Contre-terrorisme: Pourquoi le terrorisme est bien une affaire de simple police (Who needs Jack Bauer when you have Jean-Louis Bruguiere?)

Jack BauerJean-Louis BruguièrePlusieurs de nos collègues – notamment aux Etats-Unis, mais également en Europe – voyaient cela comme une ‘phobie d’ex-colonialiste’, une certaine ‘obsession française avec l’Algérie’. Ca n’a vraiment pas été facile de faire comprendre à tous ces sceptiques que les réseaux islamistes qui projetaient des attentats contre la France avaient pris racine sur leur propre territoire. Il était encore plus difficile de leur faire comprendre que les gens qu’ils considéraient comme de ‘simples criminels’ – ceux qui collectaient de l’argent illicite ou fabriquaient de faux papiers – faisaient en fait partie des réseaux qui assuraient la logistique des complots terroristes. Les convaincre de faire le rapport entre les deux était d’autant plus déchirant que le temps perdu augmentait la possibilité d’une attentat. Ancien collègue de Bruguière
L’absence d’attentats islamistes sur le sol français depuis le 11 septembre 2001 ne doit pas être mal interprétée ; elle ne signifie en rien que la France serait sanctuarisée, notamment en raison de la position qu’elle a prise lors du conflit en Irak. D’ailleurs, nous avons déjà indiqué que des cellules terroristes avaient été démantelées, qui projetaient de conduire des attaques terroristes sur notre sol. De plus, en dehors du territoire national, des cibles françaises ont fait l’objet d’attaques terroriste, comme l’attentat du 8 mai 2002 à Karachi qui fit 14 morts, dont 11 employés de la DCN, ou l’attaque contre le pétrolier Limburg au Yémen le 6 octobre 2002. La France fait en effet partie intégrante du monde occidental, cible des terroristes islamistes radicaux. À ce titre, elle figure parmi les objectifs potentiels des terroristes au même titre que tout autre nation occidentale. Membre de la coalition internationale en Afghanistan, où nos forces spéciales participent à la traque des dirigeants d’Al Qaida, la France est donc considérée comme une ennemie, quelle que soit sa position sur le dossier irakien. De plus, la France est, depuis 1986, en pointe dans la lutte contre le terrorisme : ses résultats en matière de démantèlement de réseaux et son rôle central dans la coopération internationale anti-terroriste en font incontestablement une ennemie des groupes terroristes internationaux. En outre, la France doit prendre en compte les réalités liées à sa position géographique et à son histoire. Il est démontré par exemple qu’elle est une cible de premier choix pour le GSPC algérien du fait de l’histoire particulière des relations franco-algériennes. Philipe Marsaud (Rapport à l’Assemblée sur la lutte contre le terrorisme, le 22 novembre 2005)
Le système légal fortement codifié de la France, dans lequel l’Etat français bénéficie d’énormes pouvoirs d’intrusion et de coercition, ne ressemble pas au système américain plus compliqué de séparation des pouvoirs, d’indépendance de la justice, et des droits présomptifs de l’individu contre le gouvernement. (…) Le système légal et politique de l’Amérique, au moins sous George W. Bush, ne pouvait gérer des défis « extrajudiciaires » tels que Guantanamo, l’externalisation des interrogations ou la surveillance sans mandat. Selon les auteurs du rapport, les Etats-Unis se sont pris à leur propre piège en transformant la lutte contre l’extrémisme islamique radical en une « guerre fortement politisée et militarisée contre la terreur » que leur système légal et moral ne pourrait pas gérer. (…) En fin de compte, la comparaison des approches françaises et américaines contre le terrorisme révèle une étrange symétrie. Dans le cas de la France, la menace est en grande partie — mais pas simplement – issue de son propre sol. Pour y faire face, les Français sont prêts à fournir à leurs fonctionnaires ce que nous considérerions comme des pouvoirs d’exception. Dans le cas des Etats-Unis, la menace terroriste vient en grande partie — mais pas seulement — de l’étranger. Pour y faire face, le Président Bush a élargi au maximum ses pouvoirs en tant que commandant en chef. Et tandis que ses adversaires politiques et un certain nombre de juges critiquent l’utilisation de ces pouvoirs, les Américains n’ont pour la plupart pas réagi d’une manière qui suggère qu’ils y voient l’ombre d’une menace pour leurs libertés personnelles. De même, depuis le moment où, avec le début de la mission si peu conforme au droit anglo-saxon du juge Bruguière en 1986, la lutte contre le terrorisme intérieur est devenue beaucoup plus intrusive, la France n’a pas glissé dans la tyrannie. Bien au contraire, la société, la vie politique et nombre des lois françaises sont devenues beaucoup plus libérales et ouvertes. Gary J. Schmitt et Reuel Marc Gerech

Qui sait en France que le vrai Jack Bauer est français?

Qui se rappelle que les services français avaient dès l’été 2001 prévenu le FBI d’une éventuelle attaque terroriste au moyen d’avions de ligne détournés?

Qui se souvient du temps pas si reculé où, étrange retournement des choses, c’est la France qui passait pour le pays le plus obsédé par le terrorisme?

Mise sur écoute ou perquisition sans mandat, preuves ou témoignages par ouï-dire, arrestations arbitraires (jusqu’à 96 heures sans surveillance juridique ou avis des tiers), profilage (un « espion dans chaque mosquée »), non-séparation du renseignement et de la police (les fameux RG), refus de libération sous caution (dizaines d’années d’emprisonnement pour rien pour 51 relaxés en 98), arrestations de masse (véritables rafles en fait jusqu’à…176 pour le fameux “procès Chalabi” de 98!), procès de masse (jusqu’à… 138!), intégration partielle des forces de police et militaires (gendarmerie), externalisation de la torture (pardon: des interrogations musclées) …

Telles sont, comme le rappellait en février dernier le WSJ (merci madimaxi), quelques unes des facilités, au-delà de la différence d’origine des menaces (largement intérieure d’un côté, principalement extérieure de l’autre), formellement interdites par le système juridique américain.

Et, pour ceux (y compris en Amérique même) qui n’ont que Guantanamo à la bouche et nous bassinent à longueur de journée avec la prétendue fascisation de la société américaine et l’efficacité tellement supérieure de la police française face au terrorisme,…

les quasi-lois d’exception qui rendent possibles l’apparente immunité du territoire français!

Aux Etats-Unis, les activités de M. Bruguière équivaudraient à une violation systématique des 1er, 4e, 5e, 6e et 8e amendements de la Constitution. Sans compter les immenses superstructures juridiques que les Cours suprêmes successives ont construit au-dessus et autour de la Bill of Rights.

Who Needs Jacques Bauer?

The Napoleonic Code is more conducive to counterterrorism than the U.S. Constitution.
Bret Stephens
WSJ
February 25, 2007

Twenty-nine defendants went on trial earlier this month in a Spanish courtroom for complicity in the March 11, 2004 Madrid train bombings that killed 191 commuters and injured another 1,800. Among the accused: Jamal Zougam, a 33-year-old Moroccan immigrant who once ran a cell-phone business. In June 2001, Spanish police raided Mr. Zougam’s apartment, where they found jihadist literature and the telephone numbers of suspected terrorists. But the Spaniards judged the evidence insufficient to arrest or even wiretap him. Today, the Moroccan is believed to have furnished the cellphones through which the train bombs were detonated.

In raiding Mr. Zougam’s apartment, the Spanish were acting on a request from French investigative magistrate and counterterrorism supremo Jean-Louis Bruguiere. Earlier, Mr. Bruguiere had also warned the Canadian government about a suspicious Algerian asylum-seeker named Ahmed Ressam, but the Canadians took no real action. On Dec. 14, 1999 Mr. Ressam–a k a the Millennium Bomber–was arrested by U.S. customs agents as he attempted to cross the border at Port Angeles, Wash., with nitroglycerin and timing devices concealed in his spare tire.

