Category Archives: France

The Fear of Marine Le Pen: W​ill the Next Political Earthquake Happen in France?

Angelique Chrisafis reports for The Guardian:

Image result for Marine Le PenOn the wall in the new presidential campaign offices of France’s Front National leader Marine Le Pen hangs a portrait of Hollywood tough guy Clint Eastwood. He might seem an odd choice of pinup for Europe’s biggest far-right, nationalist, anti-immigration party, but Le Pen admires Eastwood’s “bravery” in voting for Donald Trump in the US election last month. Dirty Harry, like Trump himself, has become something of a feel-good mascot for the French far-right’s battle for the leadership of the country. Instead of a gun, the ageing but still snarling Eastwood is pointing a blue rose, Le Pen’s new campaign symbol.

Trump’s US victory blew apart any notion of foregone electoral conclusions, leading Paris’s mainstream politicians to warn that the world’s next political earthquake could happen in France. Le Pen winning the French presidential election in five months’ time – something that had always been seen as impossible – would be the greatest shock in postwar European politics.

The panicked warnings carry an element of admission of defeat from France’s mainstream right and left parties. For years, they have shouted that the Front National is a dangerous, racist, xenophobic and Islamophobic party, yet they have been unable to stem its slow, but steady, rise. In fact, all the mainstream parties have borrowed Le Pen’s rhetoric on immigration and anti-terrorism in an attempt to compete. However, as Jean-Marie Le Pen – the party’s founder, a gruff ex-paratrooper and Marine’s father – is fond of saying: “Voters prefer the original to the copy.”

READ MORE…

Europe’s Leaders to Force Britain into Hard Brexit

Toby Helm reports for The Observer:

Image result for hard brexitEuropean leaders have come to a 27-nation consensus that a “hard Brexit” is likely to be the only way to see off future populist insurgencies, which could lead to the break-up of the European Union.

The hardening line in EU capitals comes as Nigel Farage warns European leaders that Marine Le Pen, leader of the Front National, could deliver a political sensation bigger than Brexit and win France’s presidential election next spring – a result that would mean it was “game over” for 60 years of EU integration.

According to senior officials at the highest levels of European governments, allowing Britain favourable terms of exit could represent an existential danger to the EU, since it would encourage similar demands from other countries with significant Eurosceptic movements.

READ MORE…

Steve Bannon’s Dream: A Worldwide Ultra-Right

Christopher Dickey and Asawin Suebsaeng write for The Daily Beast:

[…] Bannon’s support for European far-right parties runs far deeper than his interest in Marion Maréchal-Le Pen or the National Front. He brags about his international Breitbart operation as “the platform” for the American alt-right, and has for years been thinking globally, with an affinity for the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), Alternative for Germany (AfD), and the Party for Freedom Party (PVV) in the Netherlands, all of which have earned glowing coverage on the pages of Breitbart.

But the election of Bannon’s man Donald Trump as president of the United States has made the globalization of Breitbart and its message infinitely more plausible than it ever was before, and politicians once considered Europe’s deplorables are now rushing to bask in the gilded glow of Trump and Bannon.

On Saturday, Britain’s Nigel Farage, whose blatant and acknowledged lieshelped convince his countrymen to opt out of the European Union in the Brexit vote, visited the president-elect in his eponymous Fifth Avenue tower. 

Farage emerged from the meeting looking like he’d just won the jackpot at one of the pre-bankruptcy Trump casinos, suggesting that the new president’s “inner team” was not too happy with Tory Prime Minister Theresa May, since she’d been skeptical of Brexit before the vote. Would that “inner team” be Bannon? In our post-factual world, maybe we can say, “People say…”

READ MORE…

MPs Deliver Damning Verdict on David Cameron’s Libya Intervention

Patrick Wintour and Jessica Elgot report for The Guardian:

David Cameron’s intervention in Libya was carried out with no proper intelligence analysis, drifted into an unannounced goal of regime change and shirked its moral responsibility to help reconstruct the country following the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, according to a scathing report by the foreign affairs select committee.

The failures led to the country becoming a failed a state on the verge of all-out civil war, the report adds.

The report, the product of a parliamentary equivalent of the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war, closely echoes the criticisms widely made of Tony Blair’s intervention in Iraq, and may yet come to be as damaging to Cameron’s foreign policy legacy.

