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Bernard Squarcini Interviewed by La Provence

January 21, 2015

By Romain Luongo

Translated from French

Former head of French Intelligence and former Police Chief of Marseille, Bernard Squarcini has acquired significant experience in the battle against terrorism. Currently working as a consultant on security issues, he has maintained his close relationship with Nicolas Sarkozy, for whom he remains one of the key advisors in these matters. In this interview, Squarcini discusses some solutions to the current threats and challenges to security.
What decisions would you take in the short-term to counter the Islamist attack plans?
BS: The first thing to do would be to immediately resume diplomatic cooperation with Morocco and Syria, with whom we have no relationship. Many French people go to Morocco and there are regular passages through Mauritania and the Sahel. It is similar with the Syrians. How can we know the list of our citizens who visit these countries if we are not in contact with the authorities? They are working on the file, they have names. For us, it is a real dilemma.
More technically, what recommendations do you have in changing the legal arsenal or the way in which we work in intelligence?
BS:  We should integrate the laws which were passed after the ‘Merah’ case into the practice of intelligence. They revolve around internet monitoring, jihad-related offenses and the individual company offense, which allows us to target lone wolves. It is necessary to better educate people about surveillance in cities. And then there are other offensive measures that can be used in intelligence. Apartment sound systems, tags for cars and bugging phones – imagine when there was the corded phone. Since the original Merah case, everything has of course evolved. Today, we cannot keep records beyond 10 days, it is crazy.
What did you learn from working on terrorism when you were the head of the Central Directorate of Interior Intelligence?
BS:  I came up with this reasoning after collaborating with my colleagues and after the Merah case. In 15 days we came up with a framework during a trip abroad. You need a wider range of tools against these boys here. In addition to the police, we need academics, sociologists, religious scholars. Again, these are elements that emerged after Merah. But what we also need is a framework law that would give greater powers to intelligence and better protect it.
Do you think the government will go down this path?
BS:   I feel that it has the ability to, but until now, the legislative evolution has primarily been focused on family-related matters. It is essential to improve our texts. Another attack could happen in no time. We must review everything, before it is too late. What we need is to have a national consensus on the subject. In fact, everything begins now. We’ll see.