Anti-Terror Legislation in France Would Affect CCTV Installations

Bill is designed to expand the use of video surveillance in wake of London bombings


PARIS -- The French government is drafting an anti-terrorism bill that would give authorities new powers to monitor citizens who travel to countries known to have terrorism training grounds, the interior minister said Tuesday.

The bill is also designed to expand the use of video surveillance and electronic monitoring on French soil in the wake of London's deadly bombings in July. The draft is expected to be presented formally to the French Cabinet next month, and then must clear both houses of parliament.

Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said the 16-article draft law would bolster the government's ability to track suspicious activity and the movement of people "toward countries that we judge to be at risk."

"Why, all of a sudden, does a young Frenchman go to a risky country for three or four months?" Sarkozy said to reporters after discussing the proposed law with parliamentary groups.

"We have to know when he leaves, why he leaves and when he comes back," Sarkozy added, without elaborating on how the tracking system would work.

Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, who also attended Tuesday's meeting, called for the creation of the new law after the London bombings.

Following Britain's success at capturing bombing suspects based on images from closed-circuit footage, Villepin said France needed to enlarge its video surveillance capacities in public areas.

The bill is expected to modernize an existing law from 1995 that requires local prefectures to authorize the installation of any video surveillance camera in a public place.

It will also adapt a 1991 law on tapping phone calls in light of new technology such as text messaging, the Internet and the new generation of mobile phones.

Most security cameras in Paris are in private spaces, such as companies, shops and banks. Others are positioned above main streets or at entrances to official buildings.

Sarkozy said he hopes the bill will not face parliamentary hurdles.

"The fight against terrorism is not an affair of the left against the right, or the majority against the opposition," said Sarkozy, whose governing UMP party holds a strong parliamentary majority.

Bernard Accoyer, head of the UMP group in the National Assembly, said he was confident the bill would be passed by the end of the year.

Francois Hollande, leader of the Socialist Party, said the opposition would be mindful of protecting civil liberties.

"We will be vigilant and attentive so that the protection of our citizens is the only perspective of the text," he said.