It concurs with Barack Obama’s assessment that the intervention was “a shitshow”, and repeats the US president’s claim that France and Britain lost interest in Libya after Gaddafi was overthrown. The findings are also likely to be seized on by Donald Trump, who has tried to undermine Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy credentials by repeatedly condemning her handling of the Libyan intervention in 2011, when she was US secretary of state.

READ MORE…

US Response to 9/11 Seen as Driving Force in Spread of Terror

Jason Ditz writes for Antiwar:

While within the United States, there is still plenty of willingness to use the 9/11 anniversary as a time for politicians to make public appearances and give hawkish speeches praising America’s “unity” in reaction to the attacks, internationally there is growing willingness to be more circumspect about the results.

France, which has found itself a primary target for ISIS terror attacks, increasingly sees the US reaction to 9/11 as the instigating cause of that, with several high-profile analysts and top officials saying that the post-9/11 interventions led to an “era of instability” of which much of Europe, including France, has been a victim.

French President Francois Hollandeechoed this sentiment, noting that the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 led to the creation of ISIS, and that even though (France’s then-President) Jacques Chirac refused to participate in the war, France has become a main target for ISIS.

READ MORE…

France to send heavy artillery to Iraq in fight against ISIS

Al Jazeera reports:

French President Francois Hollande has said that France will send heavy artillery to Iraq to support the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Hollande announced the plan on Friday, saying the artillery equipment “will be in place next month”.

Ground forces will not be deployed in the country, Hollande said, following a high-level security meeting in Paris, his fourth since the ISIL-claimed lorry attack in Nice on July 14, which killed 84 people.

The president also reiterated that the French aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle would be deployed in the region in late September to help in ongoing operations against ISIL, also known as ISIS.

READ MORE…

A Third of Nice Truck Attack’s Dead Were Muslim, Group Says

Alissa J. Rubin and Lilia Blaise report for The New York Times:

When a Tunisian man drove a truck down a crowded street in Nice last week in an attack claimed by the Islamic State, more than one-third of the people he killed were Muslim, the head of a regional Islamic association said on Tuesday.

Kawthar Ben Salem, a spokeswoman for the Union of Muslims of the Alpes-Maritimes, said that Muslim funerals were being held for at least 30 of those who died during the Bastille Day attack, including men, women and children.

The Paris prosecutor’s office, which handles terrorism investigations, said on Tuesday that all 84 people killed in the attack had been formally identified, meaning that the number of Muslim fatalities may be even higher. The number of people who were wounded was also raised, to 308 people.

READ MORE…

Nice Attack: A Mass Murderer Becomes a ‘Terrorist’ Based on Ethnicity, Not Evidence

Jim Naureckas writes for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting:

Truck used in Nice attacks (photo: Andrew Testa/NYT)[…] Despite the absence of any evidence of a political motivation, or indeed any motive at all—generally considered to be a key part of any definition of terrorism—the New York Times story still referred to the Nice killings as “the third large-scale act of terrorism in France in a year and a half.” The killings, Higgins wrote, “raised new questions throughout the world about the ability of extremists to sow terror.”

Why is the Times willing to label the Nice deaths “terrorism”—a label that US media do not apply to all acts of mass violence, even ones that have much clearer political motives (FAIR Media Advisory, 4/15/14)? In part, they seem to be following the lead of French authorities: “French officials labeled the attack terrorism and cast the episode as the latest in a series that have made France a battlefield in the violent clash between Islamic extremists and the West.”

But quotes from French officials made it clear that such claims were little more than guesswork: The story reported that Prime Minister Manuel Valls “said the attacker in all likelihood had ties to radical Islamist circles,” citing Valls’ statement to French TV: “He is a terrorist probably linked to radical Islam one way or another.” Later Valls is quoted noting that the attack happened on the French national holiday of Bastille Day.

READ MORE…

After Nice, Don’t Give ISIS What It’s Asking For

Murtaza Hussain writes for The Intercept:

Not much is yet known about Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, the 31-year-old man French police say is responsible for a horrific act of mass murder last night in the southern city of Nice. In the wake of the killings, French President Francois Hollande has denounced the attack as “Islamist terrorism” linked to the militant group the Islamic State. Supporters of ISIS online have echoed these statements, claiming responsibility for the attack as another blow against its enemies in Western Europe.

While the motive for the attack is still under investigation, it is worth examining why the Islamic State is so eager to claim such incidents as its own. On the surface, ramming a truck into a crowd of people gathered to watch Bastille Day fireworks seems like an act of pure nihilism. No military target was hit. Initial reports suggest that the killings may lead to French attacks on ISIS’s already-diminishing territories in Iraq and Syria. And French Muslims, many of whom were reportedly killed in the attack, will likely face security crackdowns and popular backlash from a public angry and fearful in the wake of another incomprehensible act of mass murder.

