The Corner

National Security & Defense

Finally Getting Serious about Identifying Islamists?

After the jihadi attacks in Paris in January and November 2015, the French intelligence agency Direction générale de la sécurité intérieure (DGSI, General Directorate for Internal Security) began to scrutinize personnel at the city’s airports.

As Adam Sage reports for the Times of London in “Islamists defy checks to work at Paris airport,” DGSI then began doing what is normally unheard of: Looking intently at Muslims among the 82,000 employees at Paris’s Charles de Gaulle Airport to see who they are and what they believe. Specifically, it

was ordered to check all Muslims with airside security passes in airports. Radicals were to be weeded out. More than 60 passes were withdrawn for “inappropriate behaviour,” such as a refusal to trim a beard or to shake hands with female colleagues. Some employees had their passes withdrawn for praying in Salafist mosques, others because a copy of the Koran was found in their lockers. Some were said to have expressed support for the jihadists who killed 130 people in Paris six months ago.

The apparent sabotage of an EgyptAir flight that left Paris for Cairo on May 19 suggests that even these measures did not suffice. In the words of Eric Denécé of the Centre Français de Recherche sur le Renseignement (CF2R, French Center for Intelligence Research): “The problem is not resolved. Radical Islamists still worked at the airport, not necessarily as baggage handlers but at all levels.”

A few thoughts: (1) It’s pretty remarkable that a long beard, not shaking hands with a woman, praying in the wrong mosque, owning a copy of the Koran, or supporting ISIS already can get a person fired.

(2) As yet more intrusive measures to ferret out Islamists seem to be in the works, I offer my services: Should the authorities need help figuring out further signs as to who might be a sleeper agent, I provide some clues here. And if they need questions to ask to probe attitudes, I offer those here and here.

(3) “Denial is likely to continue until the price gets too steep,” I wrote in 2013. “At that point, worries about Muslim sensibilities and fear of being called an ‘Islamophobe’ will fade into irrelevance, replaced by a single-minded determination to protect lives.” Perhaps, at Parisian airports anyway, that moment has been reached.

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