France has 10,000 active suspects on its highest threat level terror watch list and less than 5,000 federal agents to surveil them, chairman of the French Center for the Analysis of Terrorism told The New York Times.
French anti-terror agents can only surveil 250 of the 10,000 suspects at any one time, because 24-hour surveillance requires twenty agents per suspect. All 10,000 people on the “S-list” are considered radicalized by French security services.
The suspected terror watch list also lacks any prioritization by threat level. All suspects are considered equally dangerous, making cross-agency coordination and threat level monitoring difficult for French authorities.
“We are in fact drowning in intelligence,” one French expert told The New York Times.
This sentiment was echoed by FBI Director James Comey in the wake of the Orlando terrorist attack. Comey characterized Mateen’s file with the FBI prior to Orlando as just one of “hundreds and hundreds of cases all across the country.” He elaborated that trying to surveil each and every one of them was like “looking for needles in a nationwide haystack.”
Eight of the ten Paris attackers were on the highest terror watch list. Despite this, the suspects were able to travel to Iraq and Syria to train with the Islamic State and return without raising any flags in the French intelligence service.
European authorities told The New York Times they are swamped with thousands of terror suspects and are simply unable to keep up with them all. The consequences of this overload became apparent on June 13 when French terrorist Larossi Abballa stabbed two police officers in front of their children, while livecasting the entire event on Facebook.
Aballa was a convicted terrorism suspect, who was taken off the surveillance list just months before his brutal terrorist attack. In his final words he told his Facebook followers, “You closed the door toward the lands of the caliphate? Well, good then, we have opened the door of jihad onto your territory.”
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