France’s top lawyer says there’s no reason to be optimistic on terrorism front

By Christine Duhaime | January 8th, 2016

Francois Molins, France’s top prosecutor, says that the risk of terrorism is becoming larger, more multi-faceted and complex. In this interview (en francais), Maitre Molins talks about the threat of terrorism in France and some of the investigation and prosecution challenges in respect of counter-terrorism.

No reason for optimism in terrorism

Mr. Molins said that there is no reason to be optimistic about the end of terrorism because the threat from ISIS is enlarging and multi-faceted and while it may be hard for people to hear that, the better policy is to be honest about the threat and to inform the public that this is a new phenomena that will last many years.

Risks to high profile politicians, lawyers, law enforcement

In the interview, Mr. Molins notes the risks from attacks by ISIS to high profile politicians, law enforcement, lawyers and judges and that is one area in which France is now taking into consideration in its counter-terrorism efforts.

Fake identity documents

In part of the interview, Mr. Molins discussed yesterday’s incident in Paris where a man wielding a knife and wearing a fake vest of explosives was killed by police. He said that the person remains unidentified but that he was in the country illegally with fake identity documents. The police recovered his smartphone and are attempted to crack it open for identity and affiliation purposes. Although the man claimed to be from Tunisia and later from Morocco, his smartphone had a chip from Germany.

He also talks about the prosecution of persons who are creating and trafficking fake identity documents for terrorists.

November 13 attacks involved fake refugees from Syria

With respect to the November 13, 2015 attacks in Paris, he says that they were planned, organized and coordinated from ISIS in Syria and involved ISIS teams in France and Belgium with the participation of persons who entered France from Greece through the Island of Leros, clarifying  that at least two people behind the November 13 attacks in Paris were fake refugees sent by ISIS (it has promised to send its people to the West guised as fake refugees to commit acts of terrorism).

Every terrorist has an encrypted smartphone

He notes that every ISIS terrorist has a smartphone which is vital to carrying out their activities that are locked and encrypted. Law enforcement is having difficulty unlocking terrorists’ encrypted smartphones when they cannot get the passwords to the phones. France is working with investigators  in New York, Spain and London on ways to decrypt smartphones for access to terrorists’ communications but the issue is the valuable loss of time that takes – time that could prevent further terrorist attacks. There are 8 smartphones belonging to terrorists that France still cannot unencrypt, leaving them “blind.”

 Counter-terrorism jurists

The interview is newsworthy, not just for the counter-terrorism content but also because it’s an important example of why France leads in counter-terrorism on many fronts globally, namely that unlike other countries, it has counter-terrorism specialists, including jurists and counter-terrorism judges, who work as a team with law enforcement in counter-terrorism efforts. The advantages, he explains, of having specialized terrorism judges in France for rapid, competent judicial responses, is explained here.

He also explains, in the interview, why it is necessary and desirable for the public prosecutor to speak to the media regularly to give information and balance and to ensure there remains confidence among the public with the counter-terrorism judicial and enforcement process.

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