Thank you for welcoming today in Kansas City. It’s a real pleasure and an honor to have the opportunity to express myself before such a distinguish audience on a so crucial issue, namely the terrorist threat for this country and the other, stemming from Al Qaida and the radical islamist groups it inspires. I would like equally to address another issue, how the United States and the European Union, especially France have dealt and still deal with the terrorist threat which is a priority on the states ‘political agenda. We will then assess the extreme value of the international cooperation in the implementation of an effective counter terrorism strategy. Actually, International cooperation, given the features of the islamist threat, which is nowadays, scattered and globalized and, therefore more than difficult to grasp by a sole state, must be considered as the corner stone of any robust response to the terrorist threat.
The Christmas Day incident has confirmed this statement, highlighting the acuteness of such a threat. Al Qaida continues actually to challenge the world. To achieve its goal, it constantly develops, with the support of cells or individual whatever they are, sharing its same conception of the global Jihad, a deadly strategy against the US and western countries. In that scope, UK and France-especially after the allegiance sworn by the Algerian GSPC ( Salafist Group for Preaching and Fighting) to Al Qaida- are top of the list of the states targeted by Ousama Ben Laden organization and its associates. The suicide bomber who killed seven C.I.A officers demonstrates also the will and the ability of Taliban and Al Qaida’s militants to strike against American pursuers including in the core of their operational base, such like the CIA’s Forward Operating Base in the South-Eastern province of Khost.
Apart those terrorist operations, Al Qaida and its associates increase the figures and the intensity of their attacks around the world, in Afghanistan and in Pakistan where the security situation is worsening and is falling in a staggering increase of terrorist violence, including in the core of Pakistan, in Yemen, the new stronghold of Al Qaida from where it launches operations against the Arabic Gulf and the West. Up to now, it expands its activities in Africa, with the support of the so called “Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb” (AQIM), the new appellation of the GSPC after it swore allegiance to Al Qaida. We should equally stress the concerning situation in the Russian Caucasus and in the Central Asia. In fact, no region in the world is today spared the islamist threat.
Since September 11 2001, the fight against terrorism inspired by Al Qaida is a priority for the United States, a crucial issue which is the top of the political agenda of the White House.
The new administration has not changed its view in that domain. President Obama in his inaugural address recalled the danger posed by terrorism for the United States and the democratic order and reasserted the will and the commitment of the US in – and I quote him “defeating who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents”. Such a statement is shared by all the member states of the European Union and especially by France which has always committed itself in that path.
Fighting against terrorism is a common challenge on both side of the Atlantic. Carrying out that task within the framework of the law is an adamant requirement. Because there is neither actual opposition nor discrepancy between seeking efficiency and having regard for the law. Nevertheless, fighting efficiently against terrorism requires a real political will, adapted and effective legal means and the implementation of a strategy dedicated to this aim. As far as it is concerned, France has always considered that to place the fight against terrorism within a legal framework is a basic premise. And whatever the circumstances we have never yielded to temptation to resort to special legal means.
States which have given in the lure of law- and- order strategies, have implemented counter attack procedures situated outside the legal field. Such an approach, which plays in the hands of terrorism, is politically questionable and inefficient in the long run. Don’t fall in the trap of Al Qaida which incites western countries confronted to an escalating terrorist violence to over-react, without any pre-established plan, with occasional measures which may have as a consequence to violate our basic values.
The Bin Laden’s dream wouldn’t be to induce a large-scale confrontation between Muslims and non Muslims, an apocalyptic clash of civilizations which would help him in setting up his worldwide Caliphate. To achieve his goal, he adapts its strategy to its operational means – which have been partly destroyed-, the international context, and the geo-political data from which he might derive a benefit. Umar Faruk Abdulmatallab, the young Nigerian who tries to blow up the plane heading to Detroit has not been ordered by Oussama Ben Laden to do it. But last Sunday, he endorsed the failed attempt and threatened new attacks against the US. However neither Ben Laden of his Lieutenants had any operational links with the Nigerian nor even knew in advance of the Christmas plot. But he takes an actual advantage of this incident for his propaganda. This failed terrorist attacked which –as stated by the President Obama “was a screw-up that could have been disastrous”- has as consequence to induce a political dispute within the US and to drive the President to assail intelligence failures and finally to weaken the US administration.
