29. Oct 2016  |  Security and Defence  |  Studies

This report’s primary focus is the Salafi jihadist terrorist threat. Since 2014, there has been a significant increase in attacks by these groups and, in Europe alone, at least 274 civilians have been killed and over 1,000 wounded. Building on the experiences of foreign fighters, terrorist tactics are evolving rapidly to blend small, overlapping and informal networks of extremists capable of conducting both sophisticated and crude attacks. These groups retain the intent and capability to cause further harm.

These attacks have revealed major seams in some nations’ law enforcement and intelligence capacities and capabilities, and highlighted failures in both domestic and transnational counter-terrorism liaison. Better integration is not only possible, but also a political responsibility. It is time to adapt and address existing barriers to better law enforcement and intelligence integration and transnational liaison. These include issues of trust, standardisation, legislation, counter-terrorism approaches and culture. These must be addressed incrementally through existing best practises and models.

The key problem GIRI addresses is that of intelligence and personal information sharing and its operationalisation at the domestic as well as transnational level. Although since the attacks of 9/11 intelligence agencies have been at the centre of counter-terrorism efforts, this report recognises that as terrorism is fundamentally viewed as a crime in both Europe and North America, law enforcement is increasingly at the centre of better transatlantic counter-terrorism cooperation. Crucially, better integration of both intelligence and law enforcement agencies is needed to provide the means for pre-empting terrorist attacks before they occur, rather than relying on effective investigation after the event.

Our approach is not to recommend new top-down institutions or bureaucracies. Rather it is to build capacities and capabilities to address existing problems by implementing best practises already utilised in some nations, through existing institutions and innovative technologies It also argues for better training to encourage standardisation. The GIRI report is based on extensive interviews and consultations with GIRI’s network of serving and former counter-terrorism officials and academics from Europe and North America.

The report introduces four bottom-up practical solutions to these largely operational and tactical CT challenges based on existing models. Its first proposal calls for the establishment of a permanent Core Transatlantic Counter-Terrorism Hub, which would represent the first step to provide a secure space for linking existing national CT centres with high degrees of mutual trust. The success of this core, would encourage less capable and/or willing nation states to improve their services in order to join. The report secondly advocates for operational Case-Based Task Forces be set up within to the Hub, designed to react ad hoc to emerging CT challenges. Such task forces would promote joint execution of intelligence-led operations and better intelligence/personal information sharing. Thirdly, the report advocates for a single search interface to enable real time information exchange. The so called ‘hit-no-hit’ single search interface would enable each nation to hold its data but encrypted searches would help identify information or patterns for follow-up. GIRI’s fourth recommendation is to set up a transatlantic CT Centre of Excellence, which would enable joint standardisation and training, as well as create a much needed bridge between intelligence and law enforcement professionals around the issues of CT issues. 

You can download the full report of the GLOBSEC Intelligence Reform Initiative: ‘Reforming Transatlantic Counter-Terrorism’ here


Honorary Steering Committee:

Hon. Michael Chertoff (Chair), former Secretary of US Department for Homeland Security, cofounder and Chairman of The Chertoff Group.

Hon. Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Sweden. John, Baron Reid of Cardowan, former Home and Defence Secretary, Member of the House of Lords.

Dr. August Hanning, former State Secretary in the Federal Interior Ministry of the Federal Republic of Germany and Director of the Federal Intelligence Service (BND).

Research Team:

Daniela Richterova, Politics and International Studies, University of Warwick.

Patrick Bury, Strategy and Security Institute, University of Exeter.