It would be reassuring to believe that somewhere in the ranks of the FBI or CIA America has a Jean-Louis Bruguiere of its own. But we probably don’t, and not because we lack for domestic talent, investigative prowess, foreign connections, the will to fight terrorism or the forensic genius of a Gallic nose. What we lack is a system of laws that allows a man like Mr. Bruguiere to operate the way he does. Unless we’re willing to trade in the Constitution for the Code Napoleon, we are not likely to get it.

Consider the powers granted to Mr. Bruguiere and his colleagues. Warrantless wiretaps? Not a problem under French law, as long as the Interior Ministry approves. Court-issued search warrants based on probable cause? Not needed to conduct a search. Hearsay evidence? Admissible in court. Habeas corpus? Suspects can be held and questioned by authorities for up to 96 hours without judicial supervision or the notification of third parties. Profiling? French officials commonly boast of having a « spy in every mosque. » A wall of separation between intelligence and law enforcement agencies? France’s domestic and foreign intelligence bureaus work hand-in-glove. Bail? Authorities can detain suspects in « investigative » detentions for up to a year. Mr. Bruguiere once held 138 suspects on terrorism-related charges. The courts eventually cleared 51 of the suspects–some of whom had spent four years in preventive detention–at their 1998 trial.

In the U.S., Mr. Bruguiere’s activities would amount to one long and tangled violation of the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Eighth Amendments to the Constitution. And that’s not counting the immense legal superstructures that successive Supreme Courts have built over and around the Bill of Rights. In France, however, Mr. Bruguiere, though not without his critics, is a folk hero, equally at home with governments of the left and right. The main point in his favor is that whatever it is he’s doing, it works.

« Every single attempt to bomb France since 1995 has been stopped before execution, » notes a former Interior Ministry senior official. « The French policy has been [to] make sure no terrorist hits at home. We know perfectly well that foreign-policy triangulation is not sufficient for that, [even if] it helps us go down a notch or two in the order of priority [jihadist] targets. So we’ve complemented our anti-U.S. foreign policy with ruthless domestic measures. »

That’s something that U.S. civil libertarians, who frequently argue that the Bush administration should follow the « European model » of treating terrorism as a law-enforcement issue instead of a military one, might usefully keep in mind. As lawyers David Rivkin and Lee Casey argue in the forthcoming issue of The National Interest, « the [Napoleonic] Civil Law system offers considerable advantages to the state in combating terrorism–especially in terms of investigative tools and a level of secrecy–that are simply unavailable in the ordinary Common Law criminal prosecution and trial, at least as governed by the United States Constitution. »

Again, review the contrasts between American and European practices. Except in limited circumstances, the U.S. does not allow pretrial detentions. But according to figures compiled by the U.S. State Department, 38% of individuals held in Italian prisons in 2005 were awaiting trial or the outcome of an appeal, while Spanish law allows for pre-trial detentions that can last as long as four years for terrorism suspects. In the U.S., the Posse Comitatus Act forbids the use of the military in law-enforcement work, and paramilitary units are relatively rare. By contrast, most European countries deploy huge paramilitary forces: Italy’s Carabinieri; France’s Gendarmerie Nationale; Spain’s Guardia Civil.

Even Britain, which shares America’s common law traditions, has been forced by Irish and now Islamist terrorism to resort to administrative detentions, trials without jury (the famous Diplock courts) and ubiquitous public surveillance. Wiretapping is authorized by the Home Secretary–that is, a member of the government–rather than an independent judge. In the early days of the Northern Irish « troubles, » the government of Edward Heath placed some 2,000 suspects, without charge, in internment camps. Ironically, it was the decision to treat terrorists as ordinary criminals that led to the famous hunger strikes of Bobby Sands and his IRA crew.

All this calls into question the seriousness, if not the sincerity, of European complaints that under the Bush administration the U.S. has become a serial human-rights violator. Europeans have every right to be proud of civil servants like Mr. Bruguiere and a legal tradition that in many ways has been remarkably successful against terrorism. But that is not the American way, nor can it be if we intend to be true to a constitutional order of checks and balances, judicial review and a high respect for the rights of the accused. When President Bush declared a war on terror after 9/11, it was because he had no other realistic legal alternative. And when the rest of us make invidious comparisons between Europe and America, we should keep our fundamental differences in mind. There is no European 82nd Airborne, and there is no American Jean-Louis Bruguiere.

Mr. Stephens is a member of The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board. His column appears in the Journal Tuesdays.

France: Europe’s Counterterrorist Powerhouse
By Gary J. Schmitt, Reuel Marc Gerecht
November 1, 2007
AEI Online
No. 3, November 2007

Counterterrorism, like espionage and covert action, is not a spectator sport. The more a country practices, the better it gets. France has become the most accomplished counterterrorism practitioner in Europe. None of the western European counterterrorism officials we have met with over the last eighteen months would dissent from this view. And while there may be a debate about which European state has had the most experience dealing with terrorism–be it Germany with its Baader-Meinhof Group, Italy with its Red Brigades, Spain with the Basque separatist group Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, or even Great Britain with the Irish Republican Army–there is no question that France has had as much experience with the most virulent, police-resistant forms of modern terrorism as any of them. Whereas September 11, 2001, was a heart-stopping shock to the American counterterrorism establishment–and only slightly less revolutionary for many in Europe–it was not a révolution des mentalités in Paris.

Two waves of terrorist attacks, the first in the mid-1980s and the second in the mid-1990s, have made France acutely aware of both state-supported Middle Eastern terrorism and freelance but organized Islamic extremists. The attacks in 1985 and 1986 were probably Iranian-inspired, carried out as payback for France’s military and financial support of Saddam Hussein. The attacks in the 1990s, however, in part an outgrowth of the Algerian civil war, clearly revealed to French security officials that « proper » Frenchmen, les français de souche, could convert to Islam, and that Muslims raised in France could spearhead mass-casualty terrorism.[1]

By comparison, the security services in Great Britain and Germany were slow to awaken to the threat from homegrown radical Muslims.[2] Britain gambled that its multicultural approach to immigrants was superior to France’s forced assimilationist model. But with the discovery of one terrorist plot after another being planned by British Muslims, as well as the deadly transportation bombings that took place in London on July 7, 2005, British public and security officials have begun to question the wisdom of their « Londonistan » approach to Muslim integration.[3] Similarly, until recently, officials in Berlin believed that Germany was safe from homegrown Muslim terrorism, but two major bomb plots over the past year and a half–one aimed at German trains, the other at American military personnel, installations, and interests in Germany–have raised serious doubts in the minds of many German security officials about that previous assumption.[4]

French scholars and journalists have also been way ahead of their European and American counterparts in dissecting Islamic extremism and jihadism, and in analyzing the « Zacarias Moussaoui » phenomenon of European-raised Muslim militants and terrorists.[5] And French officials, who work in counterterrorism domestically and overseas, appear to be well aware of this intellectual spade work, often maintaining friendly relationships with scholars and journalists working in the field. The French interior ministry and prison system, for example, were remarkably open and helpful to the renowned Franco-Iranian sociologist Farhad Khosrokhavar in his interviews of jailed al Qaeda members. Khosrokhavar’s research, which produced the untranslated Quand Al-Qaida parle: Témoignages derrière les barreaux (When al Qaeda Speaks: Testimonies from Behind Bars) is the most insightful look into the mind and manners of highly westernized, Europeanized members of al Qaeda. Nothing in the American literature comes close to dissecting the nature of al Qaeda’s westernized elite.[6] Given the distance and stiffness between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and American scholars and journalists, it is unlikely that Khosrokhavar will soon have any American competition.[7]

What sets France apart are its juges d’instruction and their ability to harness the country’s enormous police resources.

