After getting caught breaking its own laws with a mass surveillance program, the French government has introduced legislation that mirrors the NSA's rules, giving it the power to spy on all foreigners — and any French people who happen to be swept up in the dragnet.
It's a disturbing precedent that moves the whole EU closer to unrestricted global surveillance. If cyberwar were a football game, the score would be 400-400 at the end of the first down — all offense, no defense.
If the French Parliament passes this bill, it will mean that France has decided to embody and excuse the same practices as the NSA in its own law. It is a short-sighted attempt to cover France's existing secret practices, but the consequences are far-reaching. The limited protections that were included in the original surveillance bill—including assurances that French journalists, judges and lawyers would be protected from dragnet surveillance—will be undermined by their inevitable inclusion in the vacuuming up of all international traffic.
Any attempt by the EU countries to rein back the NSA's surveillance plan by calls for the United States to respect international human rights standards, and data protection principles, will provoke the response that the U..S is simply exercising the powers that an EU member has already granted itself.
By creating and excusing a double standard France's government dooms everyone to a single, lower standard. It cannot simply shrug off its responsibilities to human rights, its partners in Europe, and the privacy rights of foreigners. If it does so, it will end up undermining the French people's privacy and security as much as it undermines that of the rest of the world.