Sunday, July 17, 2016

The attack in Nice / Southern France - first conclusions

Dear reader,

just a few months after the attacks in Paris and Brussels another terrible attack against innocent European citizens and visitors from abroad happened.

Although it is again very early and we don't know much about the attacker or the circumstances which led him to commit this horrible crime, it's once again certain that this individual of Tunisian origin has been known to local police for 'petty crimes' whatever they may be. Early unconfirmed indications were brought to my attention that this individual served time for one crime or several offenses and that he was recently released from jail. Again there early indications that didn't affect his residency status as citizen of a third country (non EU).

In general it has to be seriously questioned why criminal individuals with MENA background and almost certain affiliation with radical Islam or it least being susceptible to radicalization are not immediately deported to the countries they came from after they have served their time in jail.
It is also the question why such individuals known for their disrespect for our laws are not scrutinized more thoroughly before they are released or even deported. Additional testing methods have to be developed in order to prevent enraged and possible radicalized individuals from gaining access to assets to be used as weapons later.

Since psychologists can be fooled as well by skilled people it would be recommendable to use additional testing methods based on latest medical techniques regarding detecting distortions in human hormone & brain biochemistry. Of course testing could be done while individuals are being questioned by skilled law enforcement officers.

Although the attacker was shot at the scene he could steer his weapon of choice for quite some distance (about a mile) through a densely populated space. The 'neutralization' of the attacker could and should have taken place much earlier at the entrance of the area which should have been accessible only for pedestrians. The materials used to cordon off the area have also to be scrutinized and a common European standard of disabling possible attacker vehicles has to be implemented. Earlier events such as the attempted attack on the life of the Dutch Royal Family led to a changed policy in the Netherlands for instance. Of course it's a difference between a passenger car of 1-2 tons and a truck of 20-40 tons, so the use of propulsion disabling explosives must also be considered as well as massive reinforced constructions of materials like steel, concrete, carbon fibers, etc. Disabling motor electronics with 'shock weapons' (EMP) should also be considered and US law enforcement districts with some experience with those new tools should be consulted as well as e.g. security experts from Israel which are facing similar threats for longer and will also contribute to security improvements.

Given the mindset of those often troubled young male individuals, not taking additional protection measures against such kind of attacks with motorized vehicles could result in further similar attacks, since others could feel 'inspired' by the 'success' of the mass casualty assault on July 14th 2016. Under no circumstances must future attackers have the feeling that this much more uncomplicated form of terrorism isn't being dealt with properly. And maybe last time's attack, as horrible as it was, was not as bloody as it could have been if the hired truck haven't been just empty.

Strange enough there has been lot of speculation so far whether or not the attacker had jihadist links or ideas and almost no reporting concentrated on the fact that again obviously French security services failed to prevent this from happening by simply putting more efficient road blocks and armor piercing weaponry in place. The simplicity of stopping last mass casualty event with perhaps just a truckload of concrete blocks is mind boggling. Even more so if reports are credible that the driver of truck deceived local law enforcement officers by telling them he had to deliver 'ice cream'. Proper road blocks, demanding written proof/documents and checking the cargo bay of vehicles should be basics of civil protection.

It's not sufficient just to fire those who are responsible for not taking the necessary measures in Nice, but all France and the rest of Europe must be told and trained to follow certain basic protocols which could prevent or at least minimize the impact of such a planned attack. Right now not only is the 'tough talk' by French politicians cheap, but also once again a deception from proper analysis of what actuality did go wrong in the past and taking appropriate measures in the future to stop this.

Right now the obvious inability of politicians and high ranking officers of the security services is at least as dangerous as the twisted-minded attackers themselves. With their negligence they actively support the attackers and endanger the public. It's OK to state that they want to win the fight against terrorism and attackers, without that spirit the struggle would be lost already, but only when their deeds live up to their words ! And those in charge of security operations should perhaps invest less time and energy in trying to figure out what 'inspired' attackers or who 'instructed' them. First and foremost is the duty to think of effective countermeasures under the presumption that all electronic and human surveillance is unable to detect certain individuals or cells. Especially in times where Daesh is suffering losses on the battlefields of Iraq,Syria and Libya a multi-layered defense in Europe is needed asap.

Those layers of security should shift to physically protecting the public by all appropriate measures while maintaining and improving the ongoing surveillance programs and last but not least there needs to be an effective prevention effort. Preventing young, mainly male, individuals from getting radicalized is important to stop the recruitment efforts by Daesh and other jihadist movements . Projects like this one are needed for long term results, but short term protection of our societies mustn't be forgotten either.

