As many of his fellow Republicans continue to call for increased surveillance of American citizens after the terrorist attacks in Paris and California, Sen. Rand Paul isn’t backing down from his pro-civil liberties stances.
“The Paris tragedy happened while we were still doing bulk collection,” Paul said On NBC’s Meet the Press last week. The 2016 presidential candidate referred to the USA Freedom Act’s provision that reduced, but did not eliminate some of the NSA’s spying tactics, which went into effect on December 1st.
“In France, they have a program a thousandfold more invasive collecting all of the data of all the French. Yet they still weren’t able to see this coming,” claimed Paul, citing the admitted failure of French security forces to properly detect and prevent the deadly attacks that ravaged Paris last month.
Politifact, which tracks the statements of politicians and rates their accuracy on a scale, labeled Paul’s claim about France’s spying and inability to detect the latest terror attack “mostly true.” As Louis Jacobson of Politifact wrote:
“France had already been engaged in bulk data collection on a scale similar to or even more expansive than the United States, according a 2013 report by leading French newspaper Le Monde.
But this year — between the Jan. 7 terrorist attack on magazine Charlie Hebdo and the Nov. 13 attacks across Paris — France clarified its policy with the passage of a new law on surveillance. The controversial law was initially passed in June and upheld in August by France’s Constitutional Council with some limited revisions.”
Jacobson went on to chronicle the similarities between the United States’ bulk data collection and France’s, but noted five specific areas in which the French system goes much farther—even beyond U.S. surveillance measures prior to the USA Freedom Act, reforms that are now in place.
As Jacobson explained, France lacks the kind of judicial review the United States has in the form of Foreign Intelligence Service Act (FISA) courts, which Paul has criticized for lacking transparency in the past. France also takes no measures to minimize the amount of data collected, spying on all of its citizens, while U.S. officials claim to focus specifically on activity that appears suspicious.
France also has less restrictive search and seizure rules, even though the Patriot Act did expand the scope of secret searches in the United States. France also uses location tracking or “stingray” technology more indiscriminately, sweeping up the data of anyone in a given area if they’re in the proximity of a target.
Perhaps the biggest difference between France and the U.S., however, is the general breadth of their surveillance. As Jacobson wrote, “French law includes some broader justifications for action, including protecting France’s “economic, industrial and scientific interests” and prevention of ‘organized delinquency.’”
Paul’s claim about the extensive nature of France’s surveillance and how it still failed to prevent the attacks in Paris is correct.
The reason Politifact deemed the libertarian-leaning senator’s claim “mostly true,” as opposed to just “true,” was because Paul employed the rhetorical flourish “thousandfold” to contrast the two countries; an amount that simply cannot be quantified.