Global Counter-Terrorism: How US allies are coping with terror – France, Canada, and Australia

This is the second and final segment of a previous post. To see the original, click here:


In France the Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire or Department of Territorial Surveillance (DST) serves the same function as MI5 does in England. The central difference between the two organizations is that MI5 has some oversight, while DST does not. DST’s two primary terrorism concerns seem to be the Armed Islamic Fighting Group (GIA) and the Salafist Preaching and Combat Group (SPCG). This is in large part because “the main danger confronting the country is that from international terrorist groups, especially emanating from Islamist militants based in former French colonies such as Algeria and other Maghreb Countries”[i].

As such the DST’s three central missions are counter-terrorism, counter-espionage, and “protection of France’s economic and scientific infrastructure”, a responsibility it shares with the Economic Security and Protection of National Assets Department. DST relies on several means of acquiring the needed intelligence to do its job. Amongst these tactics are the use of informers, “community sourced information provided by the general community”, monitoring activities of “immigrants entering France”, and “foreign sourced data” that is provided by the Direction Generale de la Securite Exterieure (DGSE), the French equivalent of MI6[ii].

For example, DST capably uses its “extensive network of informers” or individuals who may have been planted within the French Muslim Community. In many cases, these sources of HUMINT are “convicted terrorist felons who have gained amnesty in exchange for cooperating with police and the security services”. As such these individuals can get access to people, places and sources of information that the police or intelligence authorities cannot. This information then goes into the Vigipirate program, France’s “basic structure” for their counter-terrorism program. Community-sourced information comes from the relationship between the DST and community leaders. Further measures taken to keep the local populace informed include “integrated media campaigns explaining the purpose of counter-terrorism measures and why they are being directed against certain groups”[iii].

The DST’s monitoring activities can be classified as attempts to make sure that those entering France are doing it for appropriate (non-criminal) reasons. To guarantee this, France mandates that “all non-citizens are required to carry an Identity card” and that “French nationals running hotels and guest houses must inform the authorities of arrival and departure of any immigrants to who they provide lodging”. Finally, France’s “raw intelligence data feed[s] directly into domestic threat assessments and associated programs for physical protection and hardening”[iv].

The DST, like many of its foreign counterparts, is not allowed to arrest people; hence, when it discovers a threat, it collaborates with “two main agencies in conducting surveillance over immigrant communities and formulating vulnerability risk assessments for general terrorist mitigation purposes”[v]. As mentioned previously, the DST has no entity or individual overseeing it for accountability. As such, some of its critics have argued that its carte blanche authority is a problem and oversight of its activities should be provided.


Canadian intelligence has some key similarities, but also a few interesting differences with other national intelligence organizations. In Canada, the internal intelligence agency is the Canadian Security Intelligence Service or CSIS. The CSIS, like others, is in charge of information pertaining to domestic intelligence threats and similar to its counterparts in that it has no arresting authority, however, the similarities stop there. Because Canada is not a target of terrorist attacks so much as a source for recruitment, fund-raising, and a safe haven, the tasks that the CSIS undertake are vastly different from what the MI5 or the DST might be required to handle. As such Canada’s central terrorist problem largely relates to “spillover effects of overseas conflicts” and as such Canada continues “to act as a highly important hub of political, financial, and logistical support”[vi].

The CSIS is split into three main areas: a threat assessment unit which “prepares and disseminates time-sensitive evaluations about the scope of immediacy of terrorist threats posed by groups and individuals in Canada”, case officers, who “conduct interviews within local communities to explain the work of intelligence services, as well as to assess the likelihood of violence taking place”, and finally providing input to the “enforcement information index”. The CSIS places considerable importance on maintaining an efficient working relationship with police, largely because the agency has no arresting powers of its own. As far as oversight is concerned, the CSIS reports to the Security and Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC), and the Executive Directorate of the Inspector General (EDIG) who reports to the solicitor general. The two central obligations of these organizations are “carrying out audits of CSIS, and investigating complaints made against the service’s officers”[vii].

Canada takes these precautions due to the fact that “over the past decade, terrorists linked to Hamas, Hezbollah, Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the GIA, al-Qaeda, PIRA, The Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Babbar Khalsa, and the Dash mesh regiment” have been known to enter Canada “generally posing as refugees-to engage in various front and organizational support activities”[viii].


