Incomplete call to overhaul French intelligence

A parliamentary inquiry has found that the recent terror attacks in France, including the most lethal one that killed 130 people in Paris on November 13, 2015, resulted from a “global intelligence failure.” French lawmakers made 39 recommendations with a view to improving national intelligence and preventing future similar terrorist attacks. They also envisaged the grouping of all the relevant counter-terrorist units inside each French intelligence agencies into a same unique counter-terrorist agency.

For instance, parliamentary inquiry’s President Georges Fenech said, Israeli and American counterparts have been unable to identify a clear French counterpart in charge of counter-terrorism, although there are actually multiple Israeli and American officials in charge of counter-terrorism too. As a result, the creation of a single counter-terrorist service could be something unprecedented in a major western country as French lawmakers want it to “be directly attached to the head of state (and having) a common database for all those bodies involved in the fight against terrorism.” In fact, this call to overhaul French intelligence services could be untimely in the coming months considering the magnitude of the current terrorist threat.

Furthermore, the lawmakers’ main recommendation has too little regard for the difference between domestic and foreign intelligence, thus their differences in the field of judicial authority. Lastly, lawmakers should have stressed more on the need for more “outreach intelligence” at home – like what former Central Directorate of General Intelligence (Renseignements Généraux) did before a vast reform engaged by former President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2008. Also, the challenge posed by the absence of real European – or national – borders whereas terrorist groups have taken advantage of the large influx of “migrants” still makes French intelligence in charge of a “mission impossible”.