Physical protection of the public not only includes measures to take out attackers as quickly and effectively as possible, but also finding technical solutions for short range detection of attackers who will continue to conceal their objectives and weapons of choice. Security would also improve much faster not only when intel is shared between agencies and countries, as is suggested by many politicians, but when existing techniques/programs are taken over from other countries before better ones are being developed.

It should be emphasized again that the security services are not 'blind'
, but individual mistakes at local level, for whatever reason, can result in catastrophic loss of life. Therefore awareness must be present from the presidents or prime ministers office down the local police station in charge of setting up road blocks and ID checks. A 'checklist' of what situation requires what countermeasures in advance and what is to be done once security is breached might also contribute to saving lives as well as constant training, just as in the aviation industry.

        [tweet translation: more than half of the officers deployed in Nice on Jul
         14th were used to regulate traffic]

So once again the French politicians have chosen the 'show effect' or 'quantity' instead of the 'quality' approach. The latter could have been used for 'advertising' purposes as well, the public would have liked to see concrete and viable solutions for a problem, but OK - many politicians' mindset is a precursor for losing this struggle against radicalized mass murderers.

The picture is also getting clearer about whether or not the attacker acted alone ("lone wolf") or had accomplices.

As earlier in Belgium some people who are immediately present on the TV news shows seem to uphold their basic believes no matter that immediately after such attacks there is a lack of information in order to come up with a hypothesis that matches reality. Especially the "lone wolf" scenario along with the "it wasn't radical Islam related":
seems to be very convenient for people who still don't want to believe that we (Europeans / Americans) are at war with these people. Whether we like or not, whether we prefer to go on with our free and leisure oriented societies or not, they want to kill us. The more casualties the better. It's also irrelevant if we want to express how tolerant we are when it comes to religious freedom of expression and especially regarding the Islamic faith, when they consider each and every Muslim not 100% willing to follow them on their warpath also to be their enemy and they kill also "normal Muslims" !

The denial or perhaps really the lack of knowledge of some politicians is quite astonishing and very dangerous:
(regarding "new kind of attack": statement is not correct, see attack on Dutch Royals reference above and some articles in the "related reading" section below. "extreme difficult" is correct when it refers to conventional SIGINT and HUMINT based surveillance, but not necessarily when it comes to "last minute protection measures" )

To be fair to the French government it is worth referring to the latest piece of counter intel & terrorism expert professor John Schindler, who wrote that the French president is closer to reality than the American president:
Hollande Warns What Obama Won’t: Islamic Terrorism Is Real [Observer, Jul 15 2016]

As with any other relatives of individuals accused of violent crimes such murder, we should also be suspicious of all things family members, friends, neighbors say about their detained or killed loved ones or perhaps close friends:

Of course those people want not only to cover up the tracks of the individuals killed or captured, but perhaps they are involved in such plot themselves. Of course it is also possible that parents that haven't seen their sons for years really don't have a clue how their kids radicalized. Those parents have a right to turn a blind eye, the society can't afford to be stupid. As it now emerges that the attacker had some ties to radical Islam, albeit just since a short time, it was clear that he didn't show up on the security services radar screen, which again makes it necessary to invest much more in "last minute/second" prevention measures instead of hoping months or even years of surveillance would be sufficient to prevent such attacks.

Finally the confirmation that this mass murder operation was conducted by a self-radicalized cell, so far under the radar of French security services without links to established terrorist networks:
As other small groups or "lone wolves" could feel encouraged by the fact that neither explosives nor weapons are needed to inflict heavy casualties on 'soft targets' reiterates the need for a rapid shift in anti-terrorists tactics.

Last topic for the time being:

France's Saip emergency smartphone app failed during Nice attack
— Angelique Chrisafis (@achrisafis) July 16, 2016

no comment.

Please note that this blog post was written over a period of several days,starting from right after the attack happened. In the beginning not too much info was available and anger about yet another security failure couldn't be suppressed. As always it's likely that addition info will be added to this blog post as it becomes available.

related reading/additional info:

        All (previous) EZR blogposts re national security

Attentat √† Nice: l'Int√©rieur, accus√© d'avoir exerc√© des pressions sur une polici√®re, porte plainte pour diffamation [RTBF, Jul 24 2016]