Are there flaws in security?

Has Europe Left Itself Open To Terrorism?

Since the assaults on Paris and Brussels which shook the continent, officials have been taking a long, hard look at the failures in their security that has revealed troubling dysfunction during a time that modern counterterrorism should have been at its most solid and prepared.

Frontline and ProPublica have sought to uncover the failures in the system that led to such brutal attacks going off without the slightest suspicion. ProPublica shares that most of the attackers and accused accomplices were already residents of Europe, yet were well known to police in their homelands as extremists. Six who took part in the two attacks were wanted on international arrest warrants for terrorism and one for evading parole. In addition, nine were on terrorist watch lists. Two such terrorists surfaced in 2009 while under investigation when suspects were said to be discussing potentially targeting Paris and the exact concert hall where these attackers succeeded in murdering dozens back in November 2015.

Between 2009 and the date of the actual attack, the suspects made their way back and forth from Europe to Syria where they prepared and plotted, repeatedly crossing borders and slipping out the grips of officials. At least 12 were stopped and questioned as well as arrested while making their way across the border. Nothing allowed officials to detain the suspects.

As ProPublica states, European counterterror officials do acknowledge that ISIS was able to exploit several security weaknesses that to this day remain unaddressed.

“”The vulnerabilities, they said, arise from core contradictions in the European Union, where internal borders have been abolished for travel and commerce but impede police and intelligence work.

Jean-Louis Bruguiere of France was a top counterterror judge for the span of two decades and admits there are multiple flaws in the European system. He added that the Paris and Brussels attacks “should have never happened.”

“I don’t know what we are waiting for,” Bruguiere said. “Do we have to wait for hundreds of deaths?”

Critics warn that if political leaders do not create a more effective security system, European countries’ borders will continue to allow the ability for individuals to move freely, and this will result in more attacks.

“If European policy is unresponsive, we will be putting up barriers again,” Bruguiere said. “Nobody wants it, but we will not be able to do otherwise if we are incapable of protecting ourselves. And everyone will barricade themselves and Europe will no longer exist.”

The publication lists the weaknesses that exist in the continent’s security as it is today.

  • Differences in laws and security cultures that hamper intelligence-sharing and law enforcement cooperation among nations.
  • Fragmented and incomplete databases, and the lack of a universal database of terror suspects effectively used and supplied by all European nations.
  • Short prison sentences for terrorism and violent crime that have freed ex-convicts to play prominent roles in the jihad.
  • Limited resources and support for security forces in some nations, such as Belgium and Greece — a weakness that terrorists have studied and exploited.

However, there are some causes of vulnerabilities in Europe that are challenging to address, The integration of Muslim immigrants into the social and economic mainstream of society has been a struggle for almost every European nation. This leads to radicalization being a more popular option for those who find it hard to fit in and adapt as immigrants. The internet era has also become known to defy the traditional law enforcement strategies and ISIS has developed means by which they communicate that go unnoticed due to encryption tools, which are shields against spy agencies.

Director of Europol Rob Wainwright speaks about what needs to happen so that progress and improvements can be made in regard to security across Europe.

“There is a strong consensus. We have to work much more together in the cross-border way. And that includes sharing intelligence as well as understanding the need to pass new European laws.”

[Featured Image by Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images]