THE WEST BLOCK
Episode 10, Season 5
Sunday, November 15, 2015
Host: Tom Clark
Guests: Jeff Semple, Jacques Bourbeau, Ralph Goodale, Nicolas Chapuis, Fred Burton
Tom Clark: The sites and the sounds from Paris on Friday night that shocked the world: a stadium, a restaurant, a bar, and a concert hall, all attacked leaving 129 dead, more than 350 injured, and 99 in critical condition. This is the second time this year that Paris has come under attack. In January, terrorists targeted journalists at Charlie Hebdo Magazine, igniting three days of terror in France. ISIS has claimed responsibility for this latest attack and French President François Hollande has called it an act of war. As the city mourns, what will the world do?
It is a somber Sunday, November the 15th. I’m Tom Clark and this is The West Block.
Well today, we start in Paris where our European bureau chief, Jeff Semple, is on the ground in a city struggling to come to grips with a shocking new reality. Jeff, give me some idea of the mood in Paris this morning.
Jeff Semple: Well you said it Tom, in a word, it is very somber here this morning. Of course people still lining up and crowds of people to pay their respects at those six attack sites which have all become makeshift memorials, people laying flowers and lighting candles there. But besides those crowds this city is very quiet in large part because people remain very afraid. Security is still very high here. In fact, it seems like there are more police than passengers on the Paris subway right now. People have been asked to stay indoors if possible and to certainly avoid lighting off any fireworks. In fact, we’re hearing that a police helicopter had to be sent to a wedding in a Parisian suburb after the celebration started lighting off fireworks and people in the neighbourhood mistook them for gunfire. So this is a city on edge. I remember being here after the shootings, the attacks at Charlie Hebdo Magazine just 10 months ago and people responded within just a couple of days with incredible defiance. I remember millions of people marching through the streets, but the fact that it has happened again in such a short timeframe and on such a larger scale, people don’t know what to think and really are afraid that it could happen yet again, Tom.
Tom Clark: Jeff, are we any closer to knowing the big questions, who was involved, how coordinated this was?
Jeff Semple: Well we know first and foremost of course that ISIS has claimed responsibility, but French officials are still trying to identify the attackers involved here. We’ve heard that there have been several arrests today in Belgium, people connected to the attack. We’re also hearing unconfirmed reports now in just the last little while in the French Press that police are still looking for one more suspect. We know that eight of the attackers were killed in the attacks, most by their own hand. And French officials have now identified one of them, a 29-year-old man; a French citizen who grew up just a half hour drive from Paris in fact. We’ve also heard reports that one of the other attacker’s, who was killed, was found with a Syrian passport and of course that is sparking a lot of fears and a lot of questions in a country and a continent really that is struggling with how to deal with this refugee crisis. We’ve heard from a Greek minister that a Syrian refugee carrying that same passport in fact passed through Greece last month on that migrant trail to Europe, but officials have confirmed yet whether the owner of that passport that Syrian refugee was indeed the same person who helped carry out that attack, Tom.
Tom Clark: Jeff Semple our European bureau chief in Paris this morning. Thanks very much Jeff.
Jeff Semple: You bet.
Tom Clark: Well the attacks came just as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was boarding a plane to Europe for his first international trip. Our Ottawa bureau chief, Jacques Bourbeau, is travelling with the prime minister and has more on how leaders gathering for the G20 meeting are responding to the Paris attacks.
Jacques Bourbeau: Today, U.S. President Barack Obama said more needs to be done to eliminate ISIS, but Justin Trudeau has nothing to say at the summit so far, on this topic. And Justin Trudeau will be facing some tough questions because last night his officials said Canada still intends to proceed with our plans to withdraw our CF-18 fighter jets from the war against ISIS. When he was speaking to those business leaders, Trudeau also said that there are humanitarian and economic benefits to accepting Syrian refugees, this, despite the news that one of the suicide bombers in Paris was a Syrian refugee who fled to Europe last night month. Still the Liberals say they are going to go ahead with their plans to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada saying they can do so safely and responsibly. Now today at the summit, Trudeau is expected to address the other leaders on the issues of trade, energy and inclusive growth. But frankly, the G20’s economic agenda is being overshadowed by those Paris attacks. G20 leaders are under tremendous pressure to come up with an effective plan to fight ISIS. Tom.
