September,25, Judge Marc TREVIDIC in Paris streets. @Noel QUIDU
First published in Paris-Match magazine on the 30th of september…
THE ALARM CRY OF JUDGE TREVIDIC
« France is the number one enemy of the Islamic state. We lack of means. The worse is yet to come ».
For 10 years, he hosted the antiterrorist judicial pole forced to step down in a tempest to become Vice President de Grande Instance of Lille, Marc Trevidic spoke to us at length, last September. His alarm cry unfortunately found its echo on Friday night with a series of unprecedented attacks in Paris. Here is the terribly premonitoryfull version.
Paris-Match: Based on your experience, your knowledge of the files, everything you know, can you estimate the level of threat to the hexagon?
Marc Trévidic: It has reached its maximum level, never reached before. First of all, we have clearly become thenumber one enemy to the Islasmic state. The French should know: France is the main target of an army of terrorists with unlimited means. We are particularly vulnerable because of our geographical location, the facility to enter our territory for allthe jihadists from Europe, French or not, and because of the clearand constant willexpressed by themen of Islamic State (ISIS) to hit us. Then it must be said that given the scale of the threat, and diversity of forms it can take, our anti-terrorism controls have become permeable, fallible, and it is no longer effective like it used to be . Finally, I have become convinced that menof ISIS (acronym of the Islamic state) have the ambition and the means to hit us much harder by organizing larger scale actions incomparable to those conducted so far. I say this as a technician: The darkest days are ahead. The real war that the Islamic state intends to bring to our soil has not yet begun.
Why such a dark observation ?
First of all, it must be understood that we have in front of us a more powerful terrorist group than ever. Much more powerful that al Qaeda during its great past. To give you an idea, Islamic statehas about 30,000 « soldiers » recruited over al Qaeda members in 15 years! And it is not the end. We are indeed facing a double threat. That of the surge of what I call « human scuds » individual Jihadists who take action without much training or preparation, acting alone, with more or less success, like we’ve seen lately. Andthat the incommensurable I dread: Undoubtedly Islamic state is preparing major actions, such as those conducted in the past by al Qaeda, which have sometimes resulted in appalling slaughter.
You have elements that indicate we are heading towards these type of large-scale actions?
Those whohave been arrested and who have spoken have said, and say, Islamic State intends to systematically hit us, and hard. Do understand me, it is clear from our investigation that we are undoubtedly the absolute enemy. The men of ISIS won’t simply focus on isolated action. They have the means, money, men, the ability to easily acquire as many weapons as they want. And terrorism is always a higher overbid, always goes further, hits harder, and then there is always the « Prix Goncourt » terrorism « to achieve and I am here referring to the September 11thattacks against the World Trade Center twin towers. I can not imagine for one second that a man like Abu Bakr el Bagdhadi,and his army will simplygo for little scale operations over a long period. They are spirited, thinking of something much broader, aiming at France.
Why France, how did we got here ?
Because we return to the idea that we are the ideal target. Traditionally the number one opponent of jihadist terrorism has been the United States, but the parameters have changed: Americans are much more difficult to reach. Whereas France is easy to attack. There isa geographical proximity, there are relays throughout Europe, and then the opportunity to return from Syria to France seasoned volunteers, national, bi-national, but also Belgian, Dutch, German … so members of the organization who can use and reuse the Shengen Area and merge. I remind you that, for example, Medhi Nemmouche, French, hit ISIS on behalf of Belgium, the opposite can happen to us.
But there are also political reasons and reasons related to the policy of France, geo-political and ideological reasons?
Obviously. France has become thenumber one ally of the US in the war against the jihadists, ISIS, and other Jihadist chains. We fight with weapons along withthe USA. We are the European country that has led the most number of airstrikes after America against Islamic State in Iraq. Now we intervene in Syria. And France has a « debt » in the eyes of the Islamists. According to them,France is still a colonial nation, sometimes claiming its Christian roots, and openly supporting Israel. A nation that deliberately oppress its large Muslim community. This last argument is an essential axis of propaganda for ISIS. And then there are undeniable factors: We keep selling weapons to Gulf states where deemed corrupted , and apostate unbelievers by Islamists. Our military forces also intervened in Mali to stop the Islamists, although they are not of the same origin The Mali yet we are … Finally, we have been in the front line for many yearsto fight global jihadism. And our anti-terrorist policies and actions have enabled us to bring severe blows to terrorists.
This is no longer the case today?