The Marsaud Report, issued on November 22, 2005, by a special parliamentary commission charged with examining France’s counterterrorism capacities, articulates the general French view of the threat posed by radical Islamic terrorism. It is perhaps the most cogent statement yet by an official European governing organization on why its citizens are inextricably involved in the fight against radical Islamic terrorism and unavoidably tied to the United States.

The absence of Islamist attacks on French soil since 9/11 should not be misinterpreted: it does not signify at all that France has been immunized from such actions, notably because of its position on the Iraq conflict. Elsewhere, we have already indicated that terrorist cells have been taken apart [since 9/11]–cells which were planning attacks on our soil. Further, outside of our national territory, French targets were struck, like the May 8, 2002, attack in Karachi, which killed fourteen, of whom eleven were employees of the DCN [Direction des Constructions Navales, France’s major shipbuilder], or the attack against the oil tanker Limburg off the coast of Yemen on October 6, 2002. France is an integral part of Western civilization, a target of radical Islamic terrorists. In this regard, she figures among the potential targets of these terrorists to the same extent as any other Western nation. A member of the international coalition in Afghanistan, where our special forces participate in the hunt of al Qaeda’s leaders, France is thus considered an enemy, no matter her position on Iraq. Furthermore, France has been since 1986 on the cutting edge of countering [Middle Eastern] terrorism: her contribution in dismantling networks and her central role in the international counterterrorist effort have made her undeniably an enemy of international terrorist groups. Additionally, France must take into consideration her geographic position and her history. It has been clearly shown that France is the target of choice for the Algerian GSPC [the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat].[8]

After 9/11, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the FBI decided to headquarter America’s premier European counterterrorism liaison shop in Paris because they recognized–despite the acrimony arising from the run-up to the Iraq war and the historical coolness between the CIA and French intelligence–that France is the European country most serious about counterterrorism.

French Lessons

It is unclear what practical lessons Americans can draw from the French encounter with Islamic terrorism, given the two countries’ different histories of interaction with the Muslim world and the significant differences between the two when it comes to legal systems and the domestic purview of the state. Nonetheless, it is always worth knowing how others do things–especially other democracies–when what they do seems to work.

And one of the things the French do well–and perhaps the hardest thing for Americans to appreciate, let alone adopt–is granting highly intrusive powers to their internal security service, the Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire (DST), and to their counterterrorist investigative magistrates (juges d’instruction). The latter institution is the linchpin of France’s counterterrorism prowess, allowing the French to combine the powers of prevention, deterrence, and punishment in one individual. This office, created after 1986, has no American parallel and in its powers seems to be unique within Europe. They oversee and often direct the investigative reach of France’s myriad police services, especially the intelligence unit of the French national police, the Renseignments Généraux and the DST.[9]

This direction is exercised through a distinctly French combination of administrative statutes and–just as important–informal institutional and personal relations. The juges d’instruction do not have the authority to command the DST, which belongs formally under the authority of the interior minister. But because of the success of such magistrates as Jean-Louis Bruguière and Jean-François Ricard, who proved that they could handle sensitive information collected by a domestic intelligence agency, the DST has essentially formalized its relationship with these magistrates. The juges d’instruction can now direct DST operations and intelligence collection.[10] The political class in Paris, often at odds with the judicial class, has grown comfortable with the independence exercised by these investigative magistrates. A cynic might say that this reflects the political sensitivity of the terrorism portfolio–better that magistrates handle the potential blowback from these cases than elected officials. But it is also an acknowledgement of how effectively and professionally the juges d’instruction have conducted themselves since 1986.

French scholars and journalists have been way ahead of their European and American counterparts in dissecting Islamic extremism and jihadism.

These magistrates and their offices have become the repositories of counterterrorism information in the French government. The advantage over the American system here is significant: counterterrorism personnel at the FBI, Justice Department, CIA, and National Security Council usually rotate out of the terrorism portfolio after a few years. Few could be said to have monitored specific cases and particular Islamist organizations for years on end. Bruguière, France’s most famous juge, stayed on the counterterrorism beat for over twenty-five years and could overwhelm his interlocutors with details and insights that come only from long-standing first-hand experience. These magistrates have become, as Jeremy Shapiro and Bénédicte Suzan have pointed out in their incisive evaluation of the juges d’instruction, their own counterterrorism intelligence services.[11]

Observers are struck by the ability of the French to concentrate the combined resources of the state quickly. From the substantial use of wiretaps and other forms of electronic interception to day-and-night physical surveillance and « preventive detention » that can be directed against targets about whom authorities do not have sufficient evidence to seek criminal prosecution, magistrates and their allied police and intelligence services can rapidly monitor, harass, and paralyze those they suspect of terrorist activity. As the French 2006 white paper on domestic security and terrorism states:

To be effective, a judicial system for counterterrorism must combine a preventive element, whose objective is to prevent terrorists from acting, and a repressive element, to punish those who commit attacks as well as their organizers and accomplices. The French system follows this logic. But its originality and strength lie in the fact that the barrier between prevention and punishment is not airtight.[12]

The juges d’instruction have largely demolished this wall.

The French have other important counterterrorism agencies. Foremost among them are the Conseil de Sécurité Intérieure (Internal Security Council), chaired by the French president or his representative, which « defines the orientation for domestic security policy and establishes priorities. » The prime minister chairs the Comité Interministériel du Renseignement (Interministerial Intelligence Committee), which brings together all of the ministers involved in counterterrorism. The interior ministry leads the Comité Interministériel de Lutte Antiterroriste (Interministerial Counterterrorist Committee), which coordinates actions at the ministerial level.[13] Most important is the Unité de Coordination de la Lutte Antiterroriste (Counterterrorist Coordination Unit), which was created in 1984 inside the interior ministry. This office collects information supplied by all the other agencies, including the interior ministry, the defense ministry, and the ministry of economy, finance, and industry.[14] As noted by Shapiro and Suzan:

Previously, no single service had specialized in terrorism and thus no one was responsible for assembling a complete picture from the various different institutional sources, for assuring information flows between the various agencies, or for providing coordinated direction to the intelligence and police services for the prevention of terrorism.[15]

None of these organizations and offices is of course uniquely French. We certainly could not conclude that they operate more efficiently than their American counterparts–excepting the greater efficiency one would expect to find in a smaller, highly centralized state. What sets France apart are its juges d’instruction and their ability to harness the country’s enormous police resources. These magistrates are also able, because of their singular focus, to keep the counterterrorism apparatus in France operating with an esprit and at a tempo other countries find hard to match, especially as 9/11 recedes into distant memory. The French themselves are not deluded about their capacities: the counterterrorism white paper notes that « the threat now develops almost invisibly and is much more difficult for the intelligence and security agencies to detect. »[16] French officials are confident, however, in what the French state, properly focused on an internal enemy, can do.

Looking at the French and American approaches to counterterrorism provides an odd symmetry.

We underscore the power of the French state since so much post-Patriot Act commentary in the United States suggests that enhanced police powers–for example, the sequestration of terrorist suspects without immediate access to attorneys, or the use of wiretapping and physical surveillance that falls far short of « probable cause » of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) standards–are counterproductive to counterterrorism efforts since they corrode our collective trust in the law and are ineffective in any case.[17]

We are uncomfortable with some French counterterrorism practices–such as the government’s ability to jail French citizens without sufficient grounds for actually taking them to court–and would not want to see them imported to the United States. Some in France worry that police power, when focused on the Muslim community, can become overbearing and counterproductive.[18] The French national police and the DST are conscious of this concern. We suspect that the presence of Muslim Frenchmen in the police and domestic intelligence services–larger, it appears, than in any other European country–allows French officials to track this concern, as well as deploy a more effective counterterrorism cadre, better able to penetrate police-resistant radical Muslim circles. In any case, anxiety about police intrusiveness still appears to be a minority opinion in France, both among officials and in the wider population.[19]

Transatlantic Parallels

It is worthwhile to mention a critical study of Franco-American counterterrorism relations commissioned by the policy planning staff of the French foreign ministry. Entitled The Counterterrorist Effort in France and the United States: Beyond the Celebration of Our Cooperation, Are There Long-Term Structural Problems?, its critique is pessimistic.[20] France’s highly codified legal system, in which the French state enjoys enormous powers of intrusion and coercion, does not resemble the messier U.S. system of separated powers, judicial independence, and presumptive rights held by individuals against the government. The censure in the piece, which likely represents the views of much of the French elite, is more procedural than moral. America’s legal and political system, at least under George W. Bush, could not handle such « extralegal » challenges as Guantanamo, extraordinary rendition, or warrantless surveillance. According to the authors of the report, the United States got hoisted by its own petard by making the struggle against radical Islamic extremism into a highly politicized, militarily front-loaded « war on terror » that its legal and ethical system could not handle.

