Snowden warns France against giving up liberties as MPs pass security bill

Edward Snowden © Svein Ove Ekornesvaag
Whistleblower Edward Snowden has warned the French people to think twice before giving up their freedoms for increased security. In a message on his Twitter account, Snowden also pointed out that France has passed controversial constitutional reform with over 75 percent of MPs absent.

“Abandoning open society for fear of terrorism is the only way to be defeated by it,” Snowden tweeted, referring to the French lawmakers’ decision to pass highly criticized emergency powers.

Snowden, a former contractor for the National Security Agency, made international headlines in 2013 when he leaked information about the US government’s secret mass surveillance programs. He currently resides in Russia, where he was granted asylum. Prosecutors in Washington want to try him on charges on treason.

One of the most shocking things about the French vote was that when MPs approved the reform by 103 votes to 26, giving the state emergency powers during a security crisis, the National Assembly was mostly empty, with 441 deputies absent out of the total of 577.

The need for reforms was raised after the Paris terrorist attacks in November, which killed 130 people.

The new measures would enshrine the state of emergency powers in France’s constitution and strip French citizenship from anyone convicted as a terrorist.

The bill has now been sent to the French Senate for discussion and approval. That process will begin next month.

The measure has been heavily criticized by Amnesty International, European Council of Human Rights and the French Human Rights League.

For example, Amnesty International said in a February report that France’s state of emergency has had a “disproportional impact,” adding that French authorities have carried out 3,210 raids and kept around 400 people under house arrest, as well as closing down 12 places of worship.

The controversy surrounding the proposal reached a high point when Hollande’s justice minister, Christiane Taubira, resigned last month in protest over stripping French citizenship from people convicted of terrorism.

Taubira called the measure pointless, describing it as “absolutely pathetic inefficiency,” and criticizing it as a direct attack of French citizenship and identity.

President Francois Hollande first declared a state of emergency immediately after the Paris attacks. It gave French security forces powers to act without judges’ approval or judicial oversight to carry out night raids and place people under house arrest. The current state of emergency expires on February 26 and the new reform intends to extend it.