Spain - November, 2004 (The World & How To Get There)


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In Spain, those arrested, prosecuted and convicted for crimes related with this type of terrorism are mainly foreigners from countries with majority Muslim populations, in particular from North Africa. However, the vast majority of immigrants from these countries —about a million at present— have nothing to do with terrorism. It is imperative that this basic but certainly crucial distinction be made —along with other distinctions, for example between Islam, Islamism and Jihadist Salafism— in order to understand the circles in which terrorists move.

This is essential for proportionate and selective police action that is effective rather than counterproductive. It is very important that in their work preventing and fighting global terrorism, the security forces are able to earn the respect and confidence of the Muslim communities established in Spain.

Nonetheless, some interesting people have been hired. In any case, it is also true that, in the prevention of global terrorism, the police forces require both temporary and regular collaborators and informants who are embedded in the communities where the terrorists move. But the investigation of the 11 March attacks made it very clear that this is an extraordinarily complex issue and its regulation is still pending, given the many practical and legal obstacles encountered.

In addition to the increase in human resources aimed at improving the police knowledge and action against current global terrorism, the number of translators and interpreters working in the internal security structure in Arabic and certain other highly relevant languages such as Urdu, rose from 11 to 86 between April and November Another aspect of strengthening the central police information and intelligence services in order to prepare the security forces to deal effectively with the challenges inherent to global terrorism has been the creation of new departments specialised in matters directly related to the procedures and operational methods used by international terrorists, as well as investments in new material resources.

The figure for direct costs includes specific funding for the fight against international terrorism, and funding under this heading has continued to keep pace with funding for security in general, which has grown by Despite the increase in human resources, organisational changes and acquisitions of new material resources used to adapt internal security structures to deal with the risks and threats of global terrorism after the 11 March attacks, it must be kept in mind that the police information and intelligence services are subject to existing legislation.

Also, that even though this phenomenon is very difficult to investigate and it is especially complicated to present judges with incriminating evidence, no significant changes have been made in counter-terrorism legislation, except for some that involve the storage and use of explosives, and the transfer to Spanish legislation of binding decisions made at the EU level.

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This situation is in contrast to other European and western countries whose citizens have also suffered serious terrorist attacks related to al-Qaeda, such as in the US, Australia and the UK, where special legislation has been introduced. It is also in contrast to other countries such as France and Italy, where attacks are feared and special legislation has also been passed. On one hand, the fact that Spain has not substantially changed its terrorism laws means that fundamental rights and civil liberties have not risked being eroded on the excuse of combating global terrorism.

It may be time to consider reforms to the characterisation of certain preparatory activities that lay the groundwork for violent radicalisation, recruitment and terrorist training, which do not always meet the technical legal criteria of collaboration with an armed group. We might also consider making the financing of international terrorism a crime in itself, while looking into witness protection, the use of intelligence sources before the courts, and wire tapping without previous judicial authorisation, for example.

One of the most substantial innovations to occur during the legislature following the Madrid bombings, in terms of adapting intelligence capabilities to more effectively prevent and fight global terrorism, is at the same time a clear step forward along another of the main lines of action taken to adapt internal security structures to the risks and threats posed by the phenomenon. Specifically, it is a fundamental step towards strengthening coordination between national security forces, in light not only of the weaknesses in this area that became clear upon examination of events leading up to the attacks of 11 March , but also the problems in the relationships among the various security forces.

This has been a constant in the Spanish police model, although such problems are certainly not exclusive to Spain, and indeed affect other European and western countries whose internal security sectors are also made up of different agencies. Anyone familiar with the ins and outs of Spanish internal security knows the amount of political will needed to overcome deeply rooted resistance from corporate subcultures and institutional rivalries.

Considering that this committee had been formally created only days earlier to coordinate the security forces within the Interior Ministry, it certainly took quick action in this matter. These functions include regular assessments of terrorist risks and threats to Spain, assessments that provide high-quality strategic intelligence that includes possible scenarios for intervention and operational recommendations for dealing with such risks and threats.

The CNCA was initially directed by a reputed Superintendent, Miguel Valverde, who was replaced in , when he became head of the counter-terrorism division of the National Police, by another prestigious Superintendent namely Eugenio Pereiro. Approximately 60 persons work together at these headquarters. Another such protocol with the Ertzaintza would also seem to be a reasonable step.

The CNCA is clearly a big step forward both in terms of integrated intelligence analysis —a key tool enabling the national government to make good decisions on security policy— and the coordination of counter-terrorism among the various security forces, for whom the CNCA acts as a complementary and auxiliary body. This is a way of quickly detecting possible duplications, thereby preventing overlaps and disruptions in the work done by the security forces in the prevention and response to the various manifestations of terrorism.

The fact that the National Antiterrorism Coordination Centre was created only two months after the 11 March attacks highlights the great importance of establishing an agency that could assess the risks and threats posed by terrorism related in one way or another with al-Qaeda. In any case, though the CNCA was created in the framework of a series of initiatives designed to deal with the risks and threats of global terrorism, it adds also value to the fight against ETA.

Closely related to the developments in the coordination of antiterrorism and counter-terrorism activities is an initiative taken by the Spanish government after the Madrid bombings, based on the same general principle of the public interest that underlies the decisions aimed at strengthening this coordination and also on the more specific principle that calls for information and intelligence to be made available and shared among the various state security agencies.