We can agree with some of this critique–for example, we do not think the Bush administration effectively thought through the judicial and legal challenges it would encounter as it interrogated and imprisoned members and suspected members of al Qaeda, the Taliban, and other extremist Islamic groups. But the stabilizing genius of American government is its extremely open political system, in which convulsive questions can be asked and debated, and bipartisan consensus can usually be found on serious matters of national security. The Bush administration, reflecting the desire of all presidents to protect executive prerogatives they deem necessary to wage war successfully, got itself into a difficult spot with aspects of the « war on terror » precisely because it did not allow politics to intervene early enough on the thorny–at times gut-wrenching–questions of how to interrogate, imprison, and eliminate « enemy combatants. » The French political and legal system does not do debate easily; if allowed, the American system does it sublimely well.

These « procedural » challenges, which torment some of our allies, are unlikely to seriously affect our counterterrorism cooperation with Paris. Throughout the run-up to the Iraq war, which was perhaps the nadir of post-World War II Franco-American relations, counterterrorism cooperation blossomed. In 2007, Nicolas Sarkozy, who openly admires much about the United States and rarely engages in the anti-American cynicism so common among the French intellectual elite, was elected president. Unless he has been hiding his true feelings–something he is not known for doing–Sarkozy does not seem to believe the United States has been ethically deficient since 9/11. We suspect that many in France, especially those in its intelligence and security services, understand the unique challenges the United States confronted after 9/11–the challenges that only a global military power could confront.

In the end, looking at the French and American approaches to counterterrorism provides an odd symmetry. In the case of France, the threat is largely–but not simply–within the confines of its own borders. To meet the threat, the French are willing to give their officials what we would consider extraordinary powers and discretion. In the case of the United States, the terrorist threat comes largely–but not solely–from abroad. To meet that threat, President Bush has used his power as commander in chief to its fullest. And while his political opponents and a few judges criticize the use of that power, for the most part, Americans have not reacted in a manner that suggests that they see a darkening, dangerous shadow over their personal liberties. Similarly, since 1986, when French domestic counterterrorism became much more intrusive–when Judge Bruguière’s distinctly un-Anglo-Saxon mission began–France has not gone down the slippery slope into tyranny. France’s society, its politics, and many of its laws have actually become much more liberal and open.

As a practical matter, there will always be a trade-off of sorts between citizen liberties and the powers a state needs to fight certain threats. Yet it is the paramount duty of any liberal democracy not only to protect the rights associated with a decent political order, but also to protect the lives of its citizens. Exercising power in the name of security is not necessarily illiberal. And as our examination of the French approach to counterterrorism suggests, the exercise of such power can be considerable indeed. It is a point that some liberal and civil libertarian critics of the Bush administration, who too rarely study what is going on abroad, might do well to remember.

Reuel Marc Gerecht is a resident fellow at AEI. Gary J. Schmitt is a resident scholar and director of the Program on Advanced Strategic Studies at AEI.

Notes

1. Reuel Marc Gerecht, personal conversations with French officials and scholars focusing on Islamic radicalism in France, 1980-2000. For a good discussion of Middle Eastern and Islamic terrorism in France and the official French reaction to it, see Ali Laidi and Ahmed Salam, Le Jihad en Europe, les filières du terrorisme en Europe (Paris: Seuil, 2002). It was the effort by the Algerian-born but thoroughly Gallicized Khaled Kalkal, in particular, to blow a high-speed Paris-Lyon train off its rails in August 1995 that caught Paris’s attention.

2. Reuel Marc Gerecht and Gary J. Schmitt, personal conversations with British and German counterterrorism officials, September 26-28, 2007, in London, and March 26-27, 2007, in Berlin.

3. For an excellent account of the British perspective on its homegrown Muslim terrorist threat, see Peter Clarke, « Learning from Experience: Counterterrorism in the UK since 9/11 » (Colin Crampton Memorial Lecture, Policy Exchange, London, 2007), available at http://www.policyexchange.org.uk/images/libimages/260.pdf (accessed October 29, 2007).

4. See Mark Landler, « Bomb Plot Shocks Germans into Antiterrorism Debate, » New York Times, August 22, 2006; Craig Whitlock, « Germany Says It Foiled Bomb Plot, » Washington Post, September 6, 2007; and Mark Landler, « Germans Weigh Civil Rights and Public Safety, » New York Times, July 12, 2007.

5. For an excellent early discussion of Islamist networks in Europe, and France especially, see Antoine Sfeir, Les réseaux d’Allah: Les filières islamistes en France et en Europe (Paris: Plon, 1997). Sfeir’s concerns proved prescient. See also Jocelyn Césari, Être musulman en France (Paris: Karthala, 1994); Bruno Étienne, La France et l’islam (Paris: Hachette, 1989); Gilles Kepel, Les Banlieues de l’islam (Paris: Seuil, 1994); and Rémy Leveau and Gilles Kepel, eds., Les Musulmans dans la société française (Paris: Êditions du CNRS, 1988). Zacarias Moussaoui’s mother was fourteen when she was married in Morocco. Five years later, Moussaoui’s parents moved to France, where he was born. In time, his mother left his father, raising the children herself. According to his family members, no religious education was provided to young Zacarias.

6. Farhad Khosrokhavar, Quand Al-Qaida parle: Témoignages derrière les barreaux (Paris: Bernard Grasset, 2006).

7. The position of American detainees is different from those in France, making it more difficult for U.S. officials to grant access to these prisoners. It is not very hard, however, to find European security and intelligence officials who have debriefed Guantanamo detainees in Guantanamo and are willing to discuss their findings privately. U.S. officials are much more sensitive, and official classification on this issue is much greater. Western Europeans–and the French in particular–are more open about discussing terrorism operationally and intellectually than their American counterparts are.

8. Assemblée Nationale, Rapport Marsaud, document number 2681, November 22, 2005, 18-19. Translation by author. GSPC has now associated itself as part of al Qaeda. If one adds up the detainees who have passed through Guantanamo, those that come from Francophone North Africa represent a significant proportion, comparable in number to those who have come from Pakistan, a country four times more populous than Francophone North Africa. In addition, seven French nationals are also known to have been detained in Guantanamo. See John Rosenthal, « The French Path to Jihad, » Policy Review, October/November 2006.

9. See Jeremy Shapiro and Bénédicte Suzan, « The French Experience of Counter-terrorism, » Survival 45, no. 1 (Spring 2003): 78-85, available at http://www.brookings.edu/views/articles/fellows/shapiro20030301.pdf (accessed October 29, 2007).

10. Ibid., 78-85.

11. Ibid., 79-84.

12. Dominique De Villepin, Prevailing Against Terrorism: The White Paper on Domestic Security Against Terrorism (Paris: La Documentation Française, 2006), 53. Emphasis added.

