An urban supervision center in Nice, France, received an urgent judicial order Wednesday demanding the agency immediately delete all CCTV recordings of the Bastille Day terror attack in order to avoid uncontrolled dissemination of these images, French daily newspaper Le Figaro reports.
Citing criminal- and penal-code procedures, the Anti-Terrorism Sub-Directorate (SDAT) sent to agents who manage video surveillance for the city a letter asking them to erase the complete 24-hours of images taken from six named and numbered cameras, as well as all the scenes from the beginning of the attack along the Promenade des Anglais on the night of July 14.
The order stunned state agents at the urban supervision center of Nice, Le Figaro reports.
“This is the first time we are asked to destroy evidence,” a source close to the dossier told the newspaper [translated from French]. “The center of CCTV and the city of Nice could be prosecuted for this and also the officers in charge of the device do not have jurisdiction to engage in such operations.”
Friday SDAT sent servers to the agency to recover 30,000 hours of CCTV footage of related events; however, the agency said such a backup operation is lengthy and ongoing, requiring several more days.
“We do not know if giving a destruction order while we are in full backup is not going to curtain the whole system,” the source said [translated].
The prosecutor’s office in Paris confirmed for Le Figaro the destruction order and said it was to prevent the uncontrolled dissemination of images. Among the thousands of CCTV cameras in Nice, 140 had images relevant to the investigation.
Police recovered 100% of the videos from them, the prosecutor’s office told the newspaper. Prosecutors asked for the deletion of pictures from cameras to prevent malicious use by jihadist websites for propaganda purposes and for the sake of the dignity of the victims.
Le Figaro noted that police officers who first reviewed CCTV footage of the event sent a report to the Interior Ministry, followed by a CD of video footage issued upon request and shared with various agencies and officials, including police departments, the national gendarmerie, firefighters and the president.
UPDATE: On Friday, French newspaper Le Monde reported the urban supervision center in Nice refused to comply with the judicial order to delete images of the attack:
Thursday, the lawyer wrote to the SDAT for him to know that the city did not intend, in the state meet this requisition. In this letter, which Le Monde has been copied, it indicates that the data will normally be automatically erased starting Sunday night, as provided by law. Images must indeed automatically be destroyed after ten days, on 24 July, although the law allows them to keep for nearly a month.