In this episode of The Global Conversation, Euronews’ Isabelle Kumar is joined by Dr. Jamie Shea, NATO’s Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges.
They delve deep into the challenges facing security services around the world in the wake of the 13 November Paris terror attacks.
Shea stresses that the Islamic State (ISIL) group has shown it can implement global jihad and “organise attacks in a short space of time, very quickly in a number of different places.”
He suggests, however, that ISIL’s launching of terror attacks around the world may be an attempt to appear more powerful than it actually is.
“It (launching global attacks) could be because they (ISIL) are suffering reverses – they have lost about 25 percent of their territory in Iraq and Syria over the last year. It could be that, unfortunately, as we are having some success pushing them back in the caliphate, they are lashing out like a wounded bear in terms of organising attacks in Europe and elsewhere.”
The sheer number of people being converted to jihadism – as well as the speed at which radicalisation can take place – have completely changed the global security landscape.
“If you take France a few years ago, the domestic intelligence services were tracking one or two thousand people, now it is up to 15,000 plus. Many of the people who are now coming onto the lists of intelligence agencies are people who do not have a big background – for example, 25 percent women and 15 percent adolescents under the age of 16,” says Shea.
“The other thing we are seeing, which is making the job harder,” Shea continues, “is that the time for radicalisation is becoming much shorter. Now we see in the case of the two brothers from Belgium, who were involved in the Paris attacks, that the radicalisation took place in under nine months.
“And it takes 36 intelligence officers (working) full time to track one single operative.”
Shea says intelligence sharing between nations has to be stepped up, saying: “It’s a constant issue, there is no doubt about that. And Paris, again, is a spur to improve these types of relationships.”
He also raises concerns about what jihadists are able to do online – with the web being a tool for recruitment and fundraising, as well as communication. ISIL says is “managing 46,000 Twitter accounts,” Shea says.
But he highlights the conflict that governments face when trying to control the Internet and step up their access to people’s personal data, describing the debate in several countries about “where the balance should be between that right of the individual to have his or her encrypted communications – and the right of the state, the intelligence services, to have access where it is absolutely necessary.
“What we see after Paris is that maybe the balance has to go back more towards security.”
Exploring cyber security in detail, Shea discusses the value of the ‘hacktivist’ group Anonymous declaring war on ISIL.
It is “better”, he says, “if Anonymous leaves this type of thing to the authorities of the state who know, frankly, better what the best strategy and the best methodologies are.”
Shea says of the fears that ISIL could develop weapons of mass destruction: “To the extent that ISIL claims to be a state and governs territory, then I believe that it is a danger. If ISIL, like al-Qaeda in the final years, is always on the run, always hiding from drone strikes, staying alive … they won’t have time to organise laboratories or supply chains or the financial resources necessary to build a weapon of mass destruction. So the first thing is to deny them that sort of safe area where they could plan a nefarious act. That is critical.
“On the other hand, you see from Paris that using very basic things like Kalashnikovs and explosives, and just with eight or nine operators, they (ISIL) were already able to cause mayhem – and get lots of publicity, which I think is what they are trying to do in terms of sowing divisions and tensions.”
Click on the video at the top of this article to watch Isabelle Kumar’s full interview with NATO’s Dr. Jamie Shea