13. Ibid., 49.

14. Ibid., 50.

15. Jeremy Shapiro and Bénédicte Suzan, « The French Experience of Counter-terrorism, » 77.

16. Dominique De Villepin, Prevailing Against Terrorism: The White Paper on Domestic Security Against Terrorism, 36.

17. For an eloquent defense of this position, see Philip H. Gordon, Winning the Right War: The Path to Security for America and the World (New York: Times Books, 2007).

18. For a thoughtful discussion of backlash among Muslims in France, see International Crisis Group, « La France face à ses musulmans: émeutes, jihadisme, et dépolitisation » [France Facing Its Muslims: Riots, Jihadism, and Depoliticization], Rapport Europe 172, March 9, 2006.

19. For example, in Le Monde, a center-left publication generally considered the French newspaper of record, news reports and editorials infrequently express concern about the intrusiveness of French counterterrorism methods among the country’s Muslims. A comparison of Le Monde with the New York Times–in which criticism of the Patriot Act is constant–is striking.

20. Victoire Boccara and Bénédicte Suzan, Lutte antiterroriste en France et aux Etats-Unis: au delà de la celebration de notre coopération, des problèmes structurels de long-terme? (Paris: Centre d’Analyse et de Prévision, Ministère des Affaires Étrangères, N/06-079, July 12, 2006).

Targeting Terrorism
By Bruce Crumley

Since September 11, the international community has pulled together in the fight against terrorism. One of the most seasoned pros in this new global battle is Jean-Louis Bruguière, a French judge renowned for his flamboyant personality, his bulldog persistence—and for getting his man.

There is arguably no single person as emblematic of international efforts to battle terrorism as French investigating magistrate Jean-Louis Bruguière—which is why he’s usually the first French official that foreign counterparts turn to when they need a hand. Bruguière, 60, has some 20 years of specialized work behind him, work that has pitted him against violent Basque and Corsican nationalists, brutal members of extreme right- and left-wing organizations, Middle Eastern radicals and groups conducting state-sponsored terrorism. But it was the nightmarish attacks of 9/11 that catapulted Bruguière’s expertise into the international spotlight. Suddenly, stunned security forces and media from around the world were seeking him out for information on the Islamist radicals he’d been battling for a decade.
“It’s probably not going too far to say that Bruguière invented the specialty of identifying and cracking Islamist terror networks,” says a French justice official and former Bruguière associate. “For years, we got the brush-off from foreign colleagues who thought our warnings about Islamist extremism were some sort of odd ‘French obsession.’ The attacks of September 11 turned Bruguière into the man everyone wanted to see.”
That it took a calamity of such massive proportions to put Bruguière’s experience in demand is itself a testament to how thankless counter-terrorism often is—even among peers. Bruguière was, after all, the sleuth who fought French public apathy and political meddling in unraveling the 1989 bombing of a French passenger plane over Niger that killed 170 people. His inquiry ultimately led to the conviction of two Libyan secret service agents responsible for the attack. (It also earned the pipe-smoking magistrate the nickname “The Admiral” when he circumvented an international flight blockade of Libya by traveling there by boat.) In 1994, Bruguière staged another coup with the arrest of the notorious terror leader “Carlos the Jackal,” whom the intrepid judge snatched and spirited out of Sudan while his prey was sedated awaiting minor surgery. Carlos was later sentenced to life in prison for bombing attacks in France based on the prosecution dossier Bruguière had assembled.
In the early 1990s, before most of the world had ever heard of al Qaeda or Osama bin Laden, Bruguière had already begun uprooting underground logistical and financial networks assisting Islamic radicals waging terror attacks in Algeria. That early introduction provided Bruguière a view into the kinds of thinking and structures that later unleashed jihadist fury on France itself. He soon identified the cross-pollinating nature of Islamist networks established across Europe—as nominally religious fellowships—and the presence of fighters who had returned from Bosnian and Afghan jihads in their midst. (Recently, his services were also the first to determine that al Qaeda-associated training camps in and around Chechnya are producing the terror plotters in European networks.)
The first clear signal that Salafist radicals had internationalized their jihad by targeting France came in 1994, when an Air France plane was hijacked in Algiers and flown to Marseille for refueling. After French officials realized the terrorists planned to fly the gas-bloated jet to Paris and crash it into the city center, elite French SWAT teams stormed the plane, killing the hijackers—and preventing what al Qaeda members later achieved on 9/11.
The following year, Bruguière hit the ground running when a series of bomb attacks rocked Paris, killing 10 people and wounding more than 200. The teamwork between French intelligence forces and Bruguière’s investigating staff soon tracked and shut down the cells and networks behind the strikes. In addition to nabbing Islamists who provided funds and logistical support for the jihadist activity, Bruguière also convicted the two Algerians who had planted the bombs. A third extremist accused of orchestrating and financing the plot on behalf of Algerian-based extremists is in a London jail fighting extradition.
The 1995-96 bombing campaign convinced Bruguière of something the American public would believe only in the aftermath of 9/11: that the international jihad movement was indeed globalizing, and that it could truly be battled only by enlisting France’s allies in Europe and abroad. But making the case to police and intelligence forces in countries that had not been attacked wasn’t easy. “Many of our colleagues—notably in the U.S., but some in Europe as well—felt this was an ‘ex-colonialist hang-up,’ some French obsession with Algeria,” recalls a French anti-terrorism official who works with Bruguière. “It was very hard work getting skeptics to realize that Islamist networks plotting attacks on France had taken root on their own turf. It was even harder to get them to understand that people they considered to be ‘ordinary criminals’—those who raised illicit money or forged identification papers—made up the logistics networks backing terror plots. Getting them to connect the dots was agonizing because time lost increased the possibility of attack.”
It wasn’t until the late 1990s, however, that Bruguière’s European counterparts were fully convinced that he had a case that merited international attention. In 1998, Bruguière coordinated sweeps in a number of European countries ahead of attacks planned for the French-hosted World Cup soccer championship. In December 2000, after tracking the movements and activities of Islamist radicals, Bruguière alerted German police to a Frankfurt cell preparing an attack on the Christmas market at the Strasbourg Cathedral. Arrests in Germany, Spain, Italy, France and Belgium thwarted the scheme. Shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, meanwhile, Bruguière rounded up remnants of a terror network he knew to be plotting a suicide bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Paris. Testimony of arrested network members in other European countries indicated additional strikes on a U.S. military base in Belgium were also in the works.
Convincing American authorities of the rising Islamist threat was even more of a challenge. As late as 1999—and despite clear Islamist ties to the initial World Trade Center attack in 1993—U.S. colleagues had been dismissive of Bruguière’s warnings. Their reaction, recalls a former Bruguière associate, “tended to reflect the attitude, ‘If it were really a threat, we’d know about it already.’” Ironically, a similar Bruguière rebuff in Canada ultimately led to an American epiphany not only about the jihadist threat but also about Bruguière’s importance as an ally. In 1999, while tracking a Canadian-based organizer of radical networks in Europe, Bruguière and his deputy, Jean-François Ricard, traveled to Montreal, where local authorities downplayed the suspect’s fanatical links and activities and provided minimal investigative cooperation. At least one Islamist cohort of that Montreal radical soon vanished from sight—and was arrested two months later driving into the U.S. in a van packed with 130 pounds of explosives. The Algerian, Ahmed Ressam, turned out to be the al Qaeda-trained “Millennium bomber,” whose orders were to blow up the Los Angeles International Airport as 2000 was rung in.
“Ressam’s arrest really changed the Americans’ tone with Bruguière,” the justice official says. “Before, they tended to view him as a no-tech investigator—an Old World cop who couldn’t hold a candle to the spy satellites and other high-tech capabilities of the CIA and FBI. Then, they suddenly realized the nature of the Islamist terror threat and saw that human involvement is probably better adapted to dealing with it. They also appreciated the fact that Bruguière had adopted an efficient approach before anyone else even knew there was a threat out there.”
Indeed, at the Americans’ request, Bruguière served as an expert witness at Ressam’s trial. Bruguière would later recall the court official and terror neophyte who, when he heard the name “al Qaeda,” responded with the equivalent of “Al Who?” He also remembers seeing a flash of recognition in Ressam’s eyes as Bruguière catalogued jihad leaders and operatives. Bruguière’s interaction with American colleagues grew from there—with mutual professional esteem evolving into something approaching friendship. Those relationships have facilitated an exchange of information between the understandably secretive and defensive players in counter-terrorism. “Bruguière is one of the few foreigners who commands full respect from American intelligence officials as an equal, a trusted ally,” says French terror expert Roland Jacquard. “They also know he’s got the determination and power to act when things need to get done fast.”
An example of that trust was seen last June, when U.S. intelligence officials identified Christian Ganczarski, a German convert to radical Islam, in Saudi Arabia. A veteran of al Qaeda’s Afghan camps who once boasted of having met bin Laden, Ganczarski was linked to a deadly 2002 suicide bombing of a synagogue in Tunisia (the suicide attacker placed a call to Ganczarski shortly before his strike). Despite that connection—and ties to other known practitioners of violent jihad—German laws requiring relatively high levels of evidence of wrongdoing prevented Ganczarski’s arrest as a terror suspect. Piqued by Germany’s inability to act, U.S. intelligence officials lost no time negotiating Ganczarski’s expulsion from the kingdom to Germany—via France. U.S. officials knew that, in accordance with French law, Bruguière opens legal inquiries into any attack targeting French interests or—as in the Tunisian attack—claiming French victims. Given that Ganczarski was a prime suspect in Bruguière’s investigation, alerted police were able to arrest the German during his Paris layover. He’s been in custody ever since.
Similarly, Australian police worked hand-in-hand with Bruguière last September in the arrest and deportation to France of Guadeloupe-born Islamist, Willie Brigitte. A convert to Islam who—astonishingly enough—underwent his jihadist training after 9/11 in a Pakistan-based camp run by extremist group Lashkar-e-Taiba, Brigitte was believed to be waiting for fellow radicals to join him in Australia to execute a terror strike.
“Bruguière and his partners in the French counter-terror organization follow their suspects and developments in the Islamist world very carefully,” notes Jacquard. “Foreign colleagues know he’ll do what he needs to do to undermine the terrorist threat. And as in the case of Ganczarski, they will even ask him to exercise responsibilities and powers that other security authorities may not enjoy.”
Indeed, Bruguière sits atop a specialized anti-terror section unique to France—a body created by a 1986 law establishing a highly centralized police and investigating authority to combat the increasingly complex threat of terrorism. It links Bruguière’s team of five inquiry-conducting magistrates with a pair of covert information-gathering organizations: a crack police unit called the Renseignements Généraux (similar to the FBI) and the counter-terror intelligence service, DST. As head of the judicial branch that investigates information and suspects identified by those agencies—and that builds cases to be eventually tried in court—Bruguière is one of a handful of French officials fully in the loop on the information in the fight on terror.
Meanwhile, the same 1986 law created a useful legal weapon adapted to countering terror schemes. The catchall charge of “association with wrongdoers involved in terrorist enterprises” allows investigators to link the much wider base of logistical support that facilitates attacks with the network operatives at the top of the pyramid. Under this precept, the counterfeiter of documents, the arms transporter or the thief whose ill-gotten gains are knowingly forked over to people in terror networks are legally tied with those who actually plant the bombs. And neither Bruguière nor his intelligence and police partners hide or apologize for using moles and other informants in Salafist mosques or extremist circles. In-formation obtained there has repeatedly allowed French investigators to keep tabs on militant imams, track the evolution of network members and identify new recruits falling under the spell of radical Islam.
Ironically, those laws—and the power they afford security officials like Bruguière—were long denounced by civil libertarians in France and abroad as far too sweeping and prone to widespread abuse. Suspects may in fact be detained and questioned for 92 hours before charges are filed, and they may remain jailed for up to three and a half years as investigations are completed and go to trial. But just as many who brushed off Bruguière’s early warnings on Islamist terror have fallen in line to fight it, most nations have responded to 9/11 with security laws that far surpass France’s 1986 statutes. The United States and Britain have notably been denounced by some observers as having sacrificed due process and the presumption of innocence with authoritarian measures to fight terrorism. France’s formerly trailblazing measures “almost look outdated and quaint by comparison,” muses Jacquard. “The wider goal of terrorism has always been to force democracies to quash the very rights and liberties at their core in order to defend themselves. Finding the right balance between security and freedom is our biggest challenge.”
But it’s one the French law seems to have managed nicely. The 1986 law—and the special units it created—have thus far managed to prevent any successful strikes on French soil since the 1995-96 bombings and have allowed Bruguière to thwart a number of unfolding, often unreported plots. Meanwhile, Bruguière himself has largely personified the open and productive counter-terrorism partnership that continues to flourish across the Atlantic—and which actually grew stronger even as the French-American cold war over Iraq raged last year.
Critics, however, say that Bruguière also personifies the way that ego and love of headlines can negatively affect the anti-terror drive. They claim Bruguière’s fondness for attention has led him to adopt the high-profile role of a crusader, whose media-thrilling methods—such as using large sweeps to net a small number of suspects—violate civil liberties. His international reputation has also provoked jealousies—and at times full-blown feuds—within counter-terror forces. “Bruguière is an extremely capable investigator, and one who has done this nation a great service in fighting terrorism,” comments an official close to President Jacques Chirac. “But he has also stepped on many, many toes.”
Perhaps, but Bruguière seems to have made more allies than enemies—and won some powerful admirers. Just recently, he and a delegation of French intelligence officials met with Bush Administration members, who thanked them for their cooperation in the recent flurry of terror scares that led to the grounding of U.S.-bound Air France flights. “This is one of the huge advantages of forming personal relationships within the very tense and high-risk environment of counter-terrorism,” notes one French security official. “When Americans pick up the phone and call Paris to get or give information, they aren’t dealing with some faceless ‘French guy.’ They’re usually dealing with Bruguière. That’s how it works—and that’s why it works.”