But the Islamic State’s statements and history show that such an outcome is exactly what it seeks. In the February 2015 issue of its online magazine Dabiq, the group called for acts of violence in the West that would “[eliminate] the grayzone” by sowing division and creating an insoluble conflict in Western societies between Muslims and non-Muslims. Such a conflict would force Muslims living in the West to “either apostatize … or [migrate] to the Islamic State, and thereby escape persecution from the crusader governments and citizens.”

READ MORE…

Bastille Day Attack: Is the War on Terror a ‘Self-Fulfilling Prophecy’?

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez speak with Palestinian-American playwright Ismail Khalidi in Nice and French human rights and civil liberties activist Yasser Louati in Paris, about the Bastille Day attack that left more than 84 dead in Nice. (Democracy Now!)

Why Terrorists Keep Succeeding in France

Leonid Bershidsky writes for Bloomberg:

France is in the line of fire. Of the 16 terrorist incidents that took place in Western nations this year, five were in France, including the deadliest one — Thursday’s apparent lone wolf attack in Nice, which killed at least 84 people.

A little more than a week before the attack, a commission set up by the French parliament gave its version of the reasons for France’s endangered state in a massive report. Apart from an objective threat the country faces thanks to its colonial past and a failure to integrate North African immigrants, it also suffers from inadequate policing.

“All the French citizens who struck within the nation’s territory in 2015 were known, in one capacity or another, to judicial, penal or intelligence services,” the report says. “They have all been on file, watched, listened to or incarcerated along their path of delinquency toward violent radicalization.”

READ MORE…

Francois Hollande Calls for Expansion of ISIS War to Include Syrian al-Qaeda Affiliate Nusra Front

AFP reports:

French President Francois Hollande called on Saturday for international action against an al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, warning that the recent losses sustained by the Islamic State (IS) group could embolden other militant groups.

“Daesh [an Arabic acronym for IS] is in retreat, that is beyond dispute,” Hollande said after a meeting with the leaders of the US, Germany, Britain, Italy and Ukraine on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Warsaw.

But Hollande added: “We must also avoid a situation whereby as Daesh becomes weaker other groups become stronger.”

Hollande singled out al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front as particularly standing to benefit from the US-led military campaign against its arch-rival IS.

READ MORE…

French PM Capitulates to EU Pressure on Labor Laws Risking His Own Presidency: Interview with Renaud Lambert

Sharmini Peries speaks to Renaud Lambert of Le Monde Diplomatique who says Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission came to France to endorse Hollande and his decree on restrictive labor reforms. (The Real News)

France Fears Brexit Will Harm Regional Military Power

Jason Ditz writes for Antiwar:

French DM Jean-Yves Le Drian made a last minute appeal to Britain to remain in the EU right before last night’s vote, in which Britain ultimately decided to leave the union, Le Drian’s argument was primarily a military one, arguing Britain would be “weaker” without the EU, and the EU would be weaker without Britain.

Other French officials are also expressing concerns about that, now that the vote is in, noting that Britain and French represented the biggest military forces in the EU, and saying they believe post-Brexit Britain might start looking to cut military spending at any rate.

Britain and France also have extremely close military ties, to the point where during discussions on austerity measures, the two had discussed the possibility of “sharing” an aircraft carrier as a way to cut down on expenses.

READ MORE…

French President Threatens to Outlaw Protests Against Labor Reforms

Sharmini Peries speaks to Le Monde Diplomatique’s Renaud Lambert, who says social movements and the government are locking horns but Prime Minister Manuel Valls and President François Hollande have both said that they will not budge. (The Real News)

Obama Sees Not Intervening Even More in Libya as ‘Worst Mistake’ of Presidency

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

Asked about the “worst mistake of his presidency” in a new interview, President Obama insisted it was the lack of further military intervention in Libya after imposing regime change on the nation in 2011, which he still insisted was “the right thing to do.”

Obama made similar comments last month about Libya, at the time bragging that the $1 billion war was “very cheap,” and blaming Britain and France for not doing more in the aftermath, saying British PM David Cameron “got “distracted.”

