has powerful intelligence agencies and highly sophisticated
capabilities. However, similar to all Western agencies they do not
possess the requisite legal powers, manpower or resources to conduct
highly intrusive and persistent surveillance of thousands of
individuals, many of whom will have never been charged with a crime.
if they did, the public attitude to and willingness to support
blanket surveillance of large segments of the population, plays to
the fears of many who see in that action echoes of George Orwell's
dystopian concept of “thought crime” surveillance.
challenge is to identify which networks of individuals deserve
further attention. In light of recent events, the upswell of public
outrage at the Hebdo attacks, the mass migration to Southern Europe
of refugees fleeing the conflicts in the Middle East, North Africa
and Sub Saharan Africa as well as Eritrea, Somalia and Yemen and a general perception in France that French
society is under attack from within, would it be possible to
speculate that the French are unwittingly considering the creation of the own
Stasi? Albeit in a more benign guise and with best intentions.
Ministerium für Staatssicherheit (MfS) or The Ministry for State
Security commonly known as the Stasi was the official state security
service of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), colloquially known
as East Germany. The service was headquartered in East Berlin and has
been described as one of the most effective and repressive
intelligence and secret police agencies to have ever existed.
of its main tasks was spying on the population, mainly through a vast
network of citizens turned informants, and fighting any opposition by
overt and covert measures, including hidden psychological destruction
of dissidents. Without the aid of modern technology the Stasi in East
Germany ran a network of over 2,000,000 informants and ostensibly had
an entire nation under active surveillance and effectively so.
Buttes-Chaumont Network & the Charlie Hebdo Watershed
protagonists of the Charlie Hebdo attacks were known not just to the
French authorities but to other European authorities and their
counterparts in the United States. It is well known and has been
widely reported that one had travelled to Yemen over a three-year
period and another had been convicted of earlier seeking to travel to
Iraq and that they were both associated with long-established
European jihadist networks.
was part of the "Buttes-Chaumont network" that assisted
would-be jihadists fight for al-Qaeda in Iraq after the invasion in
2003. He was detained in 2005 just as he was about to board a plane
for Syria which at that time was a gateway for jihadists looking to
fight US troops in Iraq. The Kouachi brothers had allegedly attended
a mosque near Buttes-Chaumont, an area of northern Paris, where they
came under the influence of a radical imam called Farid Benyettou.
Cherif's imprisonment between January 2005 and October 2006, he first
came into contact with the man who would become his mentor - Djamel
Beghal. Beghal was sentenced to 10 years in prison in France in 2001
for his part in a plot to bomb the US embassy in Paris. In 2008,
Cherif was again jailed for three years for his role in sending
militants to Iraq, 18 months of the sentence was suspended.
key figure in the Buttes-Chaumont network was Boubaker al-Hakim, a
militant linked to al-Qaeda in Iraq. al-Hakim also recruited
militants to fight in Falluja, an Iraqi city that became an
al-Qaeda stronghold in 2004.
al-Hakim is also wanted in Tunisia
over the murder of two Tunisian left-wing opposition politicians
in 2013 - he claimed the murders in the name of the Islamic State
militant group. A French court jailed al-Hakim for seven years in
action appeared to break up the jihadist network that Beghal,
al-Hakim and Cherif Kouachi had created.
2010 Cherif Kouachi was named in connection with a plot to assist
in the escape of another Islamist, Smain Ait Ali Belkacem, from
A plot hatched by Beghal, according to French anti-terror
Belkacem used to be in the outlawed Algerian Islamic Armed
Group (GIA) and was jailed for life in 2002 for a Paris metro
station bombing in 1995 which injured 30 people.
Original GIA Flag
older Kouachi undertook military training in Yemen in 2011, where
he met the influential preacher Anwar al-Awlaki.