Voir enfin sur l’homme qui pendant 20 ans a incarné la « méthode française » (qui n’était pas sans ses critiques y compris en France), le juge anti-terroriste Jean-Louis Burguière, récemment remplacé après une tentative malheureuse d’entrée en politique:

Jean-Louis Bruguière a été pendant plus de vingt ans la figure emblématique d’un système aujourd’hui envié à l’étranger mais qui a toujours suscité des critiques en France.

Le système imaginé après une vague d’attentats imputée à l’Iran consiste à centraliser le traitement des affaires terroristes à Paris, avec un « fief » ultra-sécurisé sous les toits du palais de justice, la galerie Saint-Loi.

Les suspects peuvent être placés en garde à vue jusqu’à quatre jours, six dans certains cas. Il est possible de poursuivre tous les membres d’un réseau, des plus mineurs aux plus importants, avec l’incrimination « d’association de malfaiteurs en relation avec une entreprise terroriste ».

Pour ses partisans, ce système a permis de prévenir de nombreux attentats, tout en préservant la garantie des droits des suspects et un accès quasi-normal au système judiciaire.

Pour ses détracteurs, les juges antiterroristes ont fait trop souvent une utilisation abusive de leurs pouvoirs, avec une utilisation extensive de la détention provisoire. Les critiques se sont calmées après l’apparition au Royaume-Uni de détentions extra-judiciaires et l’ouverture par les Etats-Unis du camp de détention de Guantanamo, à Cuba, où les suspects n’ont aucun statut légal.
Un nouveau « patron » en France pour les juges antiterroristes
Reuters
Le Monde
20.12.07

PARIS (Reuters) – Yves Jannier, actuellement avocat général à Paris, va succéder à Jean-Louis Bruguière à la tête de l’équipe des juges d’instruction antiterroristes, modèle pour l’étranger mais controversé à Paris.

