‘Media must push Western intel services to change tactics that failed in France’

Police investigators search for evidence during an operation in the eastern French city of Reims January 8, 2015, after the shooting against the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical newspaper (Reuters / Christian Hartmann)
Instead of ineffectual NSA-style piling of data on everything, intelligence agencies should focus on data analysis and detective techniques to prevent the same type of terror attacks that took place in France, former CIA officer Ray McGovern told RT.

RT:Millions of people came out to show their unity against terrorism. But do you think now that they will be more open to stricter, more stringent anti-terror laws?

Ray McGovern: The stoking of fear: “Be afraid, be very afraid” is typical of what happened after 9/11 in our country. I don’t think it helps. I think it inspires the worst in us – the spirit of vengeance. And when I hear the talk about increasing surveillance measures – it is fact, not interpretation that there were enough surveillance measures against these two from the beginning. They were on a ‘No Fly’ list, they were communicating in unencrypted telephone conversations as far as we know. There was everything in place necessary to get these guys – why they weren’t gotten is really a puzzle. Now there are lots of conspiracy theories, saying the French let them do this. I can’t buy that. It is more typical of Western intelligence services to be just really dumb, really ineffectual. And if you need proof of that, read James Rison’s latest book, when he talks about the fellows that ran the place where I used to work for 27 years were just completely clowns and could not cope with the challenges that they faced after the Cold War.

People gather on the Place de la Republique (Republic Square) in Paris before the start of a Unity rally “Marche Republicaine” on January 11, 2015 in tribute to the 17 victims of a three-day killing spree by homegrown Islamists. (AFP Photo / Bertrand Guay)

RT:The authorities are under a lot of pressure now to take decisive action. What sort of action can they take that would help the situation?

RM: They can avoid building a larger haystack of information on terrorists. When NSA [US National Security Agency] and various allies decide to collect everything from the whole world, from all of us and put it in this haystack lest they miss anything, they can’t get any needles under this haystack. So, divert the billions of dollars that went into that into tried and true techniques, intelligence analysis, and you will be able to nab people like [Umar Farouk] Abdulmutallab, the fellow that tried to down a commercial aircraft over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009. You only get these folks with just traditional detective work. And the reason a lot of that does not happen anymore is because of this fixation to collect all the conversations. The conversations weren’t even encrypted. Why was no one listening to these two? It just defies the imagination. What needs to happen is go back to the tried and true intelligence techniques that we are all familiar with during the Cold War and shortly thereafter, which were all cast aside as soon as multi-million dollar corporations decided that they can make a lot of money by selling these ineffectual blanket eavesdropping techniques to the Western services.

Armed gunmen face police officers near the offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris on January 7, 2015, during an attack on the offices of the newspaper which left at least 12 dead (AFP Photo / Anne Gelbard)

RT:This could be potentially a wake-up call to the security services to change the way they do things. Do you think that will happen though and why if not?

RM: It really depends on the media. With the exception of RT, Al Jazeera and a couple of other places, the French and the United States’ citizens won’t know what I just said. The conversations were not encrypted, these guys were on the ‘No Fly’ list. Everything was in place to get them, why didn’t they get them? Well, how are were going to repair this situation? We will spend much more dollars and francs on these ineffectual building of haystacks. So, what I am saying here is that it’s not likely to change unless the mass media in these countries gets a little honest about this business and says: “Look, this is a failure, an utter failure of intelligence, the information was there, this should never have happened.”