Below is an article published by the Toronto Star which included quotes from an interview with them in the wake of yesterday’s Brussels attacks.
The original article can be found by clicking here.
Security failures surface as Europe suffers another terror attack
Roberta Bonazzi was on her way to a meeting in Brussels Tuesday when she heard the startling news of two airport terrorist bombings.
Ironically, Bonazzi heads the Counter Extremism Project’s Brussels office — situated close to the Maelbeek metro station that was targeted by the next blast of the two-pronged attack which took at least 32 lives in the European capital.
The subject of her meeting: “jihadi radicalization.”
“There was panic and a lot of confusion,” Bonazzi said in a phone interview. “Not even six months after Paris we had another major attack in Europe.”
That’s what is uppermost in the minds of European security experts, as Belgian police continue to hunt for a suspected terrorist who reportedly escaped.
But in a sprawling space of more than 500 million European citizens, with permeable borders, a growing refugee crisis, a lengthening list of “homegrown” terror recruits, and communication gaps between security services, there are predictions of more attacks on the horizon.
Within a week of celebrating the arrest of a most-wanted suspect from the November 2015 Paris attacks that claimed the lives of 130 people, renewed fear and feeling of vulnerability has rippled through Europe.
Experts admit that in spite of new and sometimes draconian measures to combat attacks after Paris, there is no guarantee of a terror-free future.
But the Belgian assault has drawn attention to what critics call “fatal flaws.”
“There has been lots of talk at the national and European level of measures to prevent attacks,” said Bonazzi. “But clearly the measures weren’t effective.”
In Belgium, the situation is complicated by two fractured language groups and division of Brussels into 19 administrative districts now under six police forces.
But even in the best co-ordinated countries, Bonazzi said, “it’s very difficult to secure any city in an open society.”
Since the Paris attacks, says Islamophobia and security policy expert Chris Allen of the University of Birmingham, European security services have changed course from preparing for massive 9/11-style attacks to “more chaotic, multiple, simultaneous attacks.”
But he warns, “what we get into is more intrusive policies — increased scrutiny and intrusion. The problem here is where to draw the line.”
Since the Paris attacks, the EU has opened a new Europol centre for anti-terrorist co-ordination, giving national security services quick access to information they need to disrupt terrorist threats and networks. It is also calling for closer inter-border co-operation and more trust and information-sharing between countries.
France declared a state of emergency after the attacks of the past year. Counterterrorism measures allow travel bans for people going abroad to join jihadist movements, prosecution of those who incite terrorism on the Internet, widespread surveillance, shutting down of mosques and searches of houses of suspects.
In Spain, a new security law cracks down on “everything from insulting a police officer to protesting outside the country’s legislature,” says Time magazine. It also allows intrusive Internet surveillance and could curb freedom of speech.
In Germany, police have created a counter-terrorism unit of up to 250 officers trained for emergency situations.
In Italy, those considered a national security threat are deported, “radical” imams imprisoned and suspects considered threatening tracked and detained for questioning.
Britain, however, is a leader in cracking down on terrorism.
A recent counter-terrorism law is designed to combat homegrown terrorism and curb the spread of jihadist recruitment. It allows confiscation of passports of suspected terrorists travelling to Syria or Iraq, two-year bans on British terror suspects trying to return from abroad and more disclosure of airline passengers’ data.
It has also made it mandatory for public bodies — including universities — to prevent students or staff from becoming radicalized. A measure that has caused widespread protest.
Another anti-radicalization measure, says Allen, bars people the police believe “vulnerable to radicalization” from going to mosques or even local cafes suspected of radical activity. “It goes into the infrastructure of the Muslim community,” he says.
And a new bill nicknamed the “snooper’s charter” would allow police wider powers to hack phones and computers and access web browsing history of Internet users.
These measures have ignited protest in Britain, and raised objections that they might cause anger and alienation among the people they seek to keep from radicalization.
But they may be the way of the future in Europe if attacks continue, says Allen. “There’s been a striking change in the last five years, and the emphasis is on increased security. Countries are looking to follow the UK lead.”
Read the original article here.