Awlaki was a
senior figure in al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
branch of al-Qaeda that has proven most effective at placing bombs
on Western-bound aircraft, and which claimed responsibility for
the Hebdo attacks.
is important to remember, however, that thousands of people would
have been connected to these very same networks, some of which are
well over a decade old. On top of this, more than 1,200 French
nationals - a large proportion of whom would be previously unknown -
have travelled to Iraq and Syria to fight with Islamic State in the
last few years. About 350 have returned according to unofficial
French authorities and their foreign counterparts, especially those
in Yemen and the US, shared intelligence that might, taken together,
have thrown up insight that the individual portions could not. One
report suggests that France de-prioritized the Kouachi brothers
because Yemen was a US priority, whereas American officials left it
to the French.
is not a member of the US-led Five Eyes intelligence alliance – a
fact which may have contributed to the threat detection failure that
led to the recent attacks.
"Five Eyes", often abbreviated as "FVEY", refer
to an intelligence alliance comprising Australia, Canada, New
Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. These countries
are bound by the multilateral UKUSA Agreement, a treaty for joint
cooperation in signals intelligence.
Click image to enlarge
origins of the FVEY can be traced back to World War II, when the
Atlantic Charter was issued by the Allies to lay out their goals for
a post-war world. During the course of the Cold War, the ECHELON
surveillance system was initially developed by the FVEY to monitor
the communications of the former Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc,
although it allegedly was later used to monitor billions of private
the late 1990s, the existence of ECHELON was disclosed to the public,
triggering a major debate in the European Parliament and, to a lesser
extent, the United States Congress. As part of efforts in the ongoing
War on Terror since 2001, the FVEY further expanded their
surveillance capabilities, with much emphasis placed on monitoring
the World Wide Web.
former NSA contractor Edward Snowden described the Five Eyes as a
"supra-national intelligence organisation that doesn't answer to
the known laws of its own countries". Documents leaked by
Snowden in 2013 revealed that the FVEY have been spying on one
another's citizens and sharing the collected information with each
other in order to circumvent restrictive domestic regulations on
surveillance of citizens.
2013, documents leaked by the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden
revealed the existence of numerous surveillance programs jointly
operated by the Five Eyes. The following list includes several
notable examples reported in the media:
– Operated by the NSA together with the GCHQ and the ASD
– Operated by the NSA with contributions from the ASD and the GCSB
– Operated by the GCHQ with contributions from the NSA
– Operated by the GCHQ and the NSA
– Operated by the ASD, CIA, CSEC, GCHQ, and NSA
the impact of Snowden's disclosures, some experts in the intelligence
community believe that no amount of global concern or outrage will
affect the Five Eyes relationship, which to this day remains the most
extensive known espionage alliance in history.
Emergence of “Boutique” Terrorism
extremists groups based in conflict hotspots have called on
sympathisers in Western countries to take the initiative and plan and
execute terrorist actions locally with little or no external
many people tend to seek to place terrorist attacks into one of two
categories: low-tech, independent operations by individuals ("lone
wolf") or small groups ("wolf packs"), or complex and
large scale operations resourced and commanded by organizations.
last six months has seen a profusion of low-level attacks across
Europe and North America, giving the impression that even slightly
larger attacks - involving higher-calibre weaponry or better
preparation - must represent formal plots by established terrorist
the Hebdo case, the attackers themselves claimed to have been sent by
AQAP, which itself claimed to have "directed" the plot. But
we should treat this claim sceptically. As the Australian
counterterrorism analyst Leah Farrall reminds us, the al-Qaeda
operatives who attacked US embassies in 1998 were given only general
instructions to strike Americans.
leadership learned of the targets while the attack was under way.
This is closer to inspiration or encouragement than direction or
command. This was the model in the Paris attacks, particularly as
AQAP's past plots have been built around advanced bombs rather than
the use of gunmen. Amidst the rise of IS, al-Qaeda - and especially
its Yemeni branch - remains a potent threat for this type of action.
the Paris attacks are not a new kind of terrorism. The use of gunmen,
the seizure of hostages, the focus on screen-time rather than death
toll, and the role played by complex networks of individuals cutting
across different countries and groups have been features of attacks
over the past 50 years. The new challenge isn't the prioritisation of
threats, but the growing mismatch between the number of potential
threats and limited resources.
