No one is safe in France. The latest murders, including a Normandy priest of 86 years of age, celebrated by ISIS, demonstrates without any doubt the complete incompetence of the French authorities at all levels. It illustrates either the total disdain for its own citizens, or its inability to understand and act on the threat that is destabilizing French society. This time the attack was on Catholic churches; previously there were attacks on synagogues, Jewish Kosher stores, and people in night clubs, as well as attacks at sporting events and national celebrations including the mass killing in Nice during a Bastille Day parade.
The murder of Priest Father Jacques Hamel could easily have been prevented. How do we know this? The press in Europe is reporting today that computer files found in the apartment of a convicted terrorist had this church on the list to be attacked. That was around a year ago. So you may ask, what was done? The answer is, worse than nothing.
When any public or private institution is threatened typically you take two basic steps. The first is to try and eliminate or neutralize the source of the threat. The second, failing the first step, is to to put strong security in place to protect the threatened sites.
Regarding perimeter security, this church was left entirely unprotected. There were no guards. The two terrorists (there could be more, this is what we know about now) entered the church through an unlocked back door. Why was the door unlocked? Why didn’t the church have any protection. Responsibility for this falls on the shoulders of the French authorities and, perhaps, on the church if the warnings were passed to them, which is not known at present. Clearly the congregants in the Church, and those taken hostage, including nuns, had no inkling they were on a hit list.
Next we come to at least the main terrorist. Not only was he known to the police, but he had been previously arrested for terrorism and convicted. It was his apartment that had the computer files that put this church, and others, on the hit list. He was out of jail under a form of house arrest. He was wearing an electronic tag and paroled to his parents. But, under the terms of his release, he was allowed to do anything he wanted during the morning hours, meaning that his electronic tag was not monitored from 0830 until 1230 every day, The attack at the church in the center of Saint Etienne du Rouvray took place around 10 am.
Why would the French judicial system parole a known terrorist? Why would they disregard extremely worrisome intelligence and not provide decent protection to their citizens?
The pattern of consistent security failures in France includes far more than what happened in Saint Etienne du Rouvray. In Nice, despite for-warnings of terrorism, the French police removed guards on the streets allowing a terrorist driving a heavy truck full of weapons to mow down people trapped in the crowds on the main street. Sandra Bertin, a local police officer in Nice, complained that the police who were there were only permitted to carry light weapons, namely small pistols. “The truck dodged the municipal police barrier. The team couldn’t stop it. You can’t burst the tires of a 19-tonner with a revolver. Then other municipal police in plainclothes in the crowd were confronted with it,” she said. When she came to turn in her report of what she saw happen in Nice, she was asked to change her report. She refused. The resulting contretemps has resulted in France’s Interior Minister, who is in overall charge of security, to threaten to sue Bertin.
Perhaps France’s Interior Minister can do better. He can resign.
The lack of security in France is nothing new to France’s Jews who until recently have borne the brunt of France’s poor security environment. Synagogues and Jewish schools and community centers have been attacked; Jews have been beat up and in some cases murdered on buses and in the metro or walking on the street; Kosher supermarkets have been shot up and many people killed –the list is a long one. It is one of the reasons why Jews, who have an alternative, can leave France. But for the rest of the people, that options is really not available.
In Europe right now ISIS and its Jihadi affiliates are waging war. The Europeans overall don’t know what to do, and have been making a mess by not acting on intelligence, not protecting their borders, and refusing to understand the source of their collective problem. Whether it is Germany, Belgium France or the UK the coddling of potential terrorists, the lack of connecting intelligence to action, and the weakness of law enforcement including the court system, is making it a sure thing that many more decent people will suffer and die.