpose of which is seriously to disturb the public order by intimidation or terror.”

Act 2012-1432, adopted by Parliament on December 21, 2012, reflects another of France’s existing stringent national security laws. This Act imposes harsher sanctions than had previously been enforced against persons “guilty of justification of or incitement to terrorism on the internet.” The country’s most recent counterterrorist law, passed in November, 2014, intensifies internet surveillance and places limits on speech in support of terrorism. Currently, more than 100 people are under investigation for posting online comments that support or justify terrorism.

There are of course both proponents and opponents to these new measures. Critics of the new law’s increased surveillance fear that it will infringe upon people’s basic civil liberties. Proponents of France’s increased security measures find it justified as a result of the recent three-day period of terrorist attacks. The need for national security overrides concern for civil liberties in the minds of both proponents of the law as well as French authorities.

As a country that already had some of the most rigorous counterterrorist laws in Europe, the tragic events of earlier this month may be seen as evidence to the little deterrent such legislation has on terrorists. Will introducing more laws and increasing security measures do anything to combat future terrorist threats? Time will tell.

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