Coming back to the terrorist counter strategy, the French White Paper on Domestic Security against Terrorism has developed a genuine doctrine for dealing with terrorism issue which stresses on its legal approach: “In the fight against terrorism – we can read in the Preface- our democratic principles are our best weapon. Our strength lies in our tolerance, our respect for civil liberties, and our respect for the identities that our country has always defended. To renounce the values would to play into the terrorists ‘hands. To give in to the temptation to change our standards would be to begin to lose the fight. So let us remain faithful to our values: they are our greatest strength in our fight against terrorism”.
The United States had to change some of the most disputed methods of the Bush’s administration, some of which having been already challenged by the Supreme Court. So, the President Obama, the day after taking the oath of his office, signed two executive orders to end the secret CIA’s program using harsh interrogation methods and to, direct the closing of the Guantanamo prison despite unsolved question raised by this decision. These legal constraints added to political considerations enhanced by the Christmas incident and the killing of C.I.A officers in Afghanistan by a suicide bomber, might, as a consequence, to postpone the effective closedown of the camp.
But the unique goal, the common task remains to defeat terrorism, to deal together on both side of the Atlantic with this scourge. For all that, the combat against terrorism has to be led resolutely, without any weakness or concession, even if it means standing for some infringements of individual rights or freedoms. And to adopt a wait-and-see or a lax attitude towards terrorist network, would jeopardize our liberties, the main of them being safety, physical safety and property one as well.
In this domain, European Union has few responsibilities because the security policy and activities of intelligence services still lie with the competence of each Member state – even within the framework of the Lisbon Treaty adopted and which is in force since the 1st December 2009.
So, there is no real common policy in Europe to tackle terrorism: different legislation, different approaches of the issue, despite many European initiatives and legal frameworks especially after the Madrid and London bombings, in order to reinforce the fight against terrorism.
The globalization of terrorist threat from islamist origin has actually used of the adversary’s weakness and from rights granted by democratic order including in Europe. For example, Islamist fighters were instructed in Afghanistan before 2001 to use Shengen Zone given the absence of border controls and a European mechanism to make easier extradition process.
It’s only after September 11 attacks in the US, that the EU Council of Ministers have adopted in June 2002 a framework decision on the European Warrant of Arrest. In addition, the locally operating loosing conglomeration of jihadist militants operating in Europe is seeking to benefit from the discrepancy between the different Member States approaches of the terrorist threat and legislation. Therefore it is being keen on taking advantage of this lack of community sense.
France, as far as it is concerned, having been targeted by different terrorist organizations for more than 30 years, have developed over years, in the course of the evolution of the threat, a strong and efficient legal system to prevent and prosecute those suspected to be implied in terrorist activities, even though such activities pertain to logistic support without any established link with a definite bombing plan.
In fact, the French response to terrorism is mainly judicial, because the Justice system is the secular arm allowing a legal crackdown on terrorist activities. And it is a matter of fact that the French response to terrorism has proved its efficiency protecting the country from any bombing attacks since 1995, despite several attempts which have been foiled.
As stated before, in my presentation, I will focus on the role played by international cooperation in the fight against terrorism and in particular by the transatlantic one. For many years – before September 11 – we have set up a strong partnership with our US counterparts (Intelligence community, FBI and DOJ) based on trust and on the common understanding of the adamant necessity to tackle firmly terrorist threat. And in this common goal we have been successful.
But, our counter terrorism system having been shaped by the evolution of the threat, especially that issued from radical islamist movements, it seems necessary to make first, some brief remarks on the evolution of the threat prior to address the transatlantic cooperation perspective, all the more, that France has been confronted early, in the beginning of the nineties, with Algerian Islamist organizations, namely de G.I.A, which are the stirrings of Al Qaida threats.
Radical islamist threat issued by Al Qaida and the groups which follow in its footsteps are composed of networks and cells scattered all over the world without any central command. So that, it is difficult, indeed quite impossible to figure out the phenomenon, all the more that the different components of the threat are evolving. In this unprecedented context, each State has one part. The operational features of Al Qaida and its associates look like a jigsaw puzzle. Each partner through intelligence means and law enforcements investigations collects some pieces. But it is necessary to put all the pieces on the table to grasp the whole picture. That the reason why international cooperation is an adamant requirement if we want to perform a worldwide efficient counter terrorism strategy.
1- Evolution and typology of the islamist threat evolving in the wake of Al Qaida
First of all, let us see the typology and the evolution of the islamist threat, that of Al Qaida and the radical islamist networks and cells evolving in its wake.