Structures & Suicidal Tendencies
of the recent plots appear to have been developed without foreign
direction which minimises the possibility of eavesdropping. The
concept of the “terrorist cell” developed in the 1970s to counter
the prevailing intelligence gathering techniques at that time were
difficult, if not bordering on the impossible, to detect.
example in the 1970's the IRA overhauled its internal structures,
greatly reducing the numbers of volunteers who engaged in attacks and
organising them into closed cells, or "active service units",
so that the information any one IRA man would have about the
organisation would be limited to five or six people.
process reduced the numbers of active IRA personnel greatly. At its
peak in the early 1970s, the Belfast Brigade had had up to 1,500
members. By the early 1980s, this had been reduced to about 100 men
in active service units and another 200-300 in supporting roles.
cell structure also increased the control of the Brigade's leadership
over its volunteers, since all weapons were held by one
"quartermaster" attached to each unit and could only be
used for operations authorised by the Brigade leadership.
objective was to preserve high value operatives and their skills for
continued and ongoing use against their targets.
the emergence of the extremist jihadi threat in Europe in recent
years and the seemingly vast pool of resources from which these
groups can draw from – the “cell” structure is used to avoid
detection pre-event but not so much concerned with the preservation
of the “cell”, "lone wolf" or "wolf packs" post event.
Manpower has ceased to be an issue.
plots use more easily available resources, such as firearms rather
than sophisticated explosives, then the challenges faced in
implementing a robust prevention strategy are exponentially greater.
reasons for the decision by the French intelligence services to lift
their surveillance of Said Kouachi after his return from Yemen is not
clearly known. Likely it was based on balancing the perceived threat
from Kouachi versus other competing threats and was also informed by
what initial surveillance of him had yielded post his return to
is a matter of the size of the competing needles in a very large
haystack rather than an example of an intelligence failure or a
systemic problem with the tactics being employed by the French
agencies globally suffer from a modern problem best defined as
“information myopia”*. There is simply too much data available
from too many sources much of which is of questionable value but all
of which ends up in the same “cube” available for analysis.
Extending the remit and sources that are under the surveillance lens
will only exacerbate this problem and will not necessarily lead to
improved security outcomes.
the “cube” of data to be analysed is vast then the sieving
process that is employed is the key to the success of the analysis.
This sieving process though is currently largely based on keywords or
watchwords and prone to error. Unless a would be attacked is
incredibly naïve then most of this processes effectiveness is
analysis too has its pitfalls – simply because someone is a
frequent visitor to sites that would seem to indicate extremism does
not make them an extremist. What about researchers, journalists, the
is reason to think that the French failed to get some information
they ought to have had. The Kouachi brothers had succeeded in
building up a cache of arms in their apartment. Neighbours discovered
that cache, but they were then intimidated into silence.
however, might represent more a failure of local policing - and poor
relations between the local Muslim community and the authorities -
than national intelligence. Nevertheless, assault rifles and rocket
launchers are not easily available in Western Europe, and the French
authorities could reasonably be expected to have had a tighter grip
on the supply networks.
* The terms "myopia" and "myopic" (or the common terms "short-sightedness" or "short-sighted", respectively) have been used metaphorically to refer to cognitive thinking and decision making that is narrow in scope or lacking in foresight or in concern for wider interests or for longer-term consequences. It is often used to describe a decision that may be beneficial in the present, but detrimental in the future, or a viewpoint that fails to consider anything outside a very narrow and limited range. Hyperopia, the biological opposite of myopia, may also be used metaphorically for a value system or motivation that exhibits "farsighted" or possibly visionary thinking and behavior; that is, emphasizing long-term interests at the apparent expense of near-term benefit.
What is the French word for PRISM?
Last December (2014) the French government published a decree enacting an internet surveillance law that was passed a year before. The measure allowed authorities 'administrative access to connection data,' and came into force on the 1st January 2015. The decree, providing French officials with access to data from a wide range of telecom services in the country - including phone calls, text messages and internet access by both private users and operators - was published over the Christmas holidays, France's Le Point reported.
The legislation was passed in December last year, and was a surprise to many as less than two months before it was approved, the country's president François Hollande - during a phone conversation with Barack Obama - expressed his "deep disapproval" at revelations that the NSA had been intercepting millions of phone calls in France, having described it as an "unacceptable practice."
