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France passes law to widen intelligence service eavesdropping powers

The French parliament has passed a law which will provide state intelligence services with more freedom to eavesdrop. The controversial measure aims to target suspected terrorists.

The law, which was voted on by a simple show of hands from deputies in France's National Assembly on Wednesday, waivers the need for judicial warrants to use an array of spying devices including cameras, phone taps and hidden microphones.

Under the new legislation, French security officials will be able to place clandestine devices in suspects' homes and beacons on their cars without prior authorization from a judge.

Communication and Internet firms will also be forced to allow intelligence services to install electronic boxes to record metadata from all Internet users in France.

Response to Paris attacks

The controversial law has been met with protests from privacy advocates and concern about US-style massive data sweeps. The United States passed a similar law in the form of the US Patriot Act following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

France's ruling socialist government rushed through the bill earlier this year, shortly after the Islamist militant attacks in Paris, in which 17 people were killed over three days.

Despite Wednesday's vote, the law won't take effect, however, until a court rules on whether it abides by France's constitution.

US spying

The news of the decree on Wednesday came as France reacted with outrage to

revelations from transparency lobby group WikiLeaks

that the US National Security Agency had eavesdropped on France's three most recent presidents; Francois Hollande, Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac.

Speaking on French television channel TF1 on Wednesday, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange urged France's leading politicians to launch a "parliamentary inquiry." into the foreign surveillance activity.

The anti-secrecy campaigner also said that other important revelations were in the pipeline.

"I think from a policy perspective, what is to come is much more significant than what we have published so far," Assange said.

ksb/bw (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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