Tom Clark: Global’s Jacques Bourbeau in Turkey this morning. Will the Paris attacks change our government’s mission to end the combat mission in Iraq and Syria and should Canadians be concerned about possible attacks here at home? Well joining me now is Canada’s Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale. Mr. Goodale thanks very much for being here.
Ralph Goodale: Glad to be here.
Tom Clark: First of all, do you have from your security forces any credible threat against Canada this morning?
Ralph Goodale: No. I have checked with my senior officials this morning, my deputy minister, the head of the RCMP, the head of CSIS and nothing has changed overnight or yesterday. Obviously when this incident unfolded late on Friday, all of the normal security protocols clicked into place and the heightened sense of alert was implemented across the country. All the checks were done. They continue to be done and there appears to be no connection to Canada either among the perpetrators or among the victims, the people who have sadly lost their lives. And there does not appear to be any reason for a heightened risk assessment in Canada at this time, but we remain vigilant.
Tom Clark: Okay. You know in the next 45 days, your government is promising to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees, 45 days. How do you convince Canadians that they will be safe bringing in so many people in just 45 days?
Ralph Goodale: Well two things: first of all, it will be an orderly and well planned process. Minister McCallum and the cabinet committee will be laying out the details of that process in the days ahead. A key part of it is to ensure that the appropriate security checks are done. That is a normal part of—
Tom Clark: Sorry to interrupt, but how do you do a security check on somebody who doesn’t have a security check on somebody who doesn’t have any papers?
Ralph Goodale: Well, you investigate all the background material and perhaps the absence of paper is a reason for saying we can’t process that one right now. It’s important for us to be able to have confidence in the security checks that are done and in order to qualify for being able to come in the short time frame, obviously the necessary documentation is going to be there and we will not compromise on the security investigations.
Tom Clark: Well you do know that least one of the reports out of France right now is that perhaps one of the attackers actually embedded in a stream of refugees coming in through Greece and Turkey and then ultimately into Austria and France. I mean the whole idea of terrorists embedding themselves in this massive flow, 25,000 people in 45-days over here, are you absolutely confident that within those 45 days you can weed out anybody like this person who came in that stream?
Ralph Goodale: I think the comparison with the European situation is not a direct comparison because obviously they were dealing with an ad hoc chaotic situation that was coming at them from a whole variety of different directions and it would appear in some places it overwhelmed the system. Ours is a planned process that will be more orderly, more controlled. Can you guarantee 100 per cent perfection? Is it absolutely foolproof? Nothing in life is 100 per cent, but we are going to make sure that all of our security protocols and rules are properly followed, as will the health rules too.
Tom Clark: I want to ask you about perhaps the elephant in the room and the fact that public security doesn’t necessarily just start at our borders inwards, but starts further out. And the elephant in the room is when are we going to start calling our so-called allies in the Gulf area, those dictators who support, and in some cases, finance ISIS and finance Al-Qaeda and all those people who have threatened our safety, when do we call out Saudi Arabia on this?
Ralph Goodale: Well, obviously that’s an issue of international diplomacy and statecraft —
Tom Clark: But it’s got to concern you as well?
Ralph Goodale: Sure it’s all a part of the complex matrix here and the whole world has to seriously shoulder their responsibilities in dealing with a very serious situation. Canada will and we expect other countries to do then same and when it’s necessary to point that out in a public way, Canada will do that.
Tom Clark: Are we sending any of our expertise over to France to help French officials at this point?
Ralph Goodale: We have offered that. We have offered the French authorities every bit of assistance, either intelligence that we can provide from here or on the ground support systems and whatever they ask for, we will do our very best to provide. To this moment, I’m not aware of a specific request, certainly not within my portfolio, but the government of Canada has made it clear that we will do everything we can to help.