Notwithstanding that comment from 1st January 2015, the French government itself is in control of its residents' connection data, with an "interdepartmental group" being in charge of security interceptions and administrative access, gathering requests for certain data and obtaining it from operators. Departments, authorized to issue data requests, include several branches within the Interior Ministry, the Ministry of Defense and a directorate at the Ministry of Finance.
Laws, empowering state officials to monitor the population by means of communication and information access, have been passed under the flag of protection from the terrorist threat. Powers, granted to the government by the new surveillance law, have been met with protests in France. Before it was eventually enacted, authorities set up an oversight body - National Control Commission for Security Interceptions (CNCIS), which will supervise governmental data control powers. Although it is allowed to oversee documents and information asked to be disclosed to the authorities, it has no power to sanction anyone, or alert any third party of an alleged abuse.
"THIS IS NOT A FRENCH PATRIOT ACT" - Prime Minister Manuel Valls
From the 13th April 2015 French lawmakers spent four days debating a controversial anti-terrorism bill that, if passed, would dramatically expand the government's surveillance powers.
The law's backers describe it as a necessary measure to thwart terrorist attacks, and it has strong support on both sides of the aisle. But the bill has drawn sharp criticism from French internet companies over fears that it could harm business, and from privacy advocates who say it would severely curtail civil liberties.
The proposed law would allow the government to monitor emails and phone calls of suspected terrorists and their contacts, without seeking authorization from a judge. Telecommunications and internet companies would be forced to automatically filter vast amounts of metadata to flag suspicious patterns, and would have to make that data freely available to intelligence services. Agents would also be able to plant cameras and bugs in the homes of suspected terrorists, as well as key-loggers to track their online behavior.
Privacy International, Amnesty International, and other human rights organizations expressed alarm over the bill when it was announced last month, urging Parliament to give it careful scrutiny. It's also been criticized by the National Digital Council, which advises France's government on technological issues, and by several French web hosting companies, which say the threat of constant government intrusion would undermine their business.
Of particular concern is the provision requiring telecoms to automatically filter internet traffic. Under the law, internet service providers would have to install monitoring mechanisms — referred to by the French media as "black boxes" — that would use algorithms to detect, in real time, suspicious behaviors in internet metadata.
The bill's supporters stress that this metadata would remain anonymous and that content of communications would not be automatically swept up, but the behaviors that would constitute a "terrorist-like" pattern are still unclear. Critics say the measure effectively amounts to mass surveillance of web traffic on a disproportionately large scale.
Under the bill, recordings could be stored for up to one month, and metadata for up to five years. France's current data protection laws date back to 1978, and are among the strongest in Europe. "It's a comprehensive data protection framework that applies to both the public sector and all industries," Fabrice Naftalski, a data privacy attorney and partner at the legal firm EY in Paris, says of current French law. "Protection of personal data is a fundamental right."
But the country's counter-terrorism laws haven't been revised since 1991, which was the original impetus behind drafting this bill last summer. The legislation took on a new sense of urgency following January's attacks, when Valls moved to fast-track it for passage by this summer. (A vote is expected early next month.)
It seems 2,000,000 East German HUMINT Stasi assets have been supplanted by 66,000,000 French SIGINT black boxes. Thats progress - at least technologically.
- Perspectives on Terrorism The Modus Operandi of Jihadi Terrorists in Europe by Petter Nesser and Anne Stenersen terrorismanalysts.com/pt/index.php/pot/article/view/388/html
XX Committee: Intelligence, Strategy, and Security in a Dangerous
World – www.20committee.com
al-Jadeed – http://www.alaraby.co.uk/english
Verge – www.theverge.com
Today – www.RT.com
X Network – www.phys.org
Long War Journal – www.longwarjournal.org
Corporate Services – www.tmgcorporateservices.com
Jazeera – www.aljazeera.com
Monitor – www.al-monitor.com
- Le Point
New York Times
Mail on Sunday
Labels: Al Qaeda, AQAP, AQII, Charlie Hebdo, France, GIA, HUMINT, IS, ISIL, ISIS, Islamic State, Kouachi, PRISM, SIGINT, Stasi, Stateroom, Surveillance, Tempora, XKeyscore