READ MORE…

The Scariest Thing About Brussels Is Our Reaction To It

Simon Jenkins writes for The Guardian:

[…] Textbooks on terrorism define its effects in four stages: first the horror, then the publicity, then the political grandstanding, and finally the climactic shift in policy. The initial act is banal. The atrocities in Brussels happen almost daily on the streets of Baghdad, Aleppo and Damascus. Western missiles and Isis bombs kill more innocents in a week than die in Europe in a year. The difference is the media response. A dead Muslim is an unlucky mutt in the wrong place at the wrong time. A dead European is front-page news.

So on Tuesday the TV news channels behaved like Isis recruiting sergeants. Their blanket hyperbole showed not the slightest restraint (nor for that matter did that of most newspapers). The BBC flew Huw Edwards to Brussels. It flashed horror across the airwaves continually for 24 hours, incanting the words “panic”, “threat”, “menace” and “terror”. Vox pops wallowed in blood and guts. One reporter rode a London tube escalator to show possible future targets, to scare the wits out of commuters. It was a terrorist’s wildest dream.

With the ground thus prepared, the politicians entered on cue. France’s President Hollande declared “all of Europe has been hit”, megaphoning Isis’s crime. His approval rating immediately jumped.

David Cameron dived into his Cobra bunker and announced the UK “faces a very real terror threat”. An attack is now “highly likely”, according to the security services. Flags fly at half-mast. The Eiffel Tower is decked in Belgian colours. President Obama interrupts his Cuba visit to stand “in solidarity with Belgium”.Donald Trump declares that “Belgium and France are literally disintegrating”. It is hard to imagine what could more effectively promote the Isis cause.

Osama bin Laden set out on 9/11 to depict western nations as feckless and paranoid, their liberalism a surface charade easily punctured. A few explosions and their pretensions would wither and they would turn as repressive as any Muslim state.

READ MORE…

How Politicians Duck the Blame for Terrorism

Patrick Cockburn writes for The Independent:

[…] There has always been a disconnect in the minds of people in Europe between the wars in Iraq and Syria and terrorist attacks against Europeans. This is in part because Baghdad and Damascus are exotic and frightening places, and pictures of the aftermath of bombings have been the norm since the US invasion of 2003. But there is a more insidious reason why Europeans do not sufficiently take on board the connection between the wars in the Middle East and the threat to their own security. Separating the two is much in the interests of Western political leaders, because it means that the public does not see that their disastrous policies in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and beyond created the conditions for the rise of Isis and for terrorist gangs such as that to which Salah Abdeslam belonged.

The outpouring of official grief that commonly follows atrocities, such as the march of 40 world leaders through the streets of Paris after the Charlie Hebdo killings last year, helps neuter any idea that the political failures of these same leaders might be to a degree responsible for the slaughter. After all, such marches are usually held by the powerless to protest and show defiance, but in this case the march simply served as a publicity stunt to divert attention from these leaders’ inability to act effectively and stop the wars in the Middle East which they had done much to provoke.

A strange aspect of these conflicts is that Western leaders have never had to pay any political price for their role in initiating them or pursuing policies that effectively stoke the violence. Isis is a growing power in Libya, something that would not have happened had David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy not helped destroy the Libyan state by overthrowing Gaddafi in 2011. Al-Qaeda is expanding in Yemen, where Western leaders have given a free pass to Saudi Arabia to launch a bombing campaign that has wrecked the country.

After the Paris massacre last year there was a gush of emotional support for France and little criticism of French policies in Syria and Libya, although they have been to the advantage of Isis and other salafi-jihadi movements since 2011.

READ MORE…

Troops Trickle in as West Prepares for Libya War

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

Last week, major French newspaper Le Monde reported that the French government is engaged in a “secret war” in Libya, and has deployed special forces already. The Pentagon has also talked about its own presence in Libya, and Britain is understood to have some special forces there as well.

The numbers keep growing, and other assets for a Western war in Libya, which officials have been publicly championing for months, are being moved into place. It’s only a matter of time until the “secret war” becomes a public one, but how long?

READ MORE…

Report: French Troops Engaged in ‘Secret War’ in Libya

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

A major new report broken by France’s newspaper Le Monde today revealed that the nation has been engaged in a secret war in Libya, in which French special forces have been carrying out “covert action” strikes against ISIS and other factions with the backing of Britain and the United States.

French President Francois Hollande is said to have authorized an “unofficial military action” in Libya at some point after the November ISIS attacks in Paris. France also established a military base in northern Niger, along the Libyan border, to facilitate the offensive. Le Monde confirmed that the troops have been in Libya at least since mid-February.