The initiative involves putting into practice this principle of ensuring the availability of information that is in the interest of public security and specifically relevant to the fight against terrorism. It makes use a new formula for managing police databases to guarantee quick, joint and shared access for all security forces, something which, surprising at it may seem, did not previously exist. As a result of a programme whose development began early in the legislature which started just a few weeks after the Madrid bombings, shared access for the National Police and for the Civil Guard became a reality by mid for databases including the national identity document DNI , arms and explosives, passenger lists, and voice and fingerprint identification systems.

Also, there is now immediate access to the police records and passenger lists for flights from third countries. One of the aims of these regulations is to avoid situations in which the National Police or Civil Guard agents in those positions —and others that may be added or liaison officers— act as if they were responsible only to their own particular security force on matters relating to the fight against global terrorism.


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This is something that has in fact been occurring and perhaps it would not be easy to change completely in the short term. The plan established now a set of permanent standards for actions by both the National Police and the Civil Guard in these and other similar situations. The standards set by the Terrorism Prevention and Protection Plan implies the extraordinary mobilisation of a large number of police officers. Even military personnel could be called, by decision from the Minister of the Interior, for a number of support tasks, including the monitoring of air space.

Regional and local police forces could also take part in the activities described in the plan.

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The measures included in the plan are activated and coordinated through the office of the Secretary of State for Security at three possible levels, according to the assessment of the risks and threats involved. They can vary according to the season of the year or changes in the national or international situation, in order to protect places with high concentrations of persons or major infrastructures, among other possible terrorist targets of a strategic or symbolic nature.

For example, it was activated at level three, the highest possible, in June , shortly after news of the London bombings, and at level two in , when the National Court was in session for the trials of the suspected 11 March bombers and their collaborators. Although the Terrorism Prevention and Protection Plan focuses on safeguarding essential public services for Spanish citizens, CEMU approved a National Plan for the Protection of Critical Infrastructures in May that is, in the last year of the legislature initiated shortly after the Madrid bombings, until then there had been no plan of any kind after preparing a list of such infrastructures declared secret by the Government in November of the same year , and after studying the risks affecting each piece of infrastructure and determining both preventative and proactive operations to be implemented by the police forces.

The National Plan for the Protection of Critical Infrastructure calls for broad inter-ministerial collaboration, as well as an effective partnership between the public and private sectors, with links to European programmes and networks tackling this issue. There is also now a specific plan for the protection of maritime transport and port facilities in Spain.

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This is especially important considering that fact that maritime terrorism is one of the potential facets of global terrorism today. Also, regarding what is considered an unlikely but increasingly plausible scenario for global terrorism involving attacks with nuclear, radioactive, bacteriological or chemical NRBC components, authorities at the Interior Ministry also decided in to establish a Prevention and Reaction Plan to deal with possible incidents involving non-conventional components and to prepare an appropriate response to threats of this nature.

This is a specific plan whose development has been entrusted to the Civil Guard and which involves thousands of its personnel. Nevertheless, the units specialised in the deactivation of explosive devices, now of an integral character and known as Tedax-NRBC, belonging to the Anti-Terrorist Division within the National Police, are the better prepared to deal with episodes involving these kind of non-conventional terrorist risks and threats. Furthermore, the fact that the terrorists who carried out the 11 March attacks acquired the necessary explosives through Spanish criminals highlighted the urgency of increasing controls over these substances.

In this regard, the regulations governing their transport, storage and use were made considerably stricter as from the Madrid bombings. This included new requirements for books that detail their movements and use, and the obligation to submit records each month on the corresponding use of weapons and explosives. Also, the Civil Guard developed an extensive action plan to monitor these records. Between November and November , this led to over , inspections throughout the country, with particular attention to certain areas of special interest and concern.

About 2, infractions were detected. Specifically, over three tons of explosives, over 11 kilometres of detonating cord and over 15, detonators were seized. The Spanish government, within the bounds of the Interior Ministry, has also made headway in a development that complements the work being done by the police intelligence services in the area of the financing of terrorism.

In late , the police were actively involved in nearly investigations relating to the financing of international terrorism. This eventually led to a series of police operations and a considerable number of arrests. Effective measures were implemented to monitor activities suspected of providing economic and financial resources to terrorist groups or organisations. This was accomplished through enabling regulations for the current law on the prevention and blocking of financing for terrorism, which dates from May These enabling regulations are necessary in order for the system to be able to implement some of the measures aimed at monitoring, banning or blocking any financial flow, position or operation likely to be related to the financing of terrorism.

Responsibility for Spanish prisons resided for years with the Ministry of Justice, but this was handed over to the Interior Ministry in the mids. Given its great importance in terms of counter-terrorism policy, the decision was made in November that prisoners convicted of or charged with crimes related to international terrorism would be dispersed among about 30 prisons, including two operated by the regional government of Catalonia, instead of remaining at the two facilities where the majority of them had been kept.

The goal was to prevent them from turning into places where violent radicalization would develop and terrorists could be recruited. Operation Nova, a major police operation carried out earlier the same month, had in fact proved that this was taking place.

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