Last week’s train terror attack in Europe might have been foiled, but European authorities are worried that they won’t be so lucky next time — and that there will be a next time:
The sheer number of militant suspects combined with a widening field of potential targets have presented European officials with what they concede is a nearly insurmountable surveillance task. The scale of the challenge, security experts fear, may leave the Continent entering a new climate of uncertainty, with added risk attached to seemingly mundane endeavors, like taking a train.
“We are now faced with unpredictable terrorism,” said Jean-Charles Brisard, a French security consultant and terrorism expert. “Terrorists henceforth will be choosing soft targets, those where there is little security,” he said. “And that’s why he chose a train — because there is little security.”
Yes, soft targets are a problem and, no, you can’t harden them all.
But what should strike you about this story is that French and Spanish authorities knew that Ayoub El Khazzani was a risk, and yet somehow he was able to obtain a sack of weapons and ammo, and then board a train.
From elsewhere in the story:
The shortcomings of the French security list were highlighted on Sunday by Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Front Party here. Ms. Le Pen called for the expulsion from France of terrorism suspects on the security threat list, saying there were “serious weaknesses” with the system. Some antiterrorism experts agreed that control of the movements of suspect individuals with residency permits across European borders — including those on lists — was weak. That played into the inherent weaknesses in controlling rail passengers, they said.
Because of the European Union’s borderless frontiers, there are no “systematic controls on Europeans” or those holding resident cards, “only on foreigners,” Mr. Brisard said. And that is “the real problem,” he said.
With determined jihadists, 40 million passengers daily and 100,000 trains, securing Europe’s rail networks is a challenge unlikely to be met anytime soon, if ever, according to security experts.
We enjoy open borders among 50 states, but we also have a single counterintelligence service and, in theory at least, a single set of rules. Europe has open borders throughout the EU, but each member state is still in charge of its own internal security.
Until border controls are reinstated or the EU becomes an real, unitary state, terrorists like Khazzani will continue to exploit the real soft target — the dichotomy between the EU’s ambitions and European reality.