The French Defense Ministry refused to officially confirm or deny whether they are engaged in any secret wars in Libya, but would say that they are launching a formal investigation into the leaks which led to the story breaking in Le Monde.

READ MORE…

RSF Report: 110 journalists killed in 2015, most in ‘peaceful’ countries

Middle East Eye/AFP reports:

A total of 110 journalists were killed around the world in 2015, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said on Tuesday, noting that while many died in war zones the majority were killed in supposedly peaceful countries.

Sixty-seven journalists were killed in the line of duty this year, the watchdog group said in its annual roundup, listing war-torn Iraq and Syria as most dangerous places for journalists with 11 and 10 fatalities respectively, followed by France, where eight journalists were killed in an assault on a satirical magazine.

A further 43 journalists around the world died in circumstances that were unclear and 27 non-professional “citizen-journalists” and seven other media workers were also killed, RSF said.

The high toll is “largely attributable to deliberate violence against journalists” and demonstrates the failure of initiatives to protect media personnel, the report said, calling for the United Nations to take action.

In particular, the report shed light on the growing role of “non-state groups” – such as the Islamic State group – in perpetrating atrocities against journalists.

In 2014, it said, two-thirds of the journalists killed were in war zones. But in 2015, it was the exact opposite, with “two-thirds killed in countries ‘at peace'”.

READ MORE…

France’s Far-right National Front fails to win a single region, but reaches historic score

Young, Muslim and targeted: Paris in a state of emergency

French police have reportedly made 1,800 raids and made many arrests since the Paris attacks on 13 November 2015. The Guardian’s Iman Amrani meets with French Muslims that have been affected by the security crackdown, including political commentator Yasser Louati, rapper Médine and children in the suburbs who lost their teacher in the Bataclan theatre massacre. (The Guardian)

Western Firms Primed to Cash in on Syria’s Oil and Gas ‘Frontier’

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Insurge Intelligence:

US, British, French, Israeli and other energy interests could be prime beneficiaries of military operations in Iraq and Syria designed to rollback the power of the ‘Islamic State’ (ISIS) and, potentially, the Bashar al-Assad regime.

A study for a global oil services company backed by the French government and linked to Britain’s Tory-led administration, published during the height of the Arab Spring, hailed the significant “hydrocarbon potential” of Syria’s offshore resources.

The 2011 study was printed in GeoArabia, a petroleum industry journal published by a Bahrain-based consultancy, GulfPetroLink, which is sponsored by some of the world’s biggest oil companies, including Chevron, ExxonMobil, Saudi Aramco, Shell, Total, and BP.

GeoArabia’s content has no open subscription system and is exclusively distributed to transnational energy corporations, corporate sponsors and related organisations, as well as some universities.

Authored by Steven A. Bowman, a Senior Geoscientist for the French energy company CGGVeritas, the study identified “three sedimentary basins, Levantine, Cyprus, and Latakia, located in offshore Syria” and highlighted “significant evidence for a working petroleum system in offshore Syria with numerous onshore oil and gas shows, DHIs (direct hydrocarbon indicators) observed on seismic, and oil seeps identified from satellite imagery.”

READ MORE…

Coalition or Cold War with Russia? Interview with Stephen Cohen

John Batchelor talks to Stephen F. Cohen, Professor Emeritus of Russian Studies and Politics at NYU and Princeton, and he is a contributing editor to The Nation. He is also the author of Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives: From Stalinism to the New Cold War. Cohen suggests that powerful forces are working against a post-Paris coalition between Russia and European nations lead by France against the Islamic State. (John Batchelor Show)

Obama to Hollande: Stay the course against Russia

Michael Crowley reports for Politico:

obama_francois_hollande_AP.jpgWhen President Barack Obama hosts French President François Hollande on Tuesday, he’ll have more on his agenda than demonstrating solidarity against terrorism. He’ll also be working to make sure Hollande sticks with the international effort to punish and isolate Vladimir Putin for his aggression in Ukraine.

Privately, Obama officials say they are concerned about whether key European leaders are prepared to extend sanctions on Moscow, which expire in late January. And they are wary of any effort by Putin — who will host Hollande in Moscow later this week — to link events in Syria and Ukraine. The fear is that Putin might try to trade more aggressive Russian action against the Islamic State for France’s backing in reducing or ending the sanctions.

A premature end to sanctions in Europe “is always our worry,” said Evelyn Farkas, who served until last month as the Pentagon’s top official for Russia and Ukraine. “They can’t back away from sanctions. Ukraine is a separate situation” from Syria.

