In France, A Balancing Act Between Liberty And Security : Parallels It has been a year since the attacks on the offices of a satirical magazine and a kosher supermarket in Paris that left 17 dead. The city paid tribute to their memory Thursday.
NPR logo

In France, A Balancing Act Between Liberty And Security

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/462230399/462230400" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
In France, A Balancing Act Between Liberty And Security

In France, A Balancing Act Between Liberty And Security

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/462230399/462230400" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

2015 saw the deadliest attacks on French soil since World War II. And they began one year ago today, when gunmen stormed the Paris offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and began a three-day killing spree that would claim 17 lives. Just 10 months later, armed Islamist radicals struck the city again, killing scores of people at cafes and at a concert hall. President Francois Hollande says France is again at war. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports on how a country that's long stood for individual freedom is trying to balance liberty with a need for security.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

PRESIDENT FRANCOIS HOLLANDE: (Speaking French).

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: In his traditional New Year's Eve address, President Francois Hollande told the French they aren't finished with terrorism. The threat is still there, he said, and it's at its highest level ever. We are regularly thwarting new attacks. To fight terrorism, Hollande said the French government would seek to amend the country's constitution to make it easier for the president to impose states of emergency in the future. The state of emergency allows police to conduct searches and seizures and detain people at any time, without a warrant. Hollande also wants to modify the constitution to enshrine a proposal long associated with the far right, stripping convicted terrorists with dual citizenship of their French nationality. The proposals have caused a political uproar. But in today's France facing terror in its streets, the lines between left and right have blurred. Constitutional law professor Didier Maus says the debate is similar to that in the U.S. over the Patriot Act.

DIDIER MAUS: (Through interpreter) So we must find a middle place between what is acceptable in the name of fighting terrorism and what is impossible in the name of defending liberty.

BEARDSLEY: All week, French TV has aired riveting documentaries detailing the attacks. They show some stunning security failures. When police arrived at Charlie Hebdo, the killing had not yet started. But officers were unaware that the controversial newspaper was located in the building, even though it had been firebombed four years earlier for republishing Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. And one of the two Charlie Hebdo attackers was supposed to be under police surveillance, but authorities lost his trail when he left Paris for another French city.

JEAN DE MAILLARD: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: Former terrorism judge Jean de Maillard says France has good intelligence but doesn't have the manpower to keep track of individuals once they're identified as potential threats. Hollande has promised more police and judges, and Charlie Hebdo's new editor now has five bodyguards. On Tuesday, a plaque to the victims was unveiled near the offices of Charlie Hebdo. Train driver Gilbert Oudinet (ph) came to see it. He says France is grasping for ways to deal with a new reality of jihad and terrorism.

GILBERT OUDINET: (Through interpreter) I think people are pushed to extremism because of a lack of jobs and misery. Taking away their nationality won't solve the problem. We have to offer jobs and hope for people to live on.

BEARDSLEY: Oudinet says that would cost a lot less than paying all these soldiers and police to protect us. NPR News, Paris.

Copyright © 2016 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.