Rule of Law erodes in France as Parliament authorizes massive data collection with no judicial oversight or review

France takes a big step backwards in the struggle for the rule of law, as the Parliament passes a law authorizing massive data collection without judicial oversight or review.


(1) CARLOS YÁRNOZ (París), El Parlamento francés da su apoyo final al espionaje sin control judicial; La aprobación de la ley coincide con el escándalo de las escuchas a tres presidentes, El Pais, 24 de junio 2015 (20:43 CEST).

(2) Stefan Ulrich (Kommentar), “Geheimdienste: Frankreich entwanze sein eigenes Haus; Heuchelei? Frankreich empört sich über die NSA-Spionage und weitet zugleich die Rechte der eigenen Geheimdienste aus. Paris sollte vor der eigenen Tür kehren,” Suddeutsche Zeitung, 25. Juni 2015 (09:12 Uhr).

(3) “Ecoutes massives: une méthode qui a séduit bien d’autres pays,” Le Figaro, le 24 Juin 2015.

The French look pretty silly, decrying the fact that the U.S. has spied on the last three presidents of France on the same day that the Parlement adopts a law vastly expanding the government’s surveillance authority and even the power to enter homes without judicial supervision.

But a larger issue is at stake here, for all Western democracies.

Slowly we chip away at the guarantees of our fundamental human rights, achieved through centuries of struggle for thr Rule of Law, and always it is done in the name of fighting terrorism.

We seem oblivious to the fact that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, in the famous words of Lord Acton. The very bulwarks of our freedoms are being whittled away, with little thought of what will be left to protect us when the new criminals are overzealous officials in our own governments, who consider themselves and are considered to be “above the law”.

The timing of the new law was full of irony, as it coincided wirh revelations that the U.S. had been spying on Francois Hollande and the two preceding presidents. But the issues it raises are not just of this moment, but rather are of trancendental significance for the future of democratic government under the rule of law.

The draft law itself will now be reviewed by the Conseil Constitionnel, which in France may review the constitutionality of a law before it enters into force. So a chance remains that the Constitutional Council will reject this travesty of a law.

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.