The radical islamist threat is the product of a complex, sinuous and protean evolution, the features of which having never been meeting before.
The Islamist terrorism came into being from the ruins of the cold war in Egypt with the Gama’at Islamya involved in the first attack against the World Trade Center in New York, in Indonesia with Jama’ah Islamya and in Algeria with the “G.I.A “ (Armed Islamist Group)
September 11 attacks are not an historical incident nor a fortuitous event, but the result of a gradual and sinuous evolution which has born at the beginning of the 90’s.
The West, after the collapse of the communist world, has dreamt of a new age, an age of prosperity, security and freedom. But that was ignoring other realities.
The post-communist era has actually opened on a world divided, antagonistic where nationalist or ethnical tensions were making easier the emergence of totalitarian, reducing and full of hatred ideologies.
Islamist threat promoted by Al Qaida and other radical salafist organizations is in fact a response to globalization of the democratic pattern, globalization of the free-market economy, but overall globalization of the democratic pattern. The spreading of such pattern embodied a deadly danger for rogue states and radical ideology as well.
The Iranian nuclear program does not only stem from a populist platform. It also intends on preventing the Islamic regime to be at risk in an uncertain surroundings.
For Al Qaida, aware of this adamant evolution of the world, the unique response consists in promoting a violent and worldwide Jihad against democratic countries and those which support them. Such movements are no longer connected to any states except Al Qaida with the Taliban regime before 2001. However Iran, in its confrontation with the western countries, support, in an underhand way, members of Al Qaida as well Shiah organizations, like Hezbollah, in their terrorist activities
France was affected very early on by radical Islamist violence, with the emergence of the GIA, a radical Salafist organization with the same ideology and the same strategy than Al Qaida.
Stemming from political upheavals in Algeria after Islamist parties were banned in 1992, GIA and other radical Islamist groups went underground.
They set up in Europe and more specifically in France, clandestine networks of logistical and financial support. These clandestine structures, with a direct connection to the Algerian maquis were lead by Mujahidin who had undergone military training in Afghanistan’s camps
The G.I.A leaders then developed a full of hatred ideology and strategy targeting Algeria and France. French citizens were kidnapped and slaughtered in Algeria. In the same time sleeping cells set up in France were very active. These are the cells activated for the attacks perpetrated in France in 1995, especially in the metro network.
This deadly wave of attacks sponsored by G.I.A were preceded six months earlier by the hijacking of an Air France plane ensuring regular flights between Algiers and Paris.
But it wasn’t any ordinary hijacking: the commando was supposed to crash the plane into Paris, probably on the Eiffel Tower, which is a symbolic monument, just like the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York.
This G.I.A strategy foretold very clearly Al Qaida’s: the export of terrorist violence to the western World and the use of aircraft as weapon of massive destruction.
Let us remember : at the same period, Gama’ah Islamya and Islamist Jihad headed by Doctor Hayman El Zawahiri carried out weekly in Egypt attacks and bombings against police forces and tourists as well. And in 1993, the same Egyptian organization carried out the first bombing against the World Trade Center in New York. G.I.A and Gama’at Islamya were connected to Al Qaida and in 1998, Ayman El Zawahiri joined Ousama Ben Laden organization. But this evolution of the threat has not been actually taken into account on both side of Atlantic.
Similarly this evolution revealed that Al Qaida and the organizations sharing its strategy favored suicide attacks for their main operations, although this behavior doesn’t appear in the Sunnite tradition. We know the place held by this operating mode in the attacks perpetrated by Islamist networks since 2003.
At the same period, French counter terrorism services had their attention drawn to the Afghani tropism over young immigrants as well as native French citizen converted to Islam living in urban suburbs. It appears that the militant of Jihad linked to G.I.A has been sucked up by that developing trend, the core of which was not Europe anymore, but the Pakistan-Afghan Zone. Such an evolution emphasize the key role played by “the Land of Jihad” in the spread of the influence of Al Qaida’s propaganda and its strategy: Afghanistan, Bosnia before Dayton agreement, Kosovo, Cashmere, Chechnya and Iraq. Afghanistan and Pakistan have recovered this place nowadays, especially in the tribal zones.
This in fact concealed an in-depth metamorphosis of the radical islamist trend which developed outside of the European area with unheard structures and new methods and targets.