Tom Clark: Ralph Goodale, Canada’s minister of public security. I appreciate your time this morning. Thank you very much.
Ralph Goodale: Thank you.
Tom Clark: Well coming up next the French ambassador tells us how his country is coping and what its next move might be. But first, here’s US President Barack Obama on the Paris attacks.
Barack Obama: “It’s an attack not just on the people of France, but this is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values that we share.”
Tom Clark: Welcome back. French President François Hollande has imposed a state of emergency and has called the terrorist attack “an act of war”. So, how will France respond both militarily and politically? Nicolas Chapouis is the French ambassador to Canada and he joins me now from the French embassy in Ottawa. And ambassador Chapouis, first of all, I think all Canadians would join me in passing on our condolences to you and in fact to all the French people. I can’t imagine how difficult this has been for you, especially watching it from so far away.
Nicolas Chapuis: Yes, good morning and effectively, it’s been a day of mourning already. We enter the second day and there’s a lot of emotion and we are thankful for all the kind wishes that Canadians have brought to us.
Tom Clark: Ambassador, how is this going to change France?
Nicolas Chapuis: Well it’s not the first attacks against France over the last 30 years, but it’s certainly the largest one and the most atrocious one. France will not be intimidated and will not change, or if it changes, it will be for the better, united in its determination to fight for its values.
Tom Clark: Can I ask you a little bit more specifically, President Hollande has said that this was “an act of war”, but this really a war against an ideology isn’t it and how do you fight an ideological enemy?
Nicolas Chapuis: Well, it’s a fight against ideology, I concur, but it is also a fight against an army. A real one made of thousands of soldiers who are fanatic and barbarians. And soldiers we know how to fight and my president said we will be merciless. How it will happen, it’s up to military and intelligence agencies to do what they know to do. And that will be within the greater framework of the coalition. So we are in close consultation with our allies, including Canada and it’s clear that the French government will not be intimidated by these ideologies, with so-called Islamic State with fanaticism and it is a global war. It’s not only a war in Syria. It is a war like we’ve seen Friday evening within the borders of France. But when France was attacked, I guess all the world felt that other countries were attacked at the same time because what was attacked is what we are, humans wanting to live, wanting to share values of freedom, equality, fraternity and this from Washington to [00:14:42] has been felt.
Tom Clark: What would you like the allies to do with you? You talk about a merciless fight against the actual soldiers of ISIS. There is a bombing campaign going on in Syria and Iraq as well all know, but what would you like the allies to do, specifically Canada?
Nicolas Chapuis: Well, we need to stand united in this fight and the bombing campaign has not brought all the successes that the coalition expected, so there’s a need for consultations. I know these are taking place right now as we speak in Turkey, in the margins of the G20 and for Canada, first we have so much appreciated the way the Canadian government as early as Friday evening reacted to the events in Paris and the voices of a prime minister, minister of foreign affairs, defence and so many others who expressed with solidarity. If we stand united, we will be victorious.
Tom Clark: Ambassador Chapouis, once again please accept our condolences and as they say today, everybody in this country is French. I appreciate your time sir, thank you very much.
Nicolas Chapuis: Thank you, Tom.
Tom Clark: Well coming up next, a security expert joins me to explore how ISIS operates and how or if it can be stopped, but first, here’s a witness who experienced the Paris attack firsthand.
Female Witness: Because I am in my room and I know full well people are dying. I know that without a doubt.
Tom Clark: Welcome back. ISIS as we know has claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks. Condemning that city is being immoral and saying the blood shed was in response to western and particularly French military action against ISIS. So what is the end game for these terrorists and how do they hope to achieve it? Well joining me now from Austin, Texas is Fred Burton, the vice-president of Stratfor, one of the world’s leading security and intelligence think tanks. Mr. Burton thanks very much for being here. You know, French President François Hollande called this an act of war, do you see it that way?
