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Civil Liberties and the [French] War on Terror:
According to today's New York Times,
  People . . . can be imprisoned [merely] for association with terrorists; a woman has been in jail for nearly a year awaiting trial on charges of knowing of a plot by her son, who is still under investigation.
  Haven't heard about this case? Thinking of calling your Congressman? Not so fast — turns out that this is happening over in France. And as the Washington Post reported earlier this month, such tactics aren't even controversial among the French citizenry:
  Armed with some of the strictest anti-terrorism laws and policies in Europe, the French government has aggressively targeted Islamic radicals and other people deemed a potential terrorist threat. While other Western countries debate the proper balance between security and individual rights, France has experienced scant public dissent over [its] tactics. . . .
  . . .
  France has embraced a law enforcement strategy that relies heavily on preemptive arrests, ethnic profiling and an efficient domestic intelligence-gathering network. French anti-terrorism prosecutors and investigators are among the most powerful in Europe, backed by laws that allow them to interrogate suspects for days without interference from defense attorneys.
  Public debates about the war on terrorism are filled with lots of delicious ironies. The fact that the French government has many powers that are orders of magnitude greater than anything in the Patriot Act surely ranks up as one of the better ones.

  Also ironic is the fact that the French government has had these powers since long before 9/11. Although the French government took advantage of the 9/11 attacks to expand the government's powers in a law passed within a week of the Patriot Act, my understanding is that most of its powers date back to a law passed in 1986.

  It's also worth noting that in the French system, judges don't serve as a check that can monitor potential abuses of the executive branch. Rather, French judges work closely with investigators and themselves are in charge of gathering the evidence:
  Over the past decade, [a single anti-terrorism judge in France] has ordered the arrests of more than 500 people on suspicion of "conspiracy in relation to terrorism," a broad charge that gives him leeway to lock up suspects while he carries out investigations.
  "There is no equivalent anywhere else in Europe. This provision is very, very efficient for judicial rule in tackling terrorist support networks," [the judge] said in an interview. "Fighting terrorism is like the weather. You have high pressure zones and low pressure zones. Countries that have low pressure zones" attract terrorism.
  On this Thanksgiving Day, let's all give thanks that we live in a country that respects civil liberties a lot more than that.