[NyTimes] The French Surveillance State

Prime Minister Manuel Valls of France has presented yet another antiterrorism bill to Parliament. French lawmakers, who overwhelmingly approved a sweeping antiterrorism bill in September, are scheduled to debate the new bill this month. Mr. Valls argues that the bill’s sweeping new provisions for government surveillance are necessary to monitor potential terrorist-related activity, especially on the Internet and cellphones. […]

Rights groups have warned that the bill, which includes the risk of “collective violence” and “the defense of foreign policy interests” among potential reasons for government surveillance, is too vague in defining who is a legitimate target. The bill also concentrates extraordinary power in the office of the prime minister by giving it, rather than judges, control over the approval process for surveillance requests from intelligence agencies. Parliament must restore judicial oversight to these decisions that touch the core rights and freedoms of French citizens. […]

The French are understandably jittery after the Paris and Tunis attacks, and they are alarmed by the radicalization of some in France who have fallen prey to jihadist recruitment on the Internet. There is no doubt that the French government has a duty to protect the nation from terrorist violence and jihadist recruitment. But Parliament has a duty to protect citizens’ democratic rights from unduly expansive and intrusive government surveillance. French lawmakers should not approve the bill unless judges are given a proper role in authorizing government surveillance, vague definitions of what constitutes a terrorist threat are struck from the bill and freedom of the press is protected.