READ MORE…

Frankie Boyle: This is the worst time for society to go on psychopathic autopilot

Comedian Frankie Boyle writes for The Guardian:

There were a lot of tributes after the horror in Paris. It has to be said that Trafalgar Square is an odd choice of venue to show solidarity with France; presumably Waterloo was too busy. One of the most appropriate tributes was Adele dedicating Hometown Glory to Paris, just as the raids on St-Denis started. A song about south London where, 10 years ago, armed police decided to hysterically blow the face off a man just because he was a bit beige.

In times of crisis, we are made to feel we should scrutinise our government’s actions less closely, when surely that’s when we should pay closest attention. There’s a feeling that after an atrocity history and context become less relevant, when surely these are actually the worst times for a society to go on psychopathic autopilot. Our attitudes are fostered by a society built on ideas of dominance, where the solution to crises are force and action, rather than reflection and compromise.

If that sounds unbearably drippy, just humour me for a second and imagine a country where the response to Paris involved an urgent debate about how to make public spaces safer and marginalised groups less vulnerable to radicalisation. Do you honestly feel safer with a debate centred around when we can turn some desert town 3,000 miles away into a sheet of glass? Of course, it’s not as if the west hasn’t learned any lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan. This time round, no one’s said out loud that we’re going to win.

READ MORE…

 Will Paris Melt the New US-Russian Cold War? Interview with Stephen Cohen

Stephen F. Cohen and John Batchelor continue their weekly discussion of the new East-West Cold War. Accelerating a trend already evident as a result of the Syrian crisis, according to Cohen, the savage terrorist acts on Paris almost immediately resulted in a French-Russian military alliance against the Islamic State in Syria, with French President Hollande and most of Europe dramatically breaking with the Obama Administration’s nearly two-year-old policy of “isolating Putin’s Russia” over the Ukrainian crisis. (The Nation)

How US-Backed Intervention in Libya Spread Chaos to Nearby Mali: Interview with Nick Turse

Amy Goodman speak to Nick Turse, author of Tomorrow’s Battlefield: U.S. Proxy Wars and Secret Ops in Africa and journalist for TomDispatch and The Intercept. This interview with Turse was recorded earlier in November with the segment on Mali republished in light of the hostage crisis in Bamako, Mali. (Democracy Now!)

From Paris to Boston, Terrorists Were Already Known to Authorities

map-3Ryan Gallagher reports for The Intercept:

Whenever a terrorist attack occurs, it never takes long for politicians to begin calling for more surveillance powers. The horrendous attacks in Paris last week, which left more than 120 people dead, are no exception to this rule. In recent days, officials in the United Kingdom and the United States have been among those arguing that more surveillance of Internet communications is necessary to prevent further atrocities.

The case for expanded surveillance of communications, however, is complicated by an analysis of recent terrorist attacks. The Intercept has reviewed 10 high-profile jihadi attacks carried out in Western countries between 2013 and 2015 (see below), and in each case some or all of the perpetrators were already known to the authorities before they executed their plot. In other words, most of the terrorists involved were not ghost operatives who sprang from nowhere to commit their crimes; they were already viewed as a potential threat, yet were not subjected to sufficient scrutiny by authorities under existing counterterrorism powers. Some of those involved in last week’s Paris massacre, for instance, were already known to authorities; at least three of the men appear to have been flagged at different times as having been radicalized, but warning signs were ignored.

In the aftermath of a terrorist atrocity, government officials often seem to talk about surveillance as if it were some sort of panacea, a silver bullet. But what they always fail to explain is how, even with mass surveillance systems already in place in countries like France, the United States, and the United Kingdom, attacks still happen. In reality, it is only possible to watch some of the people some of the time, not all of the people all of the time. Even if you had every single person in the world under constant electronic surveillance, you would still need a human being to analyze the data and assess any threats in a timely fashion. And human resources are limited and fallible.

There is no doubt that we live in a dangerous world and that intelligence agencies and the police have a difficult job to do, particularly in the current geopolitical environment. They know about hundreds or thousands of individuals who sympathize with terrorist groups, any one of whom may be plotting an attack, yet they do not appear to have the means to monitor each of these people closely over sustained periods of time. If any lesson can be learned from studying the perpetrators of recent attacks, it is that there needs to be a greater investment in conducting targeted surveillance of known terror suspects and a move away from the constant knee-jerk expansion of dragnet surveillance, which has simply not proven itself to be effective, regardless of the debate about whether it is legal or ethical in the first place.

READ MORE…