That phenomenon raised concern on the point of triggering a specific investigation I led personally.
Our investigations on this new phenomenon enabled us right from 1996 to uncover the earliest stirrings of Al Qaida networks and that United States was targeted
The Ressam case, better known as the “Millennium Bomber” was the most significant. Starting at that time with a fake passport trafficking, we detected a worldwide network led by Ahmed Ressam who had planned to carry out an attack at Los Angeles airport during the transition to the year 2000. Right to October 1999 – two months before he has been arrested by chance by a US custom officer on the West Coast, -it was obvious that this network, connected to Al Qaida, was planning an attack on the US soil. The first after the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993.
Actually, this attempt foresaw a next and stronger strike from Al Qaida. In the fall of 1994, the G.I.A hijacked a French schedule flight and six months later embarked on a sery of deadly bombing attacks in France. G.I.A and Al Qaida followed the same strategy.
Such as the Airbus hijacking, the “Millennium Bomber” case represented a strategic step: to confront the US within its borders , and so, was more significant than the attack against the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000 , or the two bombings attacks in Kenya and Tanzania the year before. But such an evolution in the strategy of Al Qaida has been notably under assessed.
The same, the struggle against G.I.A has been often perceived outside of France as a bilateral issue between France and Algeria and not as a terrorist phenomenon. In fact only states that have experienced terrorist bombings are conscious of the reality of that threat. That was not the case of the US before 2001. That’s not still the case of some European countries which are still reluctant of carrying out any efficient counter-terrorism strategy and, therefore are hampering the implementation of a European counterterrorism policy.
After 2001, the war in Iraq had a deep impact on the evolution of the Islamist threat. Since the end of 2002 and the beginning of 2003, before the military operations in Iraq, under the effect of a strong propaganda carried out by satellite TV channels and websites, we have had to face up in France, to a significant increase in the recruitment of new candidates of Jihad, composed of North –African young Muslim living in France but also of numerous French-born young men and women convert to Islam. So, we have stated that during this period radical Islamist members have risen about 30 percent.
Iraq have played a new and unprecedented role: its strength of attract members of Jihad located outside, in particular in Europe was much more important than for the previous Jihad zone.
Moreover it has deeply reshaped the outlines of the threat and re-orientated the strategy of the Islamist networks. These cells and networks are much more scattered, very mobile, and more responsive to personal and geopolitical data. They don’t comply with definite rule and doesn’t obey a centralized command center. In addition these new recruits are much more radical than their elder. In particular, they are willing to carry out suicide operation, in Iraq and outside. In the first stage, these European candidates for Jihad have been used by Abou Moussab El Zarkaoui in Iraq as cannon fodder, and later in 2005 were instructed to promote Jihad in Europe. So, the prospect of suicide attacks in Western counties is no longer a mere speculation.
Today the matter of concern is not Iraq any more but the Pakistan- Afghan zone and the Maghreb as well, with the emergence of a new organization connected to Al Qaida so called “Al Qaida in the Maghreb Countries” (AQIM).
It is the result of a formal allegiance between the chief of the GSPC (Algerian Salafist Group for Preaching and Fighting) and Osama Ben Laden. This new organization has several goals. It aims at destabilizing the Maghreb area and the Sahel countries as well, but also at carrying out terrorist operations in Europe and especially in France. In addition, AQIM reinforced its operational capability in the Sahel region thanks to the support provided by Mauritanian Islamist militants who have set up a strong operational base in Mauritania. From this stronghold, that branch of AQIM planned to extend its activity into Western Africa. It is now recruiting members in Senegal and has established operational connections with cells in Niger, some of which are suspected of links with radical islamists in Nigeria, the home of course, of Abdulmutallab, the man charged in Christmas Day bombing attempt.
Indeed, this is a visible sign of the increasing role of Africa as a breeding ground for terrorism. This striking evolution posed an unprecedented threat for Northern Africa, Europe and the US. Because, given the previous contacts that some members of these organizations might have with relatives and friends living in Canada, such an evolution could be a matter of concern for the security of the US, all the more that the border between Canada and the US is particularly porous.
As a conclusion, the Islamist threat is before us and not behind. The Christmas plane incident and the very last bombing in Baghdad as well as other attacks, bombings in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen or Africa bring in light that we should reinforce our counterterrorism capacities. That notably means that international cooperation must be strngthened. France, as far as it is concerned, is, like the US, fully committed in that path.
