This morning the media is reporting a series of attacks in France that include the wounding and murders of Jewish adults and children as well as French military members. Although we do not know at this point who may be behind these attacks, when we consider the targets the list of suspects will be quite limited in my view. Now I am not saying that Iran or Hezbollah are behind the French attacks. However, the recent upsurge of plots probably involving Israel and Iranian intelligence services around the world could have had some kind of role in these crimes. Perhaps a “lone wolf” who has been watching the reporting of these operations acted out.
I know that the security of Jewish institutions both here and abroad have always been of great concern to the Jewish and the law enforcement communities. Within the United States, over the years there have been many threats and plots to attack Jewish Community Centers and Synagogues. A few have succeeded but most have been prevented. Certainly, reasonable persons cannot ignore the fact that these attacks were not random and that some level of operational planning must have taken place, particularly at the school.
I believe that there have been significant efforts within the United States to assist the Jewish community in assessing the risk from terrorist attacks of this nature because local, state and Federal law enforcement agencies have been working for years to help them understand the threat. Security measures have been recommended and implemented in most instances. However, when something like the attacks in France happen, clearly enhanced measures above and beyond normal day to day security operations must be taken by both the Jewish community and our military until the scope of threat posed by these attacks is fully identified, the perpetrators identified and brought to justice. There is just no choice. We can’t think for a minute that other plots are not out there or that some individual will act out unilaterally.
The thing that most of us that have worked in the intelligence business understand is that “you don’t know what you don’t know,” and, even though there is incredible intelligence sharing going on at all levels within the United States law enforcement and intelligence communities, there is no fail safe and bad things like this can happen. The French counterterrorism agency, the DST, is very capable and working with their counterparts hopefully we will get a clearer picture of what happened and who was behind it. I am certain that there will be extensive sharing of information and intelligence because attacks like this do not bode well for other countries allied with France.
When terrible things like the French attacks occur we are always reminded that we can never let our guard down here at home. Yes, there has been no significant attack within the United States since 9-11. Many have been prevented, but in a free society things can happen because it is not always possible to put disparate pieces of information together in time to prevent an attack. I hope that we can remain on the cutting edge of information and intelligence sharing and that budget constraints will not erode our ability to remain proactive. We must be able to identify plots early and thwart them before lives are lost.