Ignoring the risks

The G7's Terror Agenda

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Charlie Hebdo was a wake-up call for much of Europe.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    U.S. intelligence blunders and the leaking of secret NSA files has led to a cooling of relations between G7 intelligence agencies, possibly putting people at risk.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • The G7 summit will take place in Bavaria, Germany, on June 7 and 8.
    • No communiqué on terrorism is planned.
    • The global number of victims of terrorism today is more than four times as high as in 2000.
  • Audio

    Audio

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Isn’t it the same as always? We are on the verge of a G7 summit and hardly anyone is interested in the content of the meeting, particularly as the real priorities of the leading seven industrial nations are being forgotten.

Alongside climate protection and the current economic and geopolitical hot spots, international terrorism, the Hydra of our times, is fading into the background.

The German federal government is reportedly not even planning a closing communiqué on the issue. Do those in Berlin want to shirk from the uncomfortable truth? From a debate that also involves the need for intelligence agencies, and their ability to cooperate and gather information through interception and surveillance activities? “Yuck!” is the usual reaction in Germany.

Almost 14 years have passed since the attacks on the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York. And even though the global number of victims of terrorism is more than four times as high as in 2000, the agenda for the G7 summit at Schloss Elmau in Bavaria, Germany, reads like a reincarnation of the group’s debate after September 11, 2001.

The moment when a terrorist group conducts a cyber attack on vital western infrastructure, such as water or power supplies, is not far off.

Then the British announced drastic economic steps, which included freezing accounts and funds to counteract money laundering. Today, Paris and Berlin are calling for the development of a Europe-wide “asset freeze” system. In addition, the French and German finance ministers are talking about improvements in the exchange of sensitive banking information and the control of anonymous payment methods.

Nothing is wrong with that, but it gives one the creeping feeling of holding a weak document. Because none of that is new.

Sophisticated terrorism must be thought through strategically. The circle of deadly attacks is drawing closer and closer to our country. Without the help of friendly agencies, Germany would have mourned victims long ago.

Without question, the U.S. National Security Agency foolishly and unnecessarily betrayed our trust. However, it is doubtful whether or not the wrangling driven by electoral motives over “selector lists” and the “no-spy” agreement will bring a nanosecond more of security.

Where is the politician who will finally explain to the people the purpose, necessity and limits of intelligence agencies? Someone who does not shy from making it clear to a public shielded from the truth that Germany was and is a latent target of terrorists.

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The G7 nations would be well advised to synchronize their legal grounds for surveillance measures as well as the relationship between the private sphere and security as much as possible, instead of self-righteously pointing fingers.

And naturally the United States must be reminded that intelligence agency cooperation conducted in a dictatorial manner not only does more harm than good to its reputation among friendly nations, but also does more harm to its own citizens abroad and to American business interests.

Lastly, terrorism is shifting to the digital battlefield. Islamic State butchers are already using cyberspace with creative perfidy as a recruiting and intimidation platform. The moment when a terrorist group conducts a cyber attack on vital western infrastructure, such as water or power supplies, is not far off.

The blessings given to total networking, and the prospects of the “Internet of things,” create new opportunities for attack. That makes it even more inconceivable that the G7 agenda does not include any crucial aspect of digitalization. What an omission, also when it comes to the terrorism component.

 

To contact the author: gastautor@handelsblatt.com

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