2- Counter terrorism strategy: the transatlantic cooperation in the French legal system.
Let’s examine at this stage the French counter terrorism system and the key role played by the international cooperation, notably with the US.
Confronted since the seventies by various terrorist threats, France has reinforced its legal means and its judicial system in order to cope with that threat, especially in 1986, after a bloody terrorist attacks carried out in Paris by the Hezbollah. Already, at that time, terrorist bombings imported in France by organizations from the Middle East demonstrated that they have operational connections in many third countries. A new situation which needed more international cooperation.
Moreover with the White Paper on Domestic Security against terrorism made public in March 2006, the French Government has, for the first time, developed a genuine doctrine for dealing with the terrorist threat that France has had to face many times in its history. France wanted to go further and formulate a comprehensive security strategy for several reasons.
The first reason is that the threat to our country has never been so great. Since the Madrid and London attacks, it is obvious that Europe is clearly a target and notably France with the threat made by AQIM. The second one is that we are facing a strategic threat, targeting our interests all over the world, as demonstrated by the attacks in Karachi in May 2002. The last one is in relation with the new typology of the threat which is constantly changing. So that, we must set up a comprehensive strategy.
To achieve this goal, the White Paper highlights the need of an increasing international cooperation within Europe but also with our other partners, especially the US. In that scope transatlantic cooperation plays a major role. It has been developed for years and reinforced since 2001. Such cooperation is meeting in Intelligence but also in law enforcement and judiciary as well.
Intelligence is the cornerstone of any efficient fight against terrorism. Because, we consider that Terrorism is not “a war”, but an asymmetric confrontation, Intelligence resources plays in France a crucial role. Intelligence agencies are, in fact, the spearhead of a global system implied in the prevention of the terrorist threat. It is composed of the intelligence body but also of the National Anti Terrorist Division of Investigation and of a genuine judicial system dedicated to the fight against terrorism.
This system composed of a body of prosecutor and a team of height magistrates of investigations ( Juges d’instruction) in charge of terrorist case. In France, Magistrates of investigation have at their disposal considerable legal means. A system unknown in the US. As an Investigator, the judge conducts terrorist case – the same, US prosecutor do it in the US-, but as a judge he has the judicial capability to issue by his own, warrant of arrest, warrant of search or seizure. He can also charge suspects – the equivalent of the indictment issued by a Grand Jury. Moreover he can ask the International cooperation in issuing International Letter of Request ( Commission Rogatoire Internationale). In addition the magistrates of investigation acting in terrorism case have a national and international jurisdiction.
As the Chief of this Judicial Anti Terrorist Team, I have personally issued hundreds of International Letter of Request to foreign countries, in Europe and in other continent, and especially to the US. Cooperation with my counterparts in the US played a specific role especially after September 11, 2001. On the basis of the Mutual Legal Assistant in Criminal Matters Treaty (MLAT) entered into force in 1999, I have issued a great number of requests and received in return basically the same figures of MLAT requests.
We consider in France, that to be effective, a judicial system for counter- terrorism must combine a preventive element, whose objective is to prevent terrorists attacks and a repressive elements, to punish those who commit attacks as well as their organizers and accomplices.
The French system follows its logic. But its originality and strength lie in the fact that the barrier between prevention and punishment is not airtight. Our legal criminal system, which is adamantly different from the “common law” one, makes easier the cooperation between Intelligence and the Judiciary. So that it is admissible in the French system to use Intelligence leads in the course of criminal proceedings. Such legal capabilities have largely facilitated the setting up of a proactive strategy aiming at disrupting in advance any attempts of terrorist attacks.
Moreover, to support this strategy, the French Penal Code allows prosecuting those who are suspected to be implied in logistic or financial activities which a terrorist group might benefit from. This specific provision called “ Criminal Association” in terrorist activities, enables the legal system to intervene before an attack is prepared .It is thank to this law that terrorist networks, logistical cells and peripheral structures that surround them, can be dismantled.
As stated above, the application of this offence requires an exchange between magistrates and intelligence services. It requires in the same time a high capacity in sharing information with our foreign counterpart. As far as I am concerned, I have provided the US with a great collection of documents, statements and pieces of information required by my partners, FBI or US prosecutors. In return, US authorities gave to my office information and documents issued from criminal proceedings or intelligence sources. On both side of Atlantic, criminal investigations in terrorist matter could have been brought to a successful conclusion, thanks to this cooperation.