Australia’s internal security agency is the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO). Australia has not traditionally been a target of terrorist attacks. However, with the governments’ recent support of the United States in the War on Terror and its intervention in East Timor it has become a target to Islamic extremists, specifically Jemaah Islamiyah, a Southeast Asian affiliate of Al-Qaeda. The ASIO “has no powers of arrest”, but does have a limited ability to “detain and question” a suspect “before a prescribed authority”[ix].

Additionally, the agency “collects and receives raw intelligence from a variety of sources”, including by relying “more heavily on community-based information”, and “open-source information together with data gleaned from search, entry, and surveillance operations from an important adjunct to HUMINT” (human intelligence). To assure the surrounding community of its intentions, the ASIO “has moved to provide greater clarity about the legality, propriety, and effectiveness of the agency’s work”; the success of this effort has been demonstrated by greater information provided by the Australian populace. “[M]ore than 5,000 voluntary submissions to ASIO in 2002” were received “responding to the government’s call for a public that is “alert but not alarmed”[x].

Oversight of the ASIO is conducted through the attorney-general’s Inspector-General office of Intelligence and Security (IGIS), with “external security performed through the Parliamentary Joint Committee (PJC)”. IGIS oversight includes a vast amount of information including but not limited to “operational cases and files”, “official use of alternative documentation”, and access to and use of financial information obtained from the Australian taxation office and the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre”[xi].

The terrorist threat to Australia is not as serious as the one to the United States, the UK, and France, but it is rising, and it appears that the Australians are not only aware of this rising threat that Islamists pose, but are taking measures to ensure that these threats are adequately addressed in both the law enforcement arena and the military arena with its involvement in the war on terror.


As one now sees in the case studies of the United Kingdom, France, Canada, and Australia the threat that terrorism poses is very real, but also very different from country to country. Each country has its own set of traditions, and values as well, and one would expect those traditions and values to play a critical role in a country’s counter-terrorism policy. Some countries such as the UK, US, or France are on higher alert because of previous experiences. These countries have been the targets of terrorist attacks big and small in the past and as such not only are required to take threats more seriously, but also are in a situation where one piece of faulty intelligence could ultimately mean the success of that plot. Meanwhile, Canada’s situation is different; Canada is not a target of terrorist attacks, as much as a source of recruitment, financing from the countries various Diasporas (groups of foreign nationals), and at times it has also been used as a safe haven for terrorist organizations.

Because of these differences in the nature of the terrorist threat as it relates to each country it is understandable that the nature of these countries’ counter-terrorism strategies will also be different. For example, the United States’ policy is one involving military force in other countries such as Afghanistan, and parts of Pakistan. It takes these measures because the threats it faces are external to the homeland. Meanwhile, the situation is different for a country like France, who has 5 million Islamic immigrants living within its borders. As such, French policy through the DST requires monitoring of internal threats from its immigrant population (especially those from Algeria) as well as a strong external policy against terrorist groups such as the GIA, or the SPCG.

Likewise the UK is also different from the US and France in that it has the same or similar threats that those countries have, but is also well aware that there are terrorist interests inside the country from India, Turkey, and the Middle East that seek to recruit and fundraise for their cause. In this sense, the UK has similarities to France, the US, and Canada. Finally, Australia has only become a target of Islamist organizations recently with its support of the US War on Terror, and its intervention in East Timor. As such the terrorist threats from Jemaah Islamiyah are growing, but Aussie intelligence is taking the appropriate steps to confront those challenges.

[i]  Chalk, P., & Rosenau, W. (2004). Confronting the “Enemy Within”: What Can the United States Learn About Counterterrorism and Intelligence from Other Democracies? p. 41, RAND Corporation. Santa Monica: RAND Corporation.

[ii]Ibid (Same source) pp. 42-43

[iii] Ibid p. 42

[iv] Ibid p. 42-43

[v] Ibid p. 43

[vi] Ibid p. 49

[vii] Ibid p. 51,52 and 54

[viii] Ibid p. 49

[ix] Ibid p. 59

[x] Ibid p. 59-61

[xi] Ibid p. 63-64

About jakeeyremdy

A recent graduate from Norwich University with his Master of Arts in Diplomacy, Jake discusses a wide variety of topics centrally related to international diplomacy, international law, international terrorism studies, and other such topics

One Response to “Global Counter-Terrorism: How US allies are coping with terror – France, Canada, and Australia”

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