No! The situation has changed. We can not close our eyes to the facts. We are no longer able to prevent the attacks like we have been in the past. We can no longer prevent them. We do not have a system in relation to the threat of what the Islamic state, the accumulation of individual Jihad, and any mass organized attacks, the fact that the jihadists may travel through the Schengen area, go from one state to another, which allows to counter this threat. There is something inevitable. So of course, we stop people, we are lucky also as we have seen in some recent cases but the chance that the fact that terrorists are planted in their operational mode, wherever citizens do bouts of great bravery , can not last forever. If we imagine there were two, three, five of them, in the Thalys, simultaneously operating, it was the guaranteed slaughter. We miraculously escaped a mass attack.
And the Sentinel system, which mobilizes tens of thousands of men, policemen, military,to protect, symbolic places, sensitive sites, the device that costs a million euros a day, is it useless ?
We can not say that, but this device, it protects some places, reassures the population and actually moves the threat. And it will neverprevent the determined menfrom taking action here or elsewhere. If this is too confusing for them to hit a target under surveillance, they will find another. A cinema, a shopping center, a popular gathering … « Sentinel », « Vigipirate » We can not afford to miss out , the population would not understand, but be aware that it fundamentally does not solve anything. And that it won’tdampen Islamic state the day they decide to move up a gear and carry out attacks on an unprecedented scale. If I had to summarize I would say that they follow the path taken by al Qaeda. At first there was little action and they increased in power and it became hyper-terrorism. Actually themore a group has time to organize, the more it can consider, plan, organize large-scale actions. There is no reason why the Islamic state escapes this logic. Especially as we are unable to stop their rise in constant power. No doubt that the group is currently in the process of building the structures, networks, training men to design mass attacks. They pave the way for power to hit hard.
What do you precisely think of the new French strategy, which is to provide air strikes to exert a « legitimate right of defense » and those who would strike spirited design major attacks on the hexagon?
The use of « extrajudicial » strikes is to emulate the American model. For years the US – including UAV eliminated beatings leaders, appointed strategists, Yemen, Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq. But without weakening the organizations they were intended. It has never worked! I’m not sure of good results from the French strategy. Can we thinkabout destabilizing the organization and undermine its objectives of eliminating « leaders » who have been identified? Are there leaders of such importance, they can be replaced in time by other men? I do not believe so ! A leader disappears, he is immediately replaced by another. The Islamic state has a « reservoir » of unprecedented fighters. Before, with terrorist organizations, there were tens of people at most, there are now thousands! I am confident in saying that whatever happens the jihadists do not fear the French strikes. Anyway, they have us « in the crosshairs » and from there can not change anything! Finally, there is the problem experienced many timesby the Americans. The Syrian population is taken hostage and subjected to the yoke of the Islamists, whose leaders live in urban areas. What will happen if it is affected by strikes meant to be targeted? It would still be terrible that one allows ISIS to earn sympathy and facilitate recruitment! It is a real brainteaser. Only intelligence to enable highly accurate ground any effective strikes. Presumably, as the Islamic state is recruiting everyone and anyone, as information officers from various countries have already infiltrated. It is also necessary that they have the ability to trace info … If there were some really effective and accurate strikes ,the arm of the law not beingvery long, can be taken from here, but clearly there is nothing in this strategy to turn the tide of a war against an army of terrorists and win.
Back tothe pure legal, and capabilities of the fight against terrorism in the matter against a hydra as Daesh, so you think that the French system is very weak today?
The Means of the judiciary, which are supposed to lead the fight against terrorism, have become very clearly inadequate. It borders on poverty at a time when the threat has never been so huge. over the last two years I have seen for myself that there was sometimes more investigators to conduct investigations than were actually needed! So the bare minimum is done without being able to push the investigation, at the risk of missing serious threats. Forensic scientists ISB are overwhelmed. We do not have the human resources to investigate and collect incriminating evidence and neutralize terrorists. Now here we are in France, we won’t let the drones follow people on the basis of a suspicion! It is in a state of law. The authorities decided to make a law giving all power to intelligence without judicial review. It forgets a simple thing: In France, the judges who decide whether to arrest people or not , put them in custody, put them in detention or not, build folders that hold the water. All that is done on pure information, without supervision of a judge and has no legal value in court proceedings! It is not me who says it is the French law. And the danger when the intelligence freewheels is that we intervene too late … Our system has been very effective for years because we intervened very early, and in perfect harmony with DST agents . Evidence was harvested when someone threatened to take action the next day at 6am, it fell on the agent and never, never judicially a supervised person could take action, never! It can not be said of jihadists affiliated to the Islamic state other Merah, Thalys attacker, all of who had an S (S-for state security) form, have all been monitored at one time to another, which does not prevent them from acting !
But why then having made this law?
