Europe Criticizes Bush; Follows His Lead in "War on Terror"
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Outgoing U.S. President George W. Bush has been unpopular in Europe, but his policies in fighting the 'war on terror' have found many takers.
Daniel Finke and Thomas Koenig, professors of politics at the University of Mannheim, 500 km south of Berlin, have found numerous similarities between U.S. "homeland security" and European laws since 2001.
"We do not want to attack all EU homeland security policies, but we have found there is a law-making trend across Europe that reduces civil liberties in exchange for more collective security," Koenig told IPS.
Finke and Koenig studied Austria, Britain, Denmark, Germany and Sweden.
The new European laws reducing civil rights range from introducing biometric control devices such as computerised passports and the digital registration of fingerprints to surveillance and storage of all telephone and Internet traffic and transaction data, including bank operations.
Finke and Koenig say the European trend of trading off civil freedoms against homeland security goes against the rights of democratic institutions such as parliaments. "Parliaments are forced to ratify all government decisions in this matter without questioning, and without the right to discuss and eventually reject elements of the laws," Koenig said.
This means, he added, that governments have been turning off the democratic system of check and balances. "On the question of homeland security, we are facing the dismantling of traditional democratic controls."
In a new book Der Terrorist als Gesetzgeber -- Wie man mit Angst Politik Macht (The Lawmaker as Terrorist, or How Politics Foments Fear), Heribert Prantl, a former district attorney in Munich, and now leading editorial commentator at the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, says governments all over the industrialised world have "sacrificed civil rights at the altar of homeland security and the so-called war against terror.
"Inspired by the notion of preventing terror, which pervades U.S. foreign policy under George W. Bush, the new anti-terror laws consider every one of us a potential terrorist," Prantl told IPS. "Until 2001, it was the other way around: if you did not give a reason to be a suspect, you were left in peace. This was called the rule of law. Now laws are taking away our freedoms."
The French watchdog Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) said in a report last month that EU countries have been curtailing the rights of journalists to report freely on political issues. The report says the U.S. is now behind African countries such as Mali, Ghana and Namibia in the world ranking of countries on respecting freedom of information.
Some European countries have been systematically harassing journalists, it says. "France has for the past two years held the European record for police and court interventions linked to the confidentiality of journalists' sources, with five searches, two preliminary indictments and four summonses."
The report condemned particularly the arrest of investigative journalist Guillaume Dasquié by the state intelligence agency Directorate for Territorial Surveillance (DST), and of Bruno Thomas, a reporter for the motoring weekly Auto Plus.
Dasquié was detained by the DST in December 2007 after he published an intelligence report on Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda in July in the Le Monde daily. Dasquié was released after two days of questioning at the DST headquarters in Paris.
Thomas was detained in July 2007 and is still under judicial investigation after he published a report on a new model by French automobile maker Renault that is not yet in the market. Auto Plus editor-in-chief Laurent Chiapello said the matter was "blown out of proportion" and that the journalist was "simply doing his job, that is finding new information to better inform the reader."