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France needs intelligence overhaul after attacks: inquiry

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France needs intelligence overhaul after attacks: inquiry
Photo: AFP
08:42 CEST+02:00
A French parliamentary inquiry has concluded the Bataclan attack could not have been avoided and demands an overhaul of France's intelligence services to better fight the threat posed by terrorism.

A parliamentary inquiry set up following the Paris terror attacks of November 13th made its conclusions public on Tuesday.

After 200 hours of hearings and 190 interviews, the inquiry, which was aimed at trying to work out just how the attacks of November and January, which left 147 dead, were able to take place, finally published its conclusions on Tuesday.

In all lawmakers made 39 recommendations for how France can best avoid another devastating terror attack in the future - firstly by calling for an overhaul of the country's intelligence services.

Intelligence bosses had admitted to the inquiry that the two attacks represented a "global intelligence failure".

"Facing the threat of international terrorism, we need to be far more ambitious than we currently are in terms of intelligence," the inquiry's leader Georges Fenech said, before recommending a national counter-terrorism agency be set up.

“We have seen during our trips abroad that neither the head of the Israeli, Greek or American intelligence services were able to identify their French counterpart in charge of counter-terrorism,” said Fenech.

The agency would have a central database based on the American model Tide (Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment).

'Our country was not ready'

“I am wholly behind the proposition to create a national counter-terrorism agency,” he said. “It would be directly attached to the head of state and would have a common database for all those bodies involved in the fight against terrorism,” he said.

 "Our country was not ready, now we must get ready," he told AFP.

France has numerous intelligence services with the police, the gendarmes military police, the army  and the internal intelligence services the DGSI all playing a role.

Fenech, an MP with Les Republicains party pointed to the case of Charlie Hebdo gunman Said Kouachi to highlight the problems in French intelligence services.

Kouachi like many of those involved in the terror attacks was known to French intelligence services. He was placed under watch by authorities in Paris, but when he left the capital it was the job of the country's internal intelligence services the DGSI, to take over.

They ended their surveillance six months before Kouahci launched a bloody attack on Charlie Hebdo with his brother Cherif.

"We can see that the absence of the continuation of one single intelligence service can have grave consequences," said Fenech.

The MP also concluded that those intelligence services operating in the country's prisons need to up their game.

'Limited impact from state of emergency'

The cross-party inquiry also concluded that France's ongoing state of emergency, which was imposed on the night of the Paris attacks, had limited impact on security.

France's Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve has insisted the state of emergency, which saw thousands of homes raided and hundreds placed under house arrest, was necessary.

But rights groups denounced the draconian measures and now the inquiry believes it has done little to improve security in France.

"The state of emergency has had an effect, but it seems to have quickly diminished," said Socialist MP Sébastien Pietrasanta, who authored the inquiry's concluding report.

The inquiry also questioned the benefits of Operation Sentinelle, which was put into action after the January 2015 attacks at Charlie Hebdo and the Jewish supermarket.

The operation has seen thousands of soldiers deployed to protect schools, synagogues, department stores and other high risk sites like transport hubs.

"Eighteen months after the start of operation Sentinelle, which has involved 10,000 men including 6,000 to 7,000 soldiers, I question the real added value in providing security in the country," Pietrasanta said.

Pietrasanta believed the attack on the Bataclan could not have been avoided, despite the theatre being subject to previous terror threats.

Do we need three different SWAT units?

Pietrasanta said that the intervention of security forces on the night of November 13 -- when a team of Islamic State gunmen and suicide bombers struck bars, restaurants, the national stadium and Bataclan concert hall, killing 130
--  had been "fast, effective and showed they were capable of working together."

However, he questioned the merits of having three different specialised units, the paramilitary intervention group GIGN, the police unit RAID and another elite police force specialising in hostage situations, the BRI.

 

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