“Today there is a real risk which is growing” | EUROtoday

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The National Assembly debates on Tuesday and Wednesday a invoice from Renaissance MP Sacha Houlié aimed toward combating international interference. The textual content gives specifically for the creation of a register for “foreign agents” and a strengthening of the prerogatives of the intelligence providers. “In a context where we are observing very strong aggression from authoritarian regimes towards democracies, we need this type of measures,” Sacha Houlié informed France 24.

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While current information in France has been marked by cyberattacks towards a number of ministries, claimed by numerous teams of hackers reputed to be pro-Russian, the deputies are working, Tuesday March 26 and Wednesday March 27, on a invoice from Renaissance deputy Sacha Houlié towards international interference.

The president of the Law Committee of the National Assembly co-signed the textual content along with his counterpart from the Defense Committee, Thomas Gassilloud, and the deputy Constance Le Grip, creator of a parliamentary report on international interference, which notably accused the National Front (now National Rally) of getting been an “effective transmission belt” for the Kremlin.

The invoice intends to determine an obligation for representatives of international pursuits exterior the European Union who foyer in France to register on a nationwide register. An concept impressed specifically by the American Foreign Agents Registration Act, with a regime of felony sanctions for offenders. This register can be managed by the High Authority for Transparency in Public Life (HATVP).

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Sacha Houlié's proposal additionally plans to develop an algorithmic surveillance system launched in 2015 and supposed to determine connections on the Internet, presently restricted to the battle towards terrorism. It can be an experiment, over a interval of 4 years, permitting the intelligence providers to make use of it below the heading of “national independence”, “territorial integrity and national defense”, “interests major aspects of foreign policy”, “the execution of France's European and international commitments” and the battle towards international interference.

Too huge a fringe, in line with the left. “We have been promised that the primary algorithmic management can be on terrorism and that it might by no means transcend this space. And as soon as once more, what was extraordinary, what was reserved for terrorism, is turning into increasingly vital. no extra step on widespread regulation”, points out in particular Bastien Lachaud, deputy of La France insoumise.

France 24: Foreign interference is increasingly present in France. How can we fight against them with the law?

Sacha Houlie : We started from an observation drawn up by the reports of the commission of inquiry led by Constance Le Grip on foreign interference and by the parliamentary intelligence delegation that I chaired from 2022 to 2023: there is today a risk real threat from abroad, and it is growing. These threats are of Russian, Chinese, Iranian, Turkish origin with different signatures: the destabilization of democracies through the manipulation of information, fake news, cyberattacks, but also economic predation on our companies or on our academic knowledge.

What we are proposing is to do three things. That we better understand collectively the interferences, that we accustom the entire environment of the representatives of the nation to better understand what we are exposed to with an annual debate in Parliament on the basis of a report submitted by the intelligence services . It is then a question of being able to know the influences in order to be able to reduce them, thanks to a file bringing together all the people who exercise influence in France on behalf of a foreign power. And if we do not comply with this obligation, the text provides for a sufficiently strong criminal sanction which allows in particular the expulsion of foreign nationals.

The other measures directly concern interference, either to freeze the assets and property of natural or legal persons, companies, institutes, think tanks, or to better monitor them. This will be done using an algorithm which will be applied to telephone connection data to report all suspicious behavior and better identify all the people who are likely to engage in espionage in France.

How will this algorithmic surveillance work?

The principle is based on monitoring the Internet connections of people working for foreign powers who behave in ways that could put us on alert. This surveillance already exists in anti-terrorism matters. The idea is to extend it to foreign interference.

We know very well that an agent can, for example, have a process in which he aims to disappear, not to be recognized. For example, he will book lots of hotels and lots of different transport options on apps. He will then cancel and then repeat the procedure several times to try to disappear in the eyes of the intelligence services. This type of attitude will be recognized as suspicious via an algorithm which will be applied to the connection data.

And rather than manually searching for who is who, who is doing what, this suspicious behavior will be spotted and will help the intelligence services. This is essential because it will save a lot of time. There are a lot of people we would like to follow, but we can't right now.

See additionallyFrench universities going through international interference: a menace taken critically

The left believes that the scope of this surveillance is just too broad and that this poses an issue with regard to public freedoms. What do you reply?

In a context the place we’re observing very sturdy aggression from authoritarian regimes in the direction of Western democracies, we want such a measures. The authorized framework that we wish to create may be very strict. Strict authorization might be required from what is known as the National Commission for the Control of Intelligence Techniques (CNCTR) and the minister or Prime Minister will be unable to override this opinion, except they request an opinion from the Council of State.

I remind you that the aim is to hunt out international brokers who search to destabilize Western democracies. You and I are clearly not involved. This algorithmic surveillance won’t concern everybody.