Terror in Paris: the security and intelligence response over the next few days

| November 15, 2015

The international community is reeling from the terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday night. Intelligence and security expert Dr Patrick Walsh talks us through what will happen next.

A series of coordinated terrorist attacks across Paris on Friday night involving at least 8 militants wearing explosives and carrying machine guns has to date killed 129 people and injured over 352 more. This is the largest attack in Europe since the Madrid train bombing in 2004 that killed 191. ISIS–the criminal Islamo-facist gang has claimed responsibility though the true identity and affiliation of those involved is still being clarified.

We know that 7 terrorists have been killed and some arrests have also been made in Belgium– though again investigators are still determining the link between them and the Paris attackers. While details are still murky it seems likely that some attackers were French citizens, while others likely entered France from other parts of Europe and the Middle East. Concern has already been raised that one attacker may have entered Greece in one of the many swathes of mass-migrants this year fleeing broken Syria. This poses great challenges for police and security agencies because the documents were more than likely fake and also for policy makers in Paris and Berlin, who have been welcoming large numbers of refugees from the Middle East and Africa. You can expect right wing European parties to make hay out of this.

What will happen in the next few days? Well, like all investigations the first couple of days will be crucial to identifying and preserving any evidence from the attack sites. Efforts will be made to source any DNA, fire arms identifiers and explosives used to check against relevant criminal data bases. A coordinated EU immigration check will already be underway to see if any of the attackers came through air and sea channels or to the extent possible registered as ‘refugees’. In crises like these the police, intelligence and defence agencies of the country involved will be working 24/7, keeping up the intelligence minute by minute to the President of France and relevant ministers. Similarly in other European capitals, relevant intelligence agencies will be combing through their data bases for any chatter and persons of interests that may be involved–however so peripherally.  Australia, the US, and the UK intelligence agencies will also be sharing intelligence with their Paris counterparts.

The Australian response will be similar in that ASIO and the AFP will be running 24/7 on this to assess whether any Australians under watch may have been involved and also to investigate if the attacks were part of a wider global coordinated attack that is to include Australia.  There is no sign yet that this is the case though. The Director of ASIO Duncan Lewis and the AFP Andrew Colvin are now in regular contact with Prime Minister Turnbull, who is in Turkey for the G20 Summit, though the terrorism threat level has not been raised here yet.

There will be pressure on Francois Hollande to act quickly in response to these crimes–to be seen to be in charge. But a cautious and deliberate response will be needed to ensure France can best effectively coordinate its national action with a global operation. G20 provides a good opportunity by world leaders to articulate a plan for a global response that will have more impact than just what France can do alone. The ISIS swamp in Syria and Iraq for starters needs draining. No easy task but you cannot bomb your way to victory, and a larger coordinated special forces response on the ground from multiple nations (not just the US) that can more effectively identify target rich areas for bombers should help. In the end, there are no quick fixes to this war against Islamo-facists. Sadly, our intelligence and security agencies are in this for the long haul and so are the many innocent citizens of liberal democratic countries around the world.

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  1. Max Thomas

    Max Thomas

    November 15, 2015 at 1:02 am

    Paris – Nightmare or new reign of terror?

    The ideas behind the atrocities in Paris are evidently vile and insane, but does anyone seriously believe ideas can be destroyed by the same martial mentality that produces such ideas? "It is an unshakable faith with me that a cause suffers exactly to the extent that it is supported by violence. I say this in spite of appearances to the contrary. If I kill a man who obstructs me, I may experience a sense of false security. But the security will be short-lived. For I shall not have dealt with the root cause. In due course, other men will surely rise to obstruct me. My business, therefore, is not to kill the man or men who obstruct me, but to discover the cause that impels them to obstruct me and deal with it. I do not believe in armed risings. They are a remedy worse than the disease sought to be cured. They are a token of the spirit of revenge and impatience and anger. The method of violence cannot do good in the long run." Mahatma Gandhi.