In particular, my office, through an efficient exchange of information and pieces of evidence with the US Attorney in Colombus (OHIO) facilitated the course of a terrorist investigation concerning an Al Qaida sleeping cell implies in a terrorist plot against the US after September 11. Another investigation I conducted in 2003 on a French citizen recruited by the Pakistani Lashkar E Tayyiba organization has established an operational link between the French militant and three other cells, one in Australia, the second in UK and the last in the US, in Virginia. The latter has been dismantled by the FBI and the members of that cell, all US citizens who have joined the LeT organization, were arrested and trialed. The same, the US, provided the D.S.T, the French counter terrorism service, with critical information concerning the Djerba bombing attacks investigation, This bombing, ordered by Al Qaida and carried out unde the supervision of Khalid Cheikh Mohammed, was the second major terrorist attack of Al Qaida after September 11. The target was an old synagogue in the Tunisian island of Djerba.
So, consolidating our Penal System was a priority. Because we think that our counter-terrorism system must continue to adapt. Many steps have been put into action, in Judiciary and law enforcement – as stated above- but also in Intelligence. We have already point out the crucial role played by intelligence. In fact. I can say that Intelligence is the linchpin of any relevant and efficient counterterrorism strategy.
In order to anticipate the terrorist threat , the French authorities have identified seven scenarios of terrorist attacks. The global terrorist threat could produce highly varied kinds of attacks that our country must be able to counter. But, because the terrorist threat is globalized, such scenarios might be relevant for our foreign partners, especially for the US which are on the forefront of the threat. That the reason why Transatlantic cooperation is essential to protect our common security.
The seven scenarios are as follows: a campaign of bomb attacks spread out over a long period, multiple simultaneous attacks, like those carries out in Mumbai, diversified cross-border attacks make easier within the Shengen Zone, radiologic attack, chemical attack, infectious biological attack and lastly attempt to divert a nuclear attack. Those scenarios are not a mere speculation. My office conducted in 2002 a worldwide criminal investigation concerning a terrorist cell which has been trained in the Caucasus by both Abou Moussab El Zarkaoui organization and a Chechen network . Their goal was to carry out a chemical bombing attack in France with a cyanide product. In addition they have purchased in the Caucasus black market, two radioactive tubes containing cesium which previously belonged to the former soviet army arsenal, in order to make a dirty bomb. Fortunately, they didn’t succeed to achieve their plan.
This list of potential scenarios is not exhaustive. Other threats could be carried out by terrorist groups or taken into account by the counter terrorism system, notably in analyzing terrorists operations which have happened in a third country.
Our goal must be to prevent risks and threats through surveillance, detection and neutralization of potential terrorists. A pro active strategy is intending to achieve this objective. International cooperation allows collecting the missing pieces of the jigsaw puzzle of the terrorist web.
To be as effective as possible, the activities of the various specialized counter-terrorism agencies require close cooperation.
Since September 11, 2001 attacks, the US have been moving to restructure their intelligence coordination agencies. The US created the post of “Director of National Intelligence” under the US President, and in 2003 the National Counter Terrorism Center was established. In UK, at the same period, the authorities put in place a new inter-agency terrorism analysis structure the Joint Analysis Centre (JTAC). Its goal is to centralize, analyze and evaluate all terrorism-related information, both on British territory and abroad.
In France the President Sarkozy has created recently the “ Conseil National du Renseignement” ( National Council of Intelligence) to define the French anti terrorist strategy and to better control the activities of the different counter terrorism agencies.
Moreover, European Union took initiative after the March 2004 Madrid attacks. A Terrorist Threat Analysis Center was created in the Situation Center ( SITCEN). This Situation Center, which France actively contributes to, establishes a threat assessment based on sources provided to it by intelligence agencies, military, diplomats and the law enforcement services. In addition, the head of international security agencies of several European countries meet in the context of the “Club de Berne”, an informal forum for exchanging information in area as counter-espionage, counter- proliferation, organized crime and terrorism.
But, actually,these European initiatives have few operational effects.
At the Transatlantic level information exchange on threat analysis and operational perspective take place mostly at a bilateral level. But a multilateral lead-intelligence-exchange on terrorist threat between the US and some Member States has been put in place recently. The goal is always the same: strengthening cooperation between intelligence agencies and making more robust analysis and use information on an operational level shared in an international context.
