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Global Security: What To Expect After France, Turkey Attacks


After the atrocities in Nice and a summer of terrorist attacks around the world, many leaders are reassessing their response to the threat of self-radicalized attackers. Juan Zarate was deputy assistant to President George Bush and a deputy national security adviser. He joins us now. Good morning.

JUAN ZARATE: Good morning. Thank you for having me.

WERTHEIMER: So tell me, since the attacks in Paris last fall, France has increased security. The attack in Nice happened despite these special measures. What can a country do when even its best efforts can be beaten?

ZARATE: Well, I think the sad reality is that in an open society, security cannot be foolproof, especially at massive civilian open events and celebrations like we saw in Nice for Bastille Day. If we want an open society with people enjoying themselves and certainly enjoying the civil liberties that Western societies cherish, you cannot secure everything.

That said, French officials have been very good, overall, in terms of increasing the intelligence they have, going after individuals who are part of existing jihadi or criminal networks and trying to understand better where the networks are that could threaten. But nothing is foolproof, and I think we saw a good bit of that, unfortunately, tragically unfold in Nice.

WERTHEIMER: So do you think attacks like this require a constant level of emergency, never step down from it?

ZARATE: No, I think this is more about a constant state of intelligence gathering that helps officials understand where threats are coming from the outside and where potentially they emerge from within. France has the huge disadvantage of dealing with kind of three sectors of threats, if you will. Directed cells - we've seen this with sophisticated attacks in Paris - ISIS, al-Qaida trying to go after France directly.

Keep in mind that al-Qaida once said that they wanted to be the bone in the throat of the French. There are existing cells and networks that exist within France that can be utilized. We've seen some of that. The Charlie Hebdo attacks represented that. And then you have motivated or deranged individuals who latch on to the ideology as a way of amplifying their purpose and deciding to attack fellow citizens.

So there's a challenge here for the French. But the long pole in the tent is constant intelligence gathering without constraining civil liberties of a society. That's a difficult balance but one that the Europeans certainly have to have to draw.

WERTHEIMER: What do you think this means for the United States and our efforts to prevent attacks like this?

ZARATE: Well, I think this is a new era of terrorism where terrorists have used a variety of methodology. They're learning from each other and they see that they can use smaller scale attacks. They can use small cells to attack in strategically significant ways, as we've seen not just in Europe but in places like Dhaka and Istanbul. And terrorist groups like al-Qaida and ISIS have made a strategic shift as well, which is to motivate individuals to attack in place using any means possible, to include cars running over pedestrians.

And so what this means is we've got to be prepared for a different kind of terrorist methodology. We have to amplify our intelligence sharing. Frankly, we've got to help our European colleagues increase their sharing. And, frankly, we've got to deal with underlying ideology that animates not just these broad global networks but also individuals to attack fellow citizens. I think all of us, Europeans, Americans, have not done a good enough job of dealing with that along with our Muslim partners around the world.

WERTHEIMER: Do you think that that sense of having to spy on each other - I mean, that's part of it, citizens spying on each other?

ZARATE: Well, you never want to see that, and certainly we're not communist or autocratic states. You know, the Cubans have the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution and these neighborhood watch programs to basically spy on people. You don't want a society like that. But you do have the see something, say something mantra, which has taken hold in the United States, which is important. We want a citizenry that's vigilant and aware. But you do not want a spy culture in the West. I think you want to vigilant culture, but you want, certainly, intelligence services with a capacity to go and look at these networks and understand where the threats are emerging.

WERTHEIMER: Juan Zarate, thank you. He is the chairman of the Financial Integrity Network consulting firm. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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