Le Conseil supérieur de la magistrature (CSM) a approuvé jeudi la candidature de ce magistrat, présenté dans la magistrature comme le favori du ministère de la Justice, pour le poste de « premier vice-président du tribunal de Paris chargé de la coordination de la lutte antiterroriste », a-t-on appris de source judiciaire.

Après cet avis conforme, qui était nécessaire procéduralement, la place Vendôme va prononcer formellement sa nomination par un décret durant la « première quinzaine de janvier », a-t-on expliqué au cabinet de Rachida Dati.

Yves Jannier, 54 ans, a été juge d’instruction à Versailles puis substitut du procureur de Nanterre (Hauts-de-Seine), avant de passer au parquet général de Paris en 2002.

Une cinquantaine de candidats s’étaient manifestés pour ce poste et sont donc écartés, dont Gilbert Thiel et Laurence Le Vert, en poste au pool antiterroriste actuellement, Jean-François Ricard, un de ses anciens membres et Renaud Van Ruymbeke, juge d’instruction financier réputé.

Yves Jannier s’est notamment fait remarquer par son réquisitoire au procès en appel du fiasco judiciaire de l’affaire Outreau, en 2005, où il avait été le premier magistrat à reconnaitre l’innocence des personnes poursuivies.

Il a achevé sa carrière d’avocat général à Paris en requérant au procès d’Yvan Colonna, condamné à perpétuité pour l’assassinat du préfet de Corse Claude Erignac en 1998.

Jean-Louis Bruguière, 63 ans, a quitté le poste au printemps dernier pour une candidature au titre de l’UMP aux législatives dans le Lot-et-Garonne, où il a été battu par son adversaire socialiste. Il ne pouvait techniquement revenir, ayant abandonné à ses collègues tous ses dossiers d’enquête.

Jean-Louis Bruguière a été pendant plus de vingt ans la figure emblématique d’un système aujourd’hui envié à l’étranger mais qui a toujours suscité des critiques en France.

Le système imaginé après une vague d’attentats imputée à l’Iran consiste à centraliser le traitement des affaires terroristes à Paris, avec un « fief » ultra-sécurisé sous les toits du palais de justice, la galerie Saint-Loi.

Les suspects peuvent être placés en garde à vue jusqu’à quatre jours, six dans certains cas. Il est possible de poursuivre tous les membres d’un réseau, des plus mineurs aux plus importants, avec l’incrimination « d’association de malfaiteurs en relation avec une entreprise terroriste ».

Pour ses partisans, ce système a permis de prévenir de nombreux attentats, tout en préservant la garantie des droits des suspects et un accès quasi-normal au système judiciaire.

Pour ses détracteurs, les juges antiterroristes ont fait trop souvent une utilisation abusive de leurs pouvoirs, avec une utilisation extensive de la détention provisoire. Les critiques se sont calmées après l’apparition au Royaume-Uni de détentions extra-judiciaires et l’ouverture par les Etats-Unis du camp de détention de Guantanamo, à Cuba, où les suspects n’ont aucun statut légal.

Thierry Lévêque

Voir de plus:

French Push Limits in Fight On Terrorism

Wide Prosecutorial Powers Draw Scant Public Dissent

Craig Whitlock

The Washington Post

November 2, 2004

PARIS — In many countries of Europe, former inmates of the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have been relishing their freedom. In Spain, Denmark and Britain, recently released detainees have railed in public about their treatment at Guantanamo, winning sympathy from local politicians and newspapers. In Sweden, the government has agreed to help one Guantanamo veteran sue his American captors for damages.

Not so in France, where four prisoners from the U.S. naval base were arrested as soon as they arrived home in July, and haven’t been heard from since. Under French law, they could remain locked up for as long as three years while authorities decide whether to put them on trial — a legal limbo that their attorneys charge is not much different than what they faced at Guantanamo.

Armed with some of the strictest anti-terrorism laws and policies in Europe, the French government has aggressively targeted Islamic radicals and other people deemed a potential terrorist threat. While other Western countries debate the proper balance between security and individual rights, France has experienced scant public dissent over tactics that would be controversial, if not illegal, in the United States and some other countries.

French authorities have expelled a dozen Islamic clerics for allegedly promoting hatred or religious extremism, including a Turkish-born imam who officials said denied that Muslims were involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. Since the start of the school year, the government has been enforcing a ban on wearing religious garb in school, a policy aimed largely at preventing Muslim girls from wearing veils.

French counterterrorism officials say their preemptive approach has paid off, enabling them to disrupt plots before they are carried out and to prevent radical cells from forming in the first place. They said tips from informants and close cooperation with other intelligence services led them to thwart planned attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Paris, French tourist sites on Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean and other targets.

« There is a reality today: Under the cover of religion there are individuals in our country preaching extremism and calling for violence, » Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin said at a recent meeting of Islamic leaders in Paris. « It is essential to be opposed to it together and by all means. »

Thomas M. Sanderson, a terrorism expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said France has combined its tough law enforcement strategy with a softer diplomatic campaign in the Middle East designed to bolster ties with Islamic countries.

« You do see France making an effort to cast itself as the friendly Western power, » as distinct from the United States, he said. « When it comes to counterterrorism operations, France is hard-core. . . . But they are also very cognizant of what public diplomacy is all about. »

France has embraced a law enforcement strategy that relies heavily on preemptive arrests, ethnic profiling and an efficient domestic intelligence-gathering network. French anti-terrorism prosecutors and investigators are among the most powerful in Europe, backed by laws that allow them to interrogate suspects for days without interference from defense attorneys.

The nation pursues such policies at a time when France has become well known in the world for criticizing the United States for holding suspected terrorists at Guantanamo without normal judicial protections. French politicians have also loudly protested the U.S. decision to invade Iraq, arguing that it has exacerbated tensions with the Islamic world and has increased the threat of terrorism.

Despite the political discord over Iraq, France’s intelligence and counterterrorism officials say they work closely with their American counterparts on terrorism investigations.

With the largest Muslim population in Europe, France is being closely watched in neighboring countries, many of which are tightening their own anti-terror and immigration laws. But even following the Sept. 11 attacks and the March 11 bombings of commuter trains in Madrid, other European countries have been reluctant to fully embrace the French model, part of a legal tradition from the Napoleonic era that has always given prosecutors strong powers.

Britain, for instance, typically takes years to extradite terrorism suspects to other countries and has respected the free-speech rights of imams who praise Osama bin Laden, the al Qaeda leader, and endorse holy war. Until three years ago, Germany did not ban membership in a foreign terrorist organization such as al Qaeda as long as it didn’t operate inside the country.

Many of the anti-terror laws and policies in France date to 1986, when the country was grappling with Palestinian and European extremist groups. Since then, the government has modified and expanded those laws several times, gradually giving authorities expanded powers to deport and detain people.

‘High Pressure Zones’

Terrorism is « a very new and unprecedented belligerence, a new form of war and we should be flexible in how we fight it, » said Jean-Louis Bruguiere, a senior French anti-terrorism judge. « When you have your enemy in your own territory, whether in Europe or in North America, you can’t use military forces because it would be inappropriate and contrary to the law. So you have to use new forces, new weapons. »

At times, French authorities have pursued terrorism cases outside their borders, taking over investigations from countries unwilling or unable to arrest suspects on their own.

Last year, Christian Ganczarski, a German national and alleged al Qaeda operative, arrived in Saudi Arabia for a religious pilgrimage to Mecca. A Muslim convert who became a personal acquaintance of bin Laden, Ganczarski was suspected by French authorities of helping to organize the April 2002 bombing of a synagogue in Djerba, Tunisia, which killed 21 people.

