Sarkozy faces opposition over new intelligence spy system

September 9th, 2008 - 8:17 pm ICT by ANI  

London, Sept.9 (ANI): French President Nicolas Sarkozy faced an embarrassing split in his Cabinet on Monday over a computer system that the new French internal intelligence service will use to spy on the private lives of millions of law-abiding citizens. Defence Minister Herve Morin broke government ranks to side with a growing revolt against Edvige, an acronym for a police database that will store personal details including opinions, the social circle and even sexual preferences of more or less anyone who interests the State. Edvige, which is also a woman’’s name, was created by decree in July to store data on anyone aged 13 or above who is “likely to breach public order”.
“Sarkozy’’s Big Sister”, as it has been dubbed, will also track anyone active in politics or trade unions and in a significant role in business, the media, entertainment or social or religious institutions. Listed people will have limited rights to consult their files.
While Morin said that it is useful to gather data of people, he wanted to know what was the whole point of the exercise.
Morin criticized Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie for spearheading a drive initiated by President Sarkozy to fulfill a pledge on law and order that he had made during his 2007 election campaign.
According to The Times, the French Government is depicting Edvige as a modernized version of the files that have long been gathered by officers of the Renseignements Generaux (RG).
This police intelligence service has acted as the eyes and the ears of the state, spying on citizens under various names since Joseph Fouche, Napoleon Bonapartes police chief, created it.
Civil liberties groups claim that the RG has files on 20 million people.
The police spy service, whose officers snoop in cafes, work places, housing estates and union meetings, was amalgamated this year with the DST Departement du Surveillance du Territoire), the counter-espionage and anti-terrorist agency that equates to Britain’’s MI5.
Edvige will be the main tool of the new combined super-agency, called the Direction Centrale du Renseignement Interieur (Central Directorate of Internal Intelligence).
The anti-Edvige opposition started after the National Commission on Information Technology and Freedom (CNIL), the data privacy watchdog, forced the Government to publish the secret decree that created Edvige in July.
This alerted rights groups to the potentially vast scope of the network, whose full name is Exploitation Documentaire et Valorisation de l”Information Generale.
“With just a few clicks of the mouse, any government official or civil servant will have access to intimate data,” said Francois Bayrou, leader of the centrist MoDem party and a fierce opponent of President Sarkozy.
The Socialist party demanded that the Government put the system under judicial supervision.
Hundreds of associations, including the main judges” union, civil liberties defenders, gay rights groups and leftwing lawyers have joined the anti-Edvige mutiny.
Fifteen lawsuits have been filed against it at the Conseil d”Etat, the highest civil court, and an online petition has gathered more than 100,000 signatures.
Most newspapers with the exception of the pro-Sarkozy Le Figaro have joined the anti-Edvige campaign. (ANI)

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