When one thinks of bureaucracy, the first thing that comes to mind is ineffectiveness and rigidity. These are not really two qualities that one wants to have when it comes to the National Security Apparatus in the United States. However, forget the difficulties that actors in one nation state may have when working together to create a uniform policy. Imagine the difficulties that two nations may have on a bureaucratic scale when working together to combat terrorism. A failed example of this is highlighted by the lack of response by American intelligence services with regards to the participants in the Boston Marathon Bombings, after being warned repeatedly by Russian intelligence services.
After seeing the news regarding the attacks today in Paris, where even at this point suspects are being sought, I thought it prudent to talk about the United States-French intelligence cooperation, or possibly lack thereof. France, unlike other close allies such as the United Kingdom, is not a member of the “Five Eyes” agreement, where participating countries share SIGINT with one another. It is, however, a country that is part of the expanded “Nine Eyes” group, where intelligence is shared, but countries do not promise not to spy on one another. One of the key problems between American and French intelligence services is the perceived or actual scope of spying of the two countries on one another, hampering cooperation. After all, the United States and France have competing interests and do not wish to cede ground on these.
All the same, France can be considered one of the most steadfast allies that Washington has in the war on terror, and commits resources to areas that the United States has not had the same degree of involvement, such as Mali. Especially after the previous attacks in Paris this past year, the collaboration has only increased and reached a spearhead with the French involvement in airstrikes in Iraq against the Islamic State. When dealing with bilateral intelligence sharing, following the revelations about scope of American collections in Europe, there were large portions of the general populace that were firmly against the scope. Just last week a Facebook lost a court case where it had stored European data in the United States. However, France also recently passed a law creating what is seen as much further reaching than current American laws in terms of data collection. With the increased amount of data that must be analyzed, the French might be more likely to rely on the American services to sift through the information.
The French bureaucracy has also, even with some in the press worried about the implications for civil rights, not resisted the implementation of new terror legislation. With events in the country seeming somewhat out of control, there is a push for more security, even if it may be at the cost of personal freedoms.
The failures of the intelligence services to hamper the attack in Paris will unequivocally be examined as the investigation into the attacks unfolds. Perhaps the opportunity for the two countries to further develop their cooperation will present itself, increasing the overall preventative measures of the intelligence agencies.