Fred Burton: I think that from the French perspective it certainly is. When you look at the sheer volume of innocent citizens that were attacked in the multiple locations inside of Paris, this is the same kind of reaction that we felt here in the United States after 911. And in many ways, this was Paris’ 911. So this becomes an intelligence challenge for the French and the European services to try to sort through to get ahead of the next potential threat and to hunt down those individuals that supported, these individuals that carried out these acts of terror.
Tom Clark: In your view, Mr. Burton, was it an intelligence failure on the part of the French that they didn’t see this coming because there was no particular warning about it or is it indicative of the fact that this is going to be a very, very difficult thing to crack?
Fred Burton: Well it’s easy to point fingers, I can say from personal experience when one of these events occur, but I think if you look at this from an intelligence perspective, the French are simply dealing with an endless high threat, threat stream and there is no doubt in my mind that on any given day, the counter terrorism officials in France were looking at the possibility of attacks. And trying to separate the noise becomes the problem, meaning this is a tactical analysis problem, this is a human intelligence problem, and just try to make sense of the fog of all the different chatter becomes the real daunting task and it’s just not easy.
Tom Clark: When you saw the nature of this attack, the fact that it was coordinated, six different attacks, what does that tell you about the organization of ISIS and its ability, not only to carry out the Paris attacks but perhaps future attacks in other major cities?
Fred Burton: Well from a lessons learned perspective there’s a lot that comes into play here, not only from a public safety response capability when you’re looking at that many casualties, but also how they put the plot together, meaning when was the target selected, how did they make that decision, and what other targets were looked at that haven’t been reported yet? I can tell you from having investigated these kinds of attacks in the past, there will be other target sets that were not chosen and that’s also going to be fascinating as this plays out. But in reality, this is going to take probably 30, 60, 90 days to get to the bottom of to try to figure out exactly who was behind this, who funded it, where did the logistic support come from, how did the explosives get there and how did they get the weapons into the country?
Tom Clark: What do you make of the threat that ISIS made that this is just the beginning of what they call the storm? They indicated that Rome was on the list, that Washington was on the list and other so-called spokesman for ISIS have even said that Canada is on the list, how seriously do you take all of that?
Fred Burton: Well I think after what we saw unfolded in Paris, I guarantee you that the counter terrorism agents throughout the world, and specifically in Europe and in North America from the RCMP to the FBI, the cities like the New York City Police Department are taking this very seriously until proven otherwise. Whenever these kinds of events occur, governments are reactive and what they’re going to be doing is enhancing their surveillance, meeting with their informants around the world, trying to get ahead of the problem to prevent this kind of attack from unfolding elsewhere, predominantly in Europe.
Tom Clark: Let me ask you about the whole nature of fighting an organization that yes, has soldiers on the ground and sophisticated, apparently methods of attack, but that is also at its core an ideology and I’m wondering about that. Are we paying enough attention to fighting the ideology or is increasing military response the right way to go?
Fred Burton: I think there’s another possibility here. I think an enhanced intelligence response is what’s needed. For example, the French services, I saw are working with the Israeli Mossad. The French will be dependent upon the American CIA and the FBI and the RCMP and the Canadian Secret Intelligence Service. Look, behind the scenes Tom, there’s a lot of moving pieces that are consistently flowing behind the firewalls and behind the public, and meetings are going to be taking place, and there’s going to be actionable intelligence any time anybody in the western services see some sort of threat or movement and that’s going to be immediately disseminated. So in essence, when these kinds of attacks occur, it galvanizes all the different intelligence services to try to come together and to cooperate, so you will see enhanced cooperation and you will see plots thwarted. And this might be done very, very quietly so you can try to roll up others and prevent attacks from occurring.
Tom Clark: Fred Burton of Stratfor, joining us from Austin this morning. Thank you so much. Good to have you back on the show.
Fred Burton: Thank you for having me, Tom.
Tom Clark: And that is our show for this week. We had intended to bring you an interview with Catherine McKenna, Canada’s new environment minister. I encourage you to go online to have a look at it.
Well as we leave you now, some images from around the world about how we all remembered in blue, white and red. See you next week.