The European Union’s open borders policy has allowed Islamic State terrorists to set up sleeper cells in Britain, Germany and Italy where they are planning Paris and Brussels style attacks, America’s most senior intelligence chief has said.
Briefing journalists in New York, James Clapper, the US Director of National Intelligence, warned of a “fundamental conflict” between open borders and security in Europe. He said that IS terrorists have already taken advantage of the migrant crisis to slip into Europe, where they are plotting their next big atrocities.
He said: “On the one hand there is the European Union’s incentives and drives to promote openness and free movement of people and goods and privacy, which is in some ways in conflict with the responsibility each country has as a nation state to protect the security of its border and its people.
“So there’s countervailing processes.”
Asked whether Britain, Germany and Italy have sleeper cells similar to those in Paris and Brussels, he said “Yes, they do.
“This is obviously a concern of ours and our European allies. We continue to see evidence of plotting on the part of Isil in the countries you name.”
130 people were killed when ten Islamic State fanatics attacked numerous targets in Paris last November. One of them, Salah Abdeslam fled to Brussels where he is believed to have associated with the terrorists who carried out co-ordinated suicide bombing attacks at Brussels airport and a metro station in the city. 34 people were killed in the bombings.
Since then, intelligence services have been working hard to compile a picture of how the terrorists undertook the operations.
“We’ve learned that they are fanatic, very OPSEC conscious — meaning operational security conscious — they’re very mindful of that,” Mr Clapper said.
“They have taken advantage, to some extent, of the migrant crisis in Europe — something which the nations, I think, have a growing awareness of.”
Mr Clapper has urged European nations to be more open to sharing intelligence as a way to beat the terrorists. Two weeks ago he led a delegation of American intelligence officers to Germany, where they met with their European counterparts in what he described as an effort “to promote more sharing between and among the nations in Europe.
“That, right now, is a major emphasis of ours,” he added.
Keith Vaz, chairman of the Commons home affairs select committee said: “This is a worrying view which needs to taken very seriously as it comes from a key ally which works with the UK closely on these matters.
“There are worrying concerns about free movement across the EU. Once someone passes through the external border of the EU there are simply no checks before they get to the UK. Even there they are not challenged robustly enough as they are EU citizens. These gaps need to be addressed.”
Mr Clapper’s warning echoes that of Andrew Parker, head of MI5, who last October warned that “mass casualty” attacks were being planned in Britain and that the threat from IS showed “no signs of abating.” According to Parker, six major terrorist plots were thwarted in 2015 alone.
Western intelligence officers have said that it is very difficult to tell where the next attack will come, but it is understood that Germany and Britain are most concerned about being targeted next. Much of the information comes from within Islamic State itself, through propaganda communications.
Claude Moniquet, a former French intelligence officer who follows terrorism trends told the New York Times that Britain is mentioned most often as a potential target during online chatter.
He found statements on the internet in French published on the same day as the Brussels attacks by the Al Wafaa Foundation, a media organization close to Islamic State officials which read: “I am addressing this article to David Cameron, the pig of the crossbearers; he should not believe that the attacks aimed at Brussels and at Paris will not reach London.
“Soon, the soldiers of the caliphate will besiege England. Even before America.”