PARIS (Reuters) - France needs to set up a national counterterrorism agency to oversee the fight against dangerous militants, according to a parliamentary inquiry into security failings that allowed the bomb and shooting attacks in Paris last November.
The recommendation for a body modeled on the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center reporting to the prime minister was one of 40 proposals made by a parliamentary committee after a five-month inquiry.
Poor coordination between security services in France and at the European level let crucial information slip through about militants who killed 130 people in coordinated attacks in and near Paris on a stadium, cafes and the Bataclan concert hall, the inquiry found.
“We are not up to the task (in the fight) against those who threaten us today,” conservative lawmaker Georges Fenech, who headed the committee, told a news conference.
The inquiry concluded that though some of the gunmen who killed 90 people in the Bataclan attack could have been arrested, there was little possibility of identifying the concert hall in advance as a target.
Fenech said that Salah Abdeslam, the only suspect in the attacks in French custody, had slipped through a checkpoint at the French-Belgium border afterwards because he was not flagged as a security threat. An hour and half later, Belgian police informed their French colleagues that he was known for having become radicalized.
Better coordination between Belgium and Greece could have also led to the arrest in January 2015 of the supposed operational mastermind behind the November attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, Fenech said.
The inquiry was also highly critical that armed soldiers who arrived outside the Bataclan while the attack was underway were unable to take action because they had not received orders to do so.
France has stepped up patrols by soldiers in cities since the attacks as part of a state of emergency. But Fenech questioned their use, calling instead for 2,000 extra police to be drafted.
The inquiry also found that surveillance in prisons, where future militants often become radicalized, was mired in bureaucracy with information gleaned there not filtering up to officials in positions to take decisions.
France passed a law last year giving the state intelligence services more powers to eavesdrop after militants killed 17 people in January 2015 attacks on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish grocery store.
Reporting by Chine Labbe; Writing by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Richard Balmforth