Equalite and Fraternite trump Liberte in France

France, the home of Liberté, Equalité, Fraternité has decided to dispense somewhat with the latter two in favor of safeguarding the former.

Home to an estimated five million Muslims, a legacy of its long and relatively recently ended brutal imperialist past in Africa, especially north Africa and its relative openness to illegal immigrants, they now constitute about 8% of France's population. Not well integrated into French society, there are many "no go" dangerous Muslim neighborhoods where French police refuse to enter. A few years ago, these neighborhoods erupted in nightly rioting that lasted for several weeks. More worrisome for France are fears of terrorist attacks within the country perpetrated by Muslim residents. As a result French intelligence agencies have effectively employed some methods that are decidedly unfriendly to civil liberties, stopping at least 15 planned terrorist attacks according to Edward Cody of the Washington Post.

The French, and to a lesser extent other Europeans, rely more on human intelligence rather than technology, and "squeeze" (another word for torture) their informants for information, even tapping phones, e mails and other internet and private services all removed from government surveillance. Refraining from using such terms as war on terror, preferring to think of it as anti terrorism policing that is highly proactive rather than defensive, passively waiting for a terrorist act to occur, the French, according to

Bruguière and other specialists said, the emphasis in Europe has been on domestic human intelligence rather than the computerized systems such as watch lists favored by U.S. security agencies. That has meant tedious hours of surveillance, patient listening-in on telephone conversations, careful review of bank records, and relentless recruitment of informants among Islamic zealots who are motivated to betray acquaintances by everything from fear of losing visas to a desire to clear the name of Islam in European minds.

In other words the lives, the safety of millions happens because of profiling, wiretaps and other invasions of privacy such as access to bank accounts. And it seems to be effective; a French agent revealed that Muslim sources supplied the information that stopped 15 terrorist plots.

"In the shadows, we put into place -- for months, sometimes years -- detection systems, surveillance arrangements that allow us to act at the right moment," Bernard Squarcini, until recently the DCRI director, said in an interview with Le Point magazine. "Our obsession is to anticipate, that is, to neutralize terrorists before they strike."

And how do the French recruit their internal spies?

[P]olice and domestic intelligence officers carry out frequent raids, taking young Muslim men into custody for interrogation and intimidation. That treatment extends to Islamic groups that may never imagine carrying out a terrorist attack but eventually could help with logistics, even unwittingly, or just hear about someone with violent plans.

"They are constantly bothered," said Xavier Raufer, a veteran terrorism expert who heads the Criminology Institute at the University of Paris II. "The most fragile of them are singled out, contacted and eventually flipped."

Guilt by association is legal in France; as a result about 36 people have been imprisoned under a law of "criminal association with intent to commit terrorism." Intent, ie, before it happens. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, busy complaining about Israel and the US, have been relatively silent about these civil rights violations in France, and the French, being the French, have shrugged them off like irritating flies when they do.

While the Arizona police, and other American law enforcement agencies, can't--and won't--

French police can demand a show of identity for no specific reason, Heisbourg recalled, and can hold suspects for questioning over two days -- or more in terrorism cases -- without intervention by defense lawyers.

But the French strategy--and its tactics--seems to be working; there have been no terrorist attacks. Still worried though, burqas, the long, cover everything but the eyes modesty garb worn by Moslem women, are now officially banned in France. French President Nicolas Sarkozy initiated that ban.

Vive la France!?