Ya’alon: France should have beefed up anti-terror laws

Israeli defense minister says French authorities need a Patriot Act, should have cracked down before attacks

Raoul Wootliff is the producer and occasional host of the Times of Israel Daily Briefing podcast.

Then-Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon speaks to students at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, on March 4, 2015. (Photo credit: Hadas Parush/Flash90
Then-Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon speaks to students at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, on March 4, 2015. (Photo credit: Hadas Parush/Flash90

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Sunday morning that Friday’s attacks in Paris, which left 129 people dead and nearly 100 critically injured, show Europe needs to change the way it fights terror.

Ya’alon told Army Radio that sweeping new measures were needed to prevent further terrorism in the Continent. He proposed giving authorities wide-ranging powers to carry out surveillance and other activities for national security, similar to those mandated by the Patriot Act passed in the US following the 9/11 attacks.

Referring to “the balance between national security and human rights,” Ya’alon said that European countries would need to reassess the priority given to personal freedoms in order to deal with this form of terrorism.

“For countries fighting terror, there is no choice other than moving the balance to the side of security,” he said.

Following a jihadist killing spree in January that left 17 dead in Paris, France in July passed a series of government reforms giving the state sweeping powers to spy on its citizens, a move that drew criticism from French rights groups..

The laws give authorities power to keep tabs on the digital and mobile communications of anyone linked to a “terrorist” inquiry without prior authorization from a judge, and forces Internet service providers and phone companies to give up data upon request.

However, French authorities chafed at comparisons to the Patriot Act, anti-terror legislation passed in the US following the September 11 attacks, which has been criticized as going too far in restricting freedoms in favor of security.

At the time, Prime Minister Manuel Valls defended the bill saying that to compare it the Patriot Act was a “lie.”

An April poll published showed that nearly two-thirds of French people were in favor of restricting freedoms in the name of fighting extremism.

Ya’alon said he expected France would increase security measures including implementing passport checks, searches at entries to public places as well as surveillance of French citizens.

“It is definitely an attack that will affect Europe as 9/11 affected the US,” he said.

Ya’alon said the legislation giving authorities wider leeway to carry out surveillance and other activities for national security passed in the wake of January’s attacks, did not go far enough.

“They understood that there was danger but there were steps they needed to take beforehand that they didn’t take,” he said.

Ya’alon also told Army Radio Sunday that Europe would have to reassess its policy of open borders, saying the current arrangement effectively allows free movement from Iraq and Syria to Western European countries.

“Most of the recent terror attacks have been carried out by those who have gone to fight in Syria and Iraq and have come back skilled and organized. In this case they were even sent by Islamic State to carry out attacks,” he said. “The terrorists must be stopped from entering Turkey and from there gaining entry to Europe.”

French authorities said Saturday that a Syrian passport found near the body of one of the attackers was linked to a man who entered the European Union through a Greek island last month.

Hundreds of French citizens — more than any other European country — have left to join militant groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

AFP contributed to this report.

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