“The flaws in the European system are multiple. The Paris and Brussels attacks should never have happened. I don’t know what we are waiting for. Do we have to wait for hundreds of deaths?”
Jean-Louis Bruguiere — Former French investigating magistrate in charge of counter-terrorism affairs
Since January 2015, an unprecedented wave of terror attacks has overwhelmed Europe’s defenses. That month, attacks against Charlie Hebdo magazine and a Jewish supermarket in Paris left 17 people dead. On November 13th in Paris, ISIS attacked multiple targets, killing 130 people. Four months later, suicide bombings killed 32 in Brussels. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY
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In interviews, some on camera with FRONTLINE, counterterror veterans in Europe and the United States outlined systemic problems they said they had warned political leaders about for years.
The list includes:
Weak and uncoordinated enforcement of Europe’s international borders, a situation aggravated by the chaotic influx of refugees from Syria.
Differences in laws and security cultures that hamper intelligence-sharing and law enforcement cooperation among nations.
Fragmented and incomplete databases, and the lack of a universal database of terror suspects effectively used and supplied by all European nations.
Short prison sentences for terrorism and violent crime that have freed ex-convicts to play prominent roles in the jihad.
Limited resources and support for security forces in some nations, such as Belgium and Greece — a weakness that terrorists have studied and exploited.
About Sebastian Rotella
ProPublica reporter Sebastian Rotella has been covering terrorism for two decades.
Years before the attacks, he was already reporting on some of the jihadists who would go on to strike Europe and the counterterror officials trying to stop them.
In this film, he sits down with the men and women on the inside of the fight against al Qaeda and ISIS.
They revealed the missteps and systemic breakdowns that allowed known terrorists to hit the heart of Europe, how the problems persist today and the unprecedented threat the continent faces.
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