States are increasingly invoking reasons relating to “national security” as a premise both for the use of various exemptions to the rule of law, as well as in order to avoid their international obligations. As a reaction to the threat of terrorist attacks, in recent years several States have enacted laws that have allowed various exemptions to the rule of law. Prominent among them are surveillance laws providing intelligence services with sweeping new spying and surveillance powers. While it is perfectly legitimate to provide room for security exceptions in order to effectively counter threats such as terrorism, history has revealed that national security is a concept with a significant potential for abuse. The new surveillance laws, coming in the aftermath of the Snowden revelations, therefore raise major questions for International Law. This chapter focuses on the new surveillance laws adopted by France after the 2015 Paris attacks, which are now facing international legal challenges, including several applications lodged with the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), by journalists, lawyers and others. The first part of the chapter discusses how States are increasingly using the “national security” argument in order to enact new laws authorizing cyber-surveillance. The second part of the chapter focuses on the main characteristics of the new French Intelligence Laws and presents, under the prism of International and European Human Rights Law, some of the main legal issues raised by these laws.
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