The US Intelligence community, including their three main branches in Washington are rather busy these days to overlook the security implications in Europe within their definition of Counterterrorism analysis. In fact, their analysis is realistic and sobering: All three main intelligence branches predict further attacks of the model “Paris” ahead. They predict even a rising trend.
All three main-branches of US intelligence say that there have never been, in Europe, so many militarized, well-trained, battle-tested, and radicalized young men as there are now. But all three agree also, that no one has the tools, to prevent such terrorist attacks; they claim that this is mostly due to the harm Edward Snowden has done to their capabilities, when he revealed much about the technical supervision carried out by the US.
Some would argue that US intelligence wants to gain political capital out of a tragedy and justify their actions. But, possibly, this is not entirely true. Snowden could be seen as a hero only because millions of people in Europe did not believe the threat in Paris was real. They did not believe or were totally ignorant of the fact that activities commonly attributed to Al Qaida and ISIS were real, because they considered US intelligence a constant threat to their personal freedom. Maybe this last proposition is also true. Nevertheless, one could assume that most of the people who are manifesting these days on the streets of Paris because of the latest terrorist attack are the very same people who believed in 2013 that Edward Snowden was a hero, because he had stolen vital information from the NSA – the world’s most important monitoring tool to track down terrorists, before they kill you. We now have two symbolic and shared views by many in the west, on how to deal with the Islamist terror – Snowden is a hero and ‘I’m Charlie.’ However, they are not compatible. You cannot have it both ways.
A unnamed US Intelligence officer said yesterday in Washington: “Snowden has blinded us simply. No one can say that we would have stopped terrorists from Paris before Snowden. But it was much more likely” Another said: ”.. We could literally watch known terrorist groups turning off one communication channel after another, each time a new revelation appeared from Snowden ”
The countless “Je suis Charlie” sign on Europe’s roads and the coverage printed cartoons of the murdered artists and journalists are a nice sign of solidarity. But they also show how naive the peace-loving Europe often is these days. A sign alone holds no defense against a Kalashnikov. Many newspapers now re-print most ignorantly these religion defaming cartoons to “defend” our freedom, but equally they have just a few month ago condemned in sharp comments that phone calls and e-mails were monitored earlier. When the German armed forces and the BND (German intelligence agency) delivered data to the US to kill identified and targeted terrorists, they became subject to abuse by members of the German Parliament as a murderer.
Nevertheless, it is quite clear: the West is engaged in dire conflict with violent Islamist terrorism. This conflict requires the west to isolate or kill the targeted enemy whenever possible, often proactively. If the liberal members of the west feel that this is a bad strategy, just watch the body count go up, because it will, unless containment is reached by some means or another. It is not a matter of opinion; it’s a matter of logic cause and effect.
Did the west want or did it start this conflict in the first place? One can debate this later. Maybe a longer look back at history would be enlightening here, and bring about a more balanced and perhaps even surprising pictures. But the fact is the west is embroiled in this escalating conflict now, today, and has to adjust to it one way or another. One part of the adjustment may also be that not everything that is legal is smart to do. One would not jump off a mountain top and kill oneself, just because it is legal. Equally, the actions of these eager, young cartoonists, who seem to find such great personal gratification in the targeted defamation of someone who is holy and important to 100s of millions of deeply religious people, is not only disrespectful or indecent to them, but it is reckless and only provokes more of these anticipated problems a la Paris. These cartoons may be totally legal, and they may be funny to some, but they are definitely not smart and productive within the context of a violent and escalating social war which is raging across the planet with increasing fury. Law enforcement and the intelligence community are in fact curtailing individual freedom to put out the fire of fury, while these cartoonists are only blowing more wind into it.
Obviously, the west is dealing with a destructive ideology and with people who do not want to negotiate on principle and don’t seem to have a great sense of humor. This violent opponent wants to force every non-believer to either accept their faith fully or receive death. We should also remember this in two weeks’ time, when the “Je suis Charlie” signs have disappeared from the streets, from Facebook and Twitter. We should also remember when we are debating the next time about Snowden’s revelations or “targeted killings”. We should remember that we unfortunately cannot simply defend the west by going on the road and scream ”freedom, freedom!”
There is no question, the methods in this long war against terrorism are not beautiful, but as long as this conflict lasts, they may be necessary, unless we can call 100, 1,000 or even 10,000 death every year at the hands of islamic extremists simply collateral damage and go on protecting our so-called personal freedom. The choice is perhaps not obvious. However, it requires a serious and open debate based on clear and true facts and not wishful thinking. Until then; high-grade intelligence on all levels; reactive and proactive; case-based, sociological, and global, is still our best bet, to prevent the loss of human life.