Europe Says “No Thanks” to U.S. Assistance in Terrorism Tracking

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Massive intelligence lapses and a lack of adequate terrorist tracking equipment has led to Europe’s poor response to terrorism threats and growing jihadist cells throughout the continent. Chris Piehota, director of the FBI’s Terrorism Screening Center (TSC), oversees the agency that aims to keep terrorists out of America, and has repeatedly told Europe to allow the US to help them in their fight with terrorism.

Director Piehota notes that the US shares its terrorist watch lists with European Union (EU), but that EU countries don’t systematically use it to identify terrorists or screen migrants. He further noted that the EU nations do not utilize a centralized terrorism database, but rather have their own watch list and have a specific set of privacy standards that they don’t share with the US.

The Schengen Zone, which contains 26 EU nations, also complicates matters because there is little to no monitoring of the borders. Frontex, which, promotes, coordinates, and develops European border management said that in 2015 there were 1.82 million illegal border crossings in 2015, six times higher than the previous record set in 2014. The numbers according to Frontex may actually be much higher due to the number of migrants that went undocumented.

Piehota did mention that intelligence sharing with EU nations has gotten better since the global expansion of the Islamic State (IS), but there are still barriers in place. Piehota warns that US is not getting all the information about foreign terrorists in Europe.

A lack of information sharing raises concerns that terrorists, including the “man in white” from the Brussels bombings could arrive in America undetected. Mohammad Abrini, who escaped with Salah Abdeslam from Paris last November,  and was been suspected of being the “man in white” was arrested today in Belgium.

Piehotta admits the more IS expands throughout Europe it will make protecting America much more difficult. European officials admitted gaps in intelligence and communications weeks before the Brussels attacks.

EU has been debating about sharing passenger information over the past six years, and it will be heard later this month by the parliament, but some EU nations cite privacy concerns. Gilles de Kerchove, the EU’s chief counter-terrorism official, noted that the parliament decision will be difficult because the EU is strict on balancing out security with freedom.

Many EU countries have tightened their anti-terrorism laws in the aftermath of Paris and Brussels, but these are generally focused on internal security, and provide limited advantage to mutual partnerships and intelligence sharing.

Both France and Belgium have become prime examples of innocent lives lost from poor intelligence and sharing and identification of potential terrorist threats. Intelligence sharing in Europe only seems to come after a terrorist attack, and even then is too little, too late.

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