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Interpol Pushed For Greater Border Security A Week Before Paris Attack

The European Union is about to tighten border security in response to the Paris attacks -- something Interpol suggested a week before the attack

Nov 19, 2015 at 6:53 PM ET

In response to the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday, the European Union is expected to tighten security along its external borders. A new measure would require anyone leaving or entering the 26-nation block—inside of which, travelers don’t need passports to move between countries—to have their travel documents checked against Interpol databases that track criminals and terrorists.

If the measure, discussed on Thursday at an emergency meeting in Brussels, had been in place previously, it could have identified known terrorists before they made it into Europe, and potentially stopped a massacre.

The ideas in the proposal aren’t new. In fact, Interpol—the police agency that coordinates the international law enforcement efforts of its 190 member nations—had focused its recommendations for combatting terrorism on border security measures at a conference in Europe just a week before the attacks. At the G7 in Berlin, Michael O’Connell, director of Interpol’s operational support and analysis, called for a “global approach” to combatting terrorism, which includes border management and more effective sharing of information.

At the conference, Interpol said its mandate comes from the United Nations, which tasked Interpol with maintaining a database of foreign terrorist fighters in 2014, to be shared between member nations. According to the agency, about 50 countries contribute to the database and it currently has more than 5,000 profiles of suspected terrorists.

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“From these records, dedicated analysis has been delivered to Interpol’s membership to combine, evaluate and share intelligence on the capabilities, means and emerging trends of foreign terrorist fighters to ensure that the right piece of data reaches the right officer at the frontlines,” Interpol explained in a document obtained by Vocativ from the November 6 Interpol conference.

The problem, Interpol said, is that the database has been underutilized by its member nations.

“In Interpol’s opinion, here lies perhaps the greatest gap in international efforts against this threat: four years into the outbreak of the Syrian conflict, the landscape of global screening efforts against terrorist mobility remains deeply varied, and critically uneven from an operational perspective,” O’Connell said in his November 6 address. “Multilateral action and information sharing across regions, and mobilizing international resources to build border management infrastructure and skills in frontline states remain fundamental against the life cycle of terrorism, from radicalization to violence.”

On Thursday, French officials expressed their anger over receiving no prior warning from other European nations that a man who was believed to have been involved in a collection of thwarted terrorist attacks was known to be in Europe. That man, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, is believed to have been the mastermind behind the Paris attacks.

“No information coming from European countries, where he could have transited before arriving in France, was given to us,” French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said of Abaaoud on Thursday. Abaaoud was killed after a bloody standoff with police at an apartment in a Paris suburb on Wednesday.

It’s unclear whether Abaaoud is in Interpol’s database, but he has been linked to as many as six other terrorist attacks throughout Europe, many of which were foiled by law enforcement.

In February, Abaaoud was interviewed by the ISIS magazine Dabiq and bragged about how easily he traveled through Europe, despite being a known terrorist. “My name and picture were all over the news yet I was able to stay in their homeland, plan operations against them, and leave safely when doing so became necessary,” he reportedly told the magazine.