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France’s PATROIT Act? – “Visit Website; Go to Jail” March 23, 2012

Posted by Chris Mark in Industry News, Laws and Leglslation, terrorism.
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In the aftermath of the murder of 7 people in France by a self-proclaimed Al Qaeda militant, France’s president Nicolas Sarkozy has proposed a sweeping law that would jail those who visit extremist websites.  “Anyone who regularly consults Internet sites which promote terror or hatred or violence will be sentenced to prison,” he told a campaign rally in Strasbourg, in eastern France. “What is possible for pedophiles should be possible for trainee terrorists and their supporters, too” 

The murders of 7 people in Toulouse were horrific.  Among those killed were a Rabbi and several children at a Jewish school.  The murderer, 23 year old Mohamad Merah, was killed by French police after a standoff.  This site will not detail the murders or give any reason for someone to revel in the details or validate their objective.

The proposal by Mr. Sarkozy is not surprising.  One month after the Sept 11, 2001 attacks, the US Government passed a sweeping law tilted  Uniting (and) Strengthening America (by) Providing Appropriate Tools Required (to) Intercept (and) Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001, but better known by its acronym the USA  PATRIOT Act.  The Act has a number of provisions which many Americans felt violated their rights.  Indefinite detention of certain people, wiretaps, and other aspects have been repeatedly challenged. Since its passage, several legal challenges have been brought against the act, and Federal courts have ruled that a number of provisions are unconstitutional.

Even before 2001 we can find examples of similar behavior.  The first “Red Scare” in the US started after WWI and extended until about 1921 and the second occurred between 1947 and 1957.  Numerous American’s were blacklisted, deported and stripped of their rights.  As stated by law professor David Cole: “federal government consistently targeted alien radicals, deporting them … for their speech or associations, making little effort to distinguish true threats from ideological dissidents.”

Unfortunately, this trend is not uncommon and is part of human nature.  When an unconscionable act is taken against innocent civilians, or threatens our way of life, the knee jerk reaction is to take whatever action is necessary to prevent a recurrence.   Unfortunately, what ends up suffering are often the rights of the very citizens the law is intended to protect.

Citizens in any free country often find themselves in the difficult position of seeing the laws that allow them to live freely also protect those whose beliefs we abhor.  In the US, the American Civil Liberties Union often finds itself defending those who represent hate groups, and other deplorable beliefs.  As stated in the ACLU’s mission is to: “to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.”

While overt acts (being trained in terrorist tactics), and associating with known terrorists are certainly reasons to take action, it is a slippery slope to start monitoring and jailing people for reading literature or simply adhering to beliefs that the majority find offensive.  Laws like the one proposed by Sarkozy are frightening for several reasons.  First, to enforce the law would require monitoring French citizen’s internet usage and websites visited.  This certainly seems like Big Brother.  Second, it is difficult to envision jailing someone who may never advocate or support violence but simply believes in the idea of revolution or some other political change.  Imagine a young person doing research for a college term paper being jailed for visiting ‘extremist websites’.

The question that has to be asked as more and more laws are passed to restrict or strip citizens of their right to privacy is the inevitable: “Who is really winning?”

NOTE: The graphic was taken from Conspiracy Planet…which I visited…(FBI and CIA)…it is intended to add substance to the post and not reflect my own views. (Please don’t arrest me ;)…I am guessing the reference and point is clear.

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