The executive branch wants to have all-powerful intelligence on which he has hand in. Specialized judges, and their total freedom to act Fusse that despite the so-called reasons of state ,, are set aside. It is comfortable for a government and ineffective but dangerous to society. This is also paradoxical. If Nicolas Sarkozy had wanted to pass this law, there would not be reached. Everyone would come down in the streets! The left in power in favor of events like the killing of « Charlie Hebdo » has upset the balance between intelligence and the Judiciary, the risk that we go to the wall. In a period like the one we live in, the executive plays with fire. The strength of the French system was based for 30 years on the rule of judges, and their ability to develop strategies to anticipate, and decide to hit upstream at the best time, in line with men of intelligence and those of anti-terrorist judiciary task force. The complicity between all actors of the chain was very important. Today it has disappeared.
At the same time, whatever the level, of barbary, Islamic state stills recruits… How can you explain that?
There are several factors that are responsible for what I call the « democratization of Jihad. » For years initially, jihadists were able to use the Internet, without anyone fighting against that. From here, Islamist ideology could be found in every home, everywhere in France or elsewhere. There is also the situation, a crisis both economic and moral. So many people do not know where they are, without perspective, without dreams, without a cap, without the possibility to integrate a consumer society. They are easy prey. Especially as to take action, it’s not complicated … A plane ticket of 230 euros to Turkey, and it’s done! For many it is a way of leaving all their « problems » behind, and believing in the idea of an exciting life, in all cases of a new life.
There are also non-Muslim people behind without any financial difficultieswho leave …
That is what I call the fad. This is not rational at all. Jihad has become totally « trendy ». It’s crazy to say but this is the case. A kid gets one on « Facebook » with a fake Kalashnikov, their friends follow … It is completely disconnected from any religious reality, but once this step is taken, we enter a fascinating process without analysis, recoilless one begins the game and then arises the risk of tipping. It’s like a fugue. But one that can have terrible consequences. Not all leave for the same reasons, some disgusted return without ever having fought, others will be in stages, being trained as part of a genuine initiatory cycle « mujahideen » and potential terrorists. The essential flaw in our society is that it provides a breeding ground for an ideology that can make killers without limits.
On what is this ideologyessentially based, to attract so many people?
The Jihadists come first, as authentic defenders of the oppressed Islam by the West. They claim to act in self-defense against a West that is killing Muslims whom they have to defend. I heard constantly here in my office. Those who have married this ideology make comparisons. They say we kill innocent people without causing us any problems, and that we are terrorists They select arguments to legitimize their most terrifying actions. They extol the idea of an ideal state, where Muslims could finally live in ideal conditions. They talk constantly wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, as the crusades of modern times and also rely on the insolvent Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And it, in propaganda, still works … This is also something that brings us to a conclusion: The problem of the struggle against Islam, jihad is that not everything is all white on one side, and black on the other… there are many gray areas.
Does the French anti-terrorist, so efficient in the past, is not preciselyalso entering a gray area?
As it is, we can estimate that the anti-terrorist court system is no longer good enough. It’s a big risk, because when a system is not powerful enough, it will be happening! I fear that more and more comes to « extra-judicial » methods, administrative, without recourse. As did US with Guantanamo, inventing the concept of « unlawful combatants ». » Then come out of the rule of law to pass in an arbitrary system. Sometimes we are already heading towards this path and this is very dangerous because it plays into the hands of those whom we fight nourishing anti-Western sentiments and French. Our policies have no long-term vision. In economics, the challenge is to slow the unemployment trend, we must slow the progression trend workforce Islamic state. For now, for lack of appropriate means in terms of « consolidated financial statements » I will say that it is rather the failure on all lines.
Are we safe from waves of attacks campaigns on our soil?
Certainly not ! If we take the example of Kouachi brothers, who hit « Charlie Hebdo », there were, given what we know, armaments available to them on the way to a campaign of attacks . It escaped because in a car accident, one of two brothers lost his identity card, that is what helped them identify and launch the manhunt that resulted in the deaths of two men killed by the GIGN, but Kouachi did not go for a suicide operation, if they could have, they would have continued to hit. Like Nemmouche, the killer of the Jewish Museum in Brussels, Like Merah … Last year I did neutralize a very dangerous jihadist network that wanted to create 10 « Merah » operating simultaneously! The idea that one day we are faced with a major bombing campaign absolutely can not be ruled out. Those who want to beat us want to cause us the most harm possible. And over time. They prepare it. The French will have to prepare themselves, not get used to the threat of attacks, but the reality of attacks that will inevitably arise in my opinion. We must not close our eyes. We are now in the eye of the storm and the worst is ahead of us.
Interviewed by Frédéric Helbert. photo: Noel Quidu
Grand-reporter de guerre et journaliste d'investigation, multi-médias, membre de l'association de la presse judiciaire, passionné par les phénomènes terroristes depuis le début de ma carrière. Très souvent sur le terrain, je souhaite partager avec tous les faces parfois moins visible des enquêtes et reportages. J'aime explorer le dessous des cartes de dossiers sensibles.
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