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Topic: ‘Despite the high profile nature of the terrorist attacks in France in the last two years, intelligence agencies have generally been very successful in keeping Western Europe safe. Discuss.’



  • Extremely fatal terrorist attacks were carried out in Paris as part of synchronized events in which terrorists executed several attacks at the same time, or nearly at the same time.
  • The Global Terrorism Database (GTD) states that “more than 10,000 coordinated terrorist attacks took place in 104 countries between 2000 and 2014. These attacks were concentrated among a small number of countries.”
  • In the midst of countries “which experienced more than 50 attacks between 2000 and 2014, France had the highest proportion of attacks which were carried out as part of multi-part, coordinated events, with 40 percent.”
  • The essay will begin by analyzing the intelligence agencies counter terrorism setup prior to and after the France attacks, looking into the types of terrorism existing in Europe before analyzing how these agencies have been successful in keeping Western Europe safe and what is further required to maintain success and strengthen their networks and operations.


  • France had six intelligence units answering variously to the interior, defense and economy ministries.
  • Little intelligence sharing across Europe.
  • European Union border failure.
  • The failure of surveillance.
  • Cuts in the budgets of European and NATO countries over the past years due to the economic crisis.
  • The parliamentary commission was set up to assess the failure to prevent the Paris terror attacks. The findings: the different intelligence agencies had struggled to communicate about known Islamists and failures in European security and coordination and communication.
  • The Hague was the where Europol was initiated in 1994 as an “EU drugs unit” and with time, other sections were added including counter terrorism.
  • Following the Paris terror attacks – lack of information sharing with the EU was scrutinized. Rob Wainwright, Europol director, described it as a “black hole of information”.
  • Post Paris attacks, Europol was introduced to new rules of governance, permitting specialized counter terrorism units to be set up and adding further pressure on countries in the EU to provide it with information.
  • Intelligence agencies were presented with new resources. As a consequence to the Paris attacks, President Hollande declared that “8,500 new personnel will be added to the security services”.
  • To track ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria), intelligent agencies had to change their processes and re-examine their capabilities.
  • “Terrorism is borderless. Intelligence should be borderless”
  • Types of terrorism: Separatist terrorism and Suicide terrorism.
  • Suicide terrorism has a higher body count compared to other kinds of terrorism because the perpetrators’ lack of concern for survival. This type of terrorism is in decline in Europe.
  • Recent attacks by terrorist groups are calculated for higher body counts.
  • Analysis of the data available at the GTD, showed that terrorism has highly declined – even taking into account the recent Brussels attacks.
  • By analyzing GTD data, it can be seen that terrorism attacks and fatalities have been in decline – but that does not mean that terrorism is not ‘deadlier’.
  • Lethal terrorist attacks with the intention to kill need to be ‘measured’ and analyzed.
  • Data analyzed from GTD, shows that “fatal terrorist attacks have become increasingly deadly in recent decades”.
  • Despite the fact that the total number of attacks and total number of deaths are in decline, the effectiveness of terrorists in taking lives is increasing.


  • Europe is getting safer – but because deadlier attacks are more widely ‘reported’ – it will feel like it’s getting more dangerous.
  • There must be a robust collaboration in Europe between the police and the national intelligence agencies, and also with Europol at a European level.
  • The intelligence community in Europe must concur on a more competent intelligence-sharing framework.
  • Intelligence agencies’ nature make them protective of their sources, and unwilling to share with all but the most reliable associates.
  • EU intelligence sharing must improve; there is a need for a ‘European Intelligence Agency’ which will ensure the mandatory exchange of information regarding terrorist threats.
  • Europe must know who’s coming into its countries and their intentions.
  • Radicalization and home grown extremism in European societies should be monitored and reported.
  • There should be more effort at integration in order to succeed in multiculturalism.



Bardos, G.N. (2016) ‘Terror Crossroads: On Europe’s doorstep’, World Affairs, 179(1), pp. 81-88.

Bauman et al. (2014) ‘After Snowden: Rethinking the Impact of Surveillance’, International Political Sociology, 8(2), pp. 121-144.

Baxter, K. and Davidson, R. (2016) ‘Foreign terrorist fighters: managing a twenty-first century threat’, Third World Quarterly, 37(8), pp. 1299-1313.

Bureš, O. (2016) ‘Intelligence sharing and the fight against terrorism in the EU: Lessons learned from Europol’, European View, 15(1), pp. 57-66.

Chrisafis, A. 2016, ‘Paris attacks inquiry finds multiple failings by French intelligence agencies’ , The Guardian,  5 July, accessed: 19 October 2016 at: [http://bit.ly/29wVA1x].

Hedley, J.H. (2005) ‘Learning from Intelligence Failures’, International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence, 18(3), pp. 435-450.

Iacobucci, E.M. and Toope, S.J. (ed.) (2015) After the Paris attacks: Responses in Canada, Europe, and around the Globe. Canada: University of Toronto Press.

Kahn, D. (2001) ‘An historical theory of intelligence’, Intelligence and National Security, 16(3), pp. 79-92.

Lequesne, C. (2016) ‘French foreign and security challenges after the Paris terrorist attacks’, Contemporary Security Policy, 37(2), pp. 306-318.

Scott-Smith, G. (2011) ‘Interdoc and West European Psychological Warfare: The American Connection’, Intelligence and National Security, 26(2-3), pp. 355-376.

Sims, J. (2007) ‘Intelligence to counter terror: The importance of all-source fusion’, Intelligence and National Security, 22(1), pp. 38-56.

Strachan-Morris, D. (2012) ‘Threat and risk: What Is the Difference and Why Does It Matter?’, Intelligence and National Security, 27(2), pp. 172-186.

1st marker comments

You make some excellent points here about
1. the risk of terrorism in Western Europe
2. the problems of French intelligence in preventing attacks
3. the need for improvement

The plan overall makes many good points but at the moment it is not a PLAN – you have to think about what goes where.

1. you need to specify that you are concentrating on FRANCE. The question asks about Western Europe. If you are concentrating on France say WHY at the start.

2. you have an idea about risk of terrorism. This shoud come in earlier in your plan (and your essay) because it raises a question. Okay Western Europe has a much lower risk of terrorism than people think. Now, is that the result of intelligence agencies or other factors? eg France OPPOSING the 2003 Iraq War but then joining in campaigns against IS?

3. Was it the case that when jihadists targeted France the agencies were not good enough?

4. If this is the case this is where your suggestions for reforms come in? What has been the UK experience?

Overall this looks really good in places but you must do some more thinking about how you will structure your argument.

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