Commission calls for merger of French intelligence services

Points out miscommunication between France’s six different intelligence units failed to prevent deadly Paris attacks in 2015.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

A press conference in Paris on July 5, 2016 to present the conclusions of French inquiry into the terror attacks that rocked Paris in 2015

A parliamentary enquiry into the 2015 Paris terror attacks recommended on Tuesday a fusion of all six French intelligence services after the "global failure" of the country's agencies.

The enquiry was set up in February to probe possible security failings in the run-up to the two major attacks in Paris that left 147 people dead.

"The two big intelligence bosses admitted during their hearings that the 2015 attacks represent a 'global intelligence failure'," said Socialist lawmaker Sebastien Pietrasanta.

‘Barriers between intel services’

The president of the enquiry commission, Georges Fenech, said that even though some of the attackers were known to the authorities, there was miscommunication between the different agencies.

He said barriers between the units lead to losing track of Charlie Hebdo attacker Said Kouachi. Surveillance of Kouchi was lifted as a result prior to the attack which left 12 people dead.

Ferech proposed the six intelligence agencies be merged into one body, similar to the US National Counter-Terrorism Centre. The enquiry also called for the creation of a dedicated prison intelligence office.

"Faced with the threat of international terrorism we need to be much more ambitious [...] in terms of intelligence," he said.

The president of the enquiry commission, former judge Georges Fenech.

The commission listed a series of mistakes including when offender Amedy Coulibaly was released of prison without any surveillance. Coulibaly took hostages at a Jewish supermarket two days after the Hebdo attack.

Another “weakness” pointed was the French system of judicial supervision, whereby terror suspects not deemed dangerous enough to be remanded in custody are instead ordered to report regularly to the police.

Samy Amimour, one of the gunmen who killed 89 people inside Bataclan concert hall on November 13, 2015, managed to travel to Syria in 2013 despite his travel ban.

"Our country was not ready, now we must get ready," Fenech told AFP.

People pray outside Le Carillon restaurant, one of the attack sites in Paris. November 15, 2015


Pietrasanta questioned the importance of having three different specialised units – the paramilitary intervention group GIGN, the police unit RAID and another elite police force specialising in hostage situations, the BRI. However, he claimed the Bataclan attack could not have been avoided.

"Thwarting the attacks would have presumed investigators and intelligence agents had kept in mind all the targets mentioned by terrorists during questioning," he said.

State of emergency

The enquiry also found the state of emergency imposed after the attacks and deployment of thousands of troops to patrol the streets had only a "limited impact" on security.

Pietrasanta agreed with the assessment, saying the state of emergency imposed in France after the attacks did not pose significant change on the country’s security. "The state of emergency had an impact but it seemed to quickly diminish," he said questioning the measure which still stands.

The enquiry also questioned the deployment of between 6,000 and 7,000 soldiers to protect schools, synagogues, department stores and other sensitive sites, known as “Operation Sentinelle.”

"I am wondering what real added value they provide in terms of securing the national territory," Pietrasanta said.

TRTWorld and agencies