'France may face public backlash as surveillance state fails against terrorism'

Forensics officers and policemen look for evidences near a truck on the Promenade des Anglais seafront in the French Riviera town of Nice on July 15, 2016 © Anne-Christine Poujoulat
The patience of the French people may be wearing thin as individuals known to Western intelligence, and armed with simple weapons, slip through the security net and kill innocent people, political experts told RT.

Annie Machon, former British intelligence officer, Brian Becker, from the Answer Coalition, and Colin S. Cavell join the discussion.

Anything can be used as a weapon

Former British intelligence officer Annie Machon explained the French security service said that any new attack, “or even a Cologne-style sex attack on women in France could kick off something akin to a civil war.”

RT: What is your take on the attack from a security point of view?

Annie Machon: I think it shows that the threat continues to evolve. It can be a lone-wolf attack; it can be not involving the need for buying black market weapons, or anything like that. Anything can be turned into a weapon. It is a very frightening attack. My heart goes out to the people who lost their lives and their families...

Two days ago the head of the DGSI, the French security service, went on the record saying France is a tinderbox: any new attack or even a Cologne-style sex attack on women in France could kick off something akin to a civil war. So these are very frightening times.

RT: What more can French authorities do here in the face of such threats?

AM: Obviously, they were just about to rescind the emergency powers… and now they are going to keep them going. What more can they do? At the moment we have an endemic surveillance state across the West – there is no doubt about it; that all came out in the Snowden inquiry. Time after time, we have seen with these lone-wolf attacks using low-tech weapons – be it knives, or cleavers or lorries, whatever - most of the people who have been committing these crimes have already been on the radar of the intelligence agencies in Canada, or America, or Denmark, or France, or Belgium, or the UK, wherever. They are known already. And what seems to be the overarching lesson from this is because the technology is there, and because the NSA and GCHQ – the two main Anglo-Saxon spy agencies –can grab all this information - they are drowning in a tsunami of information and they are not targeting the right people, they are not using their resources correctly in targeting the right people who are known to be threats. We see this time and time again.

RT: Could there be backlash from the French people as the French government continues to crackdown on civil liberties while acts of terrorism continue unabated?

AM: I think that yes, there could be a backlash to this continuing Emergency Powers Act. That means nobody has any civil liberties in France. But yes, in terms of the government not doing its job of protecting national security, if they have this information coming in, if these people who committing the atrocities are indeed known to the spies, why on earth are they not being prosecuted, why are they not being stopped, why are they not being taken in front of a trial judge and put in prison? That’s what an intelligence agency is supposed to do. They are supposed to get the preemptive intelligence to a crime that is about to be committed, and stop it. Why are they not doing it?

French govt not able to ban demonstrations

Will demonstrations and public gatherings actually be banned because of the extension of the state of emergency gripping France? That would prove difficult since millions of people are participating in those civic events, Brian Becker from the Answer Coalition told RT.

RT: The state of emergency will remain in place, meaning restrictions on public gatherings and extra powers for the military. Do you expect these measures to be tightened further?

Brian Becker: Yes. And that is important to remember, that the state of emergency that was decreed after the Paris attacks last November banned demonstrations. But during this last month there have been massive demonstrations by French workers, by French students protesting the very terrible national labor reform bill, which is an austerity bill. In spite of the fact that the emergency decree was in place by the French government, they couldn’t really ban demonstrations, because there has been massive protest against the French government’s policies from people inside of France. So will the demonstrations, will public gatherings actually be banned? Who knows, because it is not just limited to a small group – these are millions of people who are participating.

I think it is important to remember too that [yesterday was] Bastille Day, which remembers the French Revolution – that is what the people in Nice and people around France were celebrating. [Yesterday was] also July 14th, National Republic Day in Iraq. The Iraqi people had a revolution against the British-imposed Monarchy in 1958. That is when they found their national unity. The policies of Hillary Clinton, the policies of the George W. Bush administration, which fragmented Iraq and have created the possibility that a monster like ISIS could be created has changed the world situation.

The Iraqi people just three days ago suffered the same fate from ISIS. We don’t know if this is ISIS, but more than 200 died in a terrible terrorist action in Baghdad. We see that right now Hillary Clinton getting on Fox TV telling the Europeans that they are not doing enough to fight terrorism, when it was precisely her policy supporting Bush’s war in Iraq that has created this monster ISIS, with all of the attendant terrorist attacks that are taking place not just in France, but in Turkey, in Cairo, in fact all over the world, but mostly in the Muslim world.

Nice atrocity carries 'signature of ISIS'

There have been a lot of refugees from Iraq and Syria who have settled in Southern France, and in particular in Nice, which may have had terrorist connections, explains political analysts Colin S. Cavell.

RT: Given the current security situation in France, is that going to be the new normal for France?

Colin S. Cavell: It will be the new normal as long as ISIS continues to wreak havoc in both Iraq and Syria.

RT: French President Francois Hollande also said the fight against terrorism will extend into military action in the Middle East. Isn't that what caused the proliferation of terrorism in the first place?

CSC: If you have an attack on the terrorists in Syria and Iraq - and it was directed at the terrorists instead of being bypassed and utilized to overthrow the legitimate government of Bashar Assad in Syria - then it would have worked. However, the US has utilized this war on ISIS to barely go after ISIS and instead to bomb targets going out to the Syrian military. It wasn’t until the Russians intervened – beginning late last year – that the real fight against ISIS commenced.

RT: Reportedly the terrorist might have been a 31-year-old male resident of Nice, of Tunisian origin. Does this look like an act of home grown terrorism to you?

CVC: There have been a lot of refugees from Iraq and Syria who have settled in Southern France, and in particular in Nice. If that is true that this individual is of Tunisian extraction then that could possibly be your tie to ISIS. ISIS are a bunch of cowards. They do not claim responsibility for any of their attacks. However, the suicide vehicle that was used in Nice has a signature of ISIS. They used it in Nantes in December 2014, and they used it in other places…

RT: What further security measures do you expect could be taken?

CVC: Hopefully it [French government] will emphasize to the US Secretary of State [John] Kerry that the war against ISIS must be genuine, must be serious, and we have to quit playing around and utilizing the bombing attacks and supplying weapons through Turkey to go after Bashar Assad.  Instead, they should go after the real terrorists – those who have broken international law, and that is ISIS.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.