Although the Transatlantic cooperation especially between Intelligence services be satisfactory, data sharing in real time remains a cause of concern, in particular in the USA situation which has been highlighted by the Christmas plane incident. The failure of the US intelligence community to prevent this bombing attempt is not due to the failure of any individual or department but of the system itself. One of the problems of America’s counter-terrorism strategy involves information collection through satellites drone, wiretaps and other communication scanning by the National Security Agency and other US intelligence agencies. Too much data kills operational information. Given the features of the threat, the outlines of which are constantly evolving, evaluation of that threat depends on a flexibility of mindset that can match this viral behavior, allowing a prompt and adapted response. In that context transatlantic cooperation can enhance the level of efficiency, in providing data which might be able to put in light other information which would have been neglected.
Technical Intelligence sources can’t be a panacea, the linchpin of an efficient counter- terrorism system. Human sources are usually more effective than technical ones because motives and opportunities to act are very hard to read from a distance through opaque data. Satellites cannot get inside the mind of a jihadist.
Al Qaida and its associates are a global enterprise broken up into autonomous and worldwide cells. Each national agency, local police force or foreign intelligence agency has a piece of the puzzle. That is why the single most important task is to develop the joint capacity to share all the information collected, to put all the pieces of the puzzle on the same table.
The United States need a new approach with new tools and methods. In that perspective, it is crucial to improve the circulation of information in real time. Often it is a small, apparently trivial sign lost in the avalanche of data that forewarns a coming threat. The more trained eyes are on information, the more likely that sign is to be read. If all the data collected in the US and in Europe concerning Moussaoui Zaccharia has been properly shared and assessed, his terrorist activity at the eve of September 11 attacks could have been discovered earlier.
Moreover the US federal system often serves to impede communication. Local police forces are generally reluctant to cooperate with federal agencies. This was noted when looking back on the lead-up on the September attack but still has not been effectively resolved. In fact the situation has not been improved since, because of the massive size of the proliferating post September 11 agencies.
In order to remedy the lack of cooperation and foremost of sharing information in real time collected in the field, it might be appropriate to create in each state at the level of the county a joint-police unit composed of the representatives of all the local police forces, whose task would be to gather all the pieces of information or clues likely to be linked to a terrorist activity. These pieces of information would be later gathered by the “Joint Terrorism Task Force” before being sent to the National JTTF which became a focal point for information sharing and the management of all related-terrorist-data that involves multiple partners. The idea is to improve collection of relevant data in the field in creating an intermediary level between local police forces and the regional “Joint Terrorism Task Force” and therefore, to prevent a loss of operational information. Such action appears to be all the more necessary, that the US legislation- unlike the French one- prohibits identity control of individual who do not have infringed the law.
In the Transatlantic cooperation, the same sensitivity should be applied on data sharing.
I will say in conclusion that the new outlines of the threat, its specific features and the fact that we are facing a worldwide scourge should prevents us from having national and egocentric approach of the threat. Al-Qaida- related networks which are very responsive to any political and geopolitical situation take advantage of such a situation and of egocentric conception
We consider that the military approach of the fight against terrorism is not relevant except in a war context, like in Afghanistan. Intelligence is the spearhead of this fight. But law enforcement and Judiciary are the sole legal tools to neutralize those who are intending to confront our countries and to put our values at risk. In an efficient system, all the actors implied in this task must work together. The relationship between intelligence, law enforcement and Judiciary as well is an adamant requirement. Same, International cooperation must be improved. The transatlantic partnership is crucial. It is the backbone of the global response to the terrorist theat.
September 11 attacks made the US aware of the need to transform their approach from reactive to proactive, from response to prevention. That was the strategy we have promoted since the beginnings of the 90’s, when we have been confronted to the GIA.
The US and the UK as well are also aware of the necessity to build a bridge between Intelligence agencies and their law enforcement services. On May 2004 the Ministers for Justice and Home Affairs from the G8 countries and the European Commission met in Washington and discussed the need for enhancing information sharing, especially in combating terrorism. They adopted a set of recommendations to strengthen sharing national security information in the course of criminal proceedings and encouraged member states to improve their capacities for using and protecting national security intelligence information in criminal terrorist cases, while giving due regard to civil liberties and fundamental principles of law, such as the right to a fair trial.
That’s the challenge we are facing together, in the US and in EU as well, in this difficult fight.