By DEAN CARROLL | 08.05.2011
In April, Europol’s annual European Union Terrorism Situation and Trend Report detailed how fundamentalist groups are deepening links with organised crime and developing ever more complicated tactics and plots – as they attempt to cause harm and disruption. In fact, last year, a total of 249 terrorist attacks were recorded within member states – causing seven deaths and scores of other injuries. And in 2010, some 611 individuals were arrested for terrorist-related offences – of which 179 were linked to Islamist terrorism, representing a 50 per cent increase on the previous year.
With the death of al-Qaeda’s top figurehead Osama bin Laden, the stakes have been raised. Next year’s Europol report on terrorism is unlikely to make for pleasant reading, given the effects of austerity defence and security budgets at a time when the Jihadists’ “holy war” seems destined be ramped up another level. There is already speculation of a nuclear “dirty bomb” existing in Europe, ready to avenge the killing of the 9/11 mastermind – who surgically and strategically orchestrated mass murder. Already, we have seen five men arrested under the UK Terrorism Act for allegedly filming at the Sellafield nuclear plant – just hours after bin Laden’s death. Experts estimate that the site’s bunker stores 100 tonnes of plutonium, enough to fuel thousands of nuclear explosions.
British professor Anthony Glees, director of the Centre for Security and Intelligence studies at Buckingham University, has written in the past for publicservice.co.uk of the woeful lack of co-operation between the security services in Europe. In a 2010 article, he wrote: “Effective policy requires the best intelligence and the best analysis available. Neither comes cheap and it is precisely because the institutional and financial resources needed to counter Islamism are so vast – the UK spends almost £2bn – that sharing intelligence and pooling resources makes perfect sense. Shared intelligence collection and, above all, analysis will produce better intelligence. Our agencies are not as good as they should be. Now is the time to learn the lessons of past failures and decide to develop European intelligence cooperation.”
We know that EU intelligence chiefs do meet for discussions at least four times a year. And, besides member state national agencies, there are cross-border institutions – such as Europol, the European Joint Situation Centre, the European Space Agency and the European External Action Service – which could, perhaps, harmonise their activities and information sharing to a greater degree. Recently, joint situation centre chief Ilkka Salmi confirmed that his staff accompanied the EEAS on Libyan fact-finding missions to Tripoli and Benghazi. We could yet see more of this type of collaboration.
The Lisbon Treaty does allude to the potential establishment of an additional organisation to promote intelligence sharing for counter-terrorism purposes, but this remains only an aspiration. But EU counter-terrorism director Oliver Luyckx did, earlier this year, call for a new Europe-wide intelligence agency to provide a “one-stop shop for information sharing”. For now, though, we in Europe have to hope that existing arrangements are enough to cope with the possible increased threat. The triumphalism seen on the streets of America, after bin Laden’s death, is unlikely to be the final word. It could be just the beginning rather than the end of terror and the EU must play a wider role in preparing for the backlash.
Published in PublicServiceEurope.com