Saudi officials prepared to deport Ganczarski back to Germany, but when German officials indicated they lacked the evidence to arrest him, Saudi authorities arranged a detour, putting him on a flight with a connection through Paris. When Ganczarski arrived at Charles de Gaulle Airport on June 2, 2003, he was detained for questioning by French police.

Seventeen months later Ganczarski remains in a French jail, under investigation for alleged conspiracy in the Tunisian attack. French investigators have claimed jurisdiction in the case because French nationals were among the casualties in the Tunisia attack.

Also last year, French counterterrorism officials tipped off the Australian government that a visiting French tourist, Willie Brigitte, was allegedly part of a terrorist cell in Sydney that was planning attacks during rugby World Cup events there. Lacking direct evidence of their own, Australian officials deported Brigitte to France in October 2003, where he was arrested. He also remains in jail, where he is subject to regular interrogations.

The French anti-terrorism judge overseeing both cases is Bruguiere, an investigating magistrate who under French law is granted great prosecutorial powers, including the ability to sign search warrants, order wiretaps and interrogate suspects.

Over the past decade, Bruguiere has ordered the arrests of more than 500 people on suspicion of « conspiracy in relation to terrorism, » a broad charge that gives him leeway to lock up suspects while he carries out investigations.

« There is no equivalent anywhere else in Europe. This provision is very, very efficient for judicial rule in tackling terrorist support networks, » Bruguiere said in an interview. « Fighting terrorism is like the weather. You have high pressure zones and low pressure zones. Countries that have low pressure zones » attract terrorism.

‘Erosion of Civil Liberties’

Bruguiere estimated that 90 percent of the defendants he has indicted and brought to trial have been convicted. Critics assert, however, that most people arrested on orders of anti-terrorism judges in France never face terror-related charges and eventually are freed. Official statistics on French terrorism prosecutions are not readily available, so it is difficult to assess the outcome of such cases.

William Bourdon, a Paris attorney representing Nizar Sassi and Mourad Benchellali, two of the four French nationals released from Guantanamo Bay in July, said his clients were rearrested not because they were suspected of any crimes in France, but merely because they had gone to Afghanistan before the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

Under French law, his clients could remain jailed for up to three years until authorities complete their investigation. « What has been done here is absolutely unfair, » he said. « There’s a high level of inhumanity in the decision. »

Michel Tubiana, a lawyer and president of the Human Rights League in France, told the story of a chicken vendor he once represented to illustrate how easy it is for suspects to be arrested under French anti-terror laws.

He said the vendor, Hakim Mokhfi, was detained in June 2002 after authorities learned he had gone to a camp in Pakistan before Sept. 11, 2001, and knew a person who was an acquaintance of Richard C. Reid, the Briton who pleaded guilty in the United States to charges of trying to blow up an American Airlines flight with explosives concealed in his shoes in December 2001.

On three occasions over the past five months, Tubiana said, outside judges assigned to review the vendor’s case have set deadlines for investigating magistrates to either indict or release him. The deadlines have passed, but his client remains locked up, court documents show. « There is in fact no control » over these magistrates, he said. « They are all-powerful. »

Tubiana cited a new law enacted last year that drops a requirement for French anti-terror police to have an eyewitness when carrying out a search warrant. The requirement had been intended to prevent the planting of fake evidence.

« There has been a definite erosion of civil liberties in France, and not just with terrorism, » Tubiana said. « We’re seeing things that would have been unthinkable 10 years ago. »

At the same time, Tubiana and other defense attorneys acknowledged that French counterterrorism investigators generally make efficient use of the tools at their disposal.

The Directorate of Surveillance of the Territory, the domestic intelligence agency, employs a large number of Arabic speakers and Muslims to infiltrate radical groups, according to anti-terrorism experts here. Police are also quick to use the threat of preemptive arrest to persuade suspects to work as street informants.

Targeting Clerics

The French government has also stepped up efforts to crack down on radical Islamic clerics. While authorities have long had the right to expel foreigners if they are judged a threat to public safety, lawmakers passed a bill this year that makes it possible to deport noncitizens for inciting « discrimination, hatred or violence » against any group.

The target of the new law: an Algerian-born imam named Abdelkader Bouziane, a cleric living in Lyon who was originally expelled from the country in April after he publicly urged Muslims to attack U.S. targets in France and later told an interviewer that it was permissible for men to engage in polygamy and beat their wives. Bouziane was allowed to return after an appellate court ruled in his favor, but under the modified law was deported last month to Algeria.

Bruno Le Maire, a senior adviser to the interior minister, said authorities have placed about 40 mosques under close surveillance and move quickly whenever they find a cleric preaching radicalism.

« There’s not a direct link between what these imams say and terrorism, but there are indirect links that can be dangerous to democracy and the security of our country, » he said. « So we have to be very careful with these people. »

Other countries, including the United States, have long-standing policies that restrict law enforcement agents from infiltrating places of worship. So far, however, France’s aggressive approach has not led to widespread criticism.

Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris, said many Muslims support the expulsions and are just as concerned about preventing terrorist attacks as other French citizens. « We find the public arrogance of these extremists completely intolerable, » he said. « Fundamentalism is on the rise. . . . This is a real danger. The state should take measures against these types of people that disrupt society, not only when there is a terrorist attack, but before. »

Special correspondent Maria Gabriella Bonetti contributed to this report.

3 Responses to Contre-terrorisme: Pourquoi le terrorisme est bien une affaire de simple police (Who needs Jack Bauer when you have Jean-Louis Bruguiere?)

  1. […] Le système légal fortement codifié de la France, dans lequel l’Etat français bénéficie d’énormes pouvoirs d’intrusion et de coercition, ne ressemble pas au système américain plus compliqué de séparation des pouvoirs, d’indépendance de la justice, et des droits présomptifs de l’individu contre le gouvernement. (…) Le système légal et politique de l’Amérique, au moins sous George W. Bush, ne pouvait gérer des défis “extrajudiciaires” tels que Guantanamo, l’externalisation des interrogations ou la surveillance sans mandat. Selon les auteurs du rapport, les Etats-Unis se sont pris à leur propre piège en transformant la lutte contre l’extrémisme islamique radical en une “guerre fortement politisée et militarisée contre la terreur” que leur système légal et moral ne pourrait pas gérer. (…) En fin de compte, la comparaison des approches françaises et américaines contre le terrorisme révèle une étrange symétrie. Dans le cas de la France, la menace est en grande partie — mais pas simplement – issue de son propre sol. Pour y faire face, les Français sont prêts à fournir à leurs fonctionnaires ce que nous considérerions comme des pouvoirs d’exception. Dans le cas des Etats-Unis, la menace terroriste vient en grande partie — mais pas seulement — de l’étranger. Pour y faire face, le Président Bush a élargi au maximum ses pouvoirs en tant que commandant en chef. Et tandis que ses adversaires politiques et un certain nombre de juges critiquent l’utilisation de ces pouvoirs, les Américains n’ont pour la plupart pas réagi d’une manière qui suggère qu’ils y voient l’ombre d’une menace pour leurs libertés personnelles. De même, depuis le moment où, avec le début de la mission si peu conforme au droit anglo-saxon du juge Bruguière en 1986, la lutte contre le terrorisme intérieur est devenue beaucoup plus intrusive, la France n’a pas glissé dans la tyrannie. Bien au contraire, la société, la vie politique et nombre des lois françaises sont devenues beaucoup plus libérales et ouvertes. Gary J. Schmitt et Reuel Gerech […]

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  2. yemba kashoba dit :

    pourquoi le terrorisme fond la guerre aux américains et ces alliés? pourquoi les pirates somaliens s’attaque au bateau francais

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  3. […] Etats-Unis, l’Espagne, le Royaume-Uni, les Pays-Bas et la Norvège mais 17 ans après (merci qui?) les derniers attentats islamistes de 1995 mais sans compter les nombreuses tentatives évitées, […]

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