French Lawmakers Urge Intel Overhaul After 2015 Paris Attacks

A special parliamentary commission recommended creating a U.S. style counterterrorism agency Tuesday.

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French Prime Minister Manuel Valls speaks at a news conference following a government meeting on radicalization and fights against terrorism in France May 9, 2016.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls speaks at a news conference following a government meeting on radicalization and fights against terrorism in Paris, France May 9, 2016. Credit: Philippe Wojazer, Reuters

AP — A French parliamentary investigation found multiple intelligence failures before the Islamic extremist attacks that killed 147 people in Paris last year, lawmakers said Tuesday, urging the creation of a U.S.-style counterterrorism agency to better prevent further violence.

All the extremists involved in the 2015 attacks — on newspaper Charlie Hebdo, a kosher market, the national stadium, Parisian cafes and the Bataclan concert hall — had been previously flagged to authorities, said conservative legislator Georges Fenech, who headed the investigation commission. Some of the attackers had past convictions, or were under judicial surveillance when they attacked.

Intelligence authorities questioned in the parliamentary inquiry acknowledged failures, Fenech said. He blamed a multi-layered, cumbersome intelligence apparatus, saying France is trying to fight terrorism with "lead boots."

He and the lawmaker presenting the report, Socialist Sebastien Pietrasanta, recommended creating a national counterterrorism agency like that created in the U.S. after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Pietrasanta noted that the attack that killed 49 people in Orlando, Florida, show that "there is no zero risk," and said France remains under threat even if it overhauls its intelligence services.

The parliamentary report is based on six months of interviews with nearly 200 people and visits to Turkey, Greece, Belgium and Europol police agency headquarters in The Hague. It was aimed at studying what happened before, after and during the January attacks on Charlie Hebdo and the kosher market, which killed 17 people, and the November attacks on the Bataclan, stadium and cafes, which killed 130.

The inquiry also found failures in European security coordination and communication.

"Europe is not up to the task" of fighting terrorism, Pietrasanta said.

The lawmakers also criticized security measures put in place after the attacks as ineffective, and accused Belgian authorities of being slow to stop fugitive November attacker Salah Abdeslam.

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