19 November 2015

After Paris attacks, intel agencies coming to French aid

Amber Corrin
November 17, 2015

It's safe to say that behind the scenes, as the French government mounts a response to the coordinated attacks across Paris on Nov. 13, U.S. intelligence agencies are assisting – including with geospatial intelligence capabilities and partnerships.

Less than two weeks before the attacks, National Geospatial Intelligence Agency Director Robert Cardillo hosted his French counterpart and discussed relations between the two sides. While the specific content of those discussions is classified, Cardillo said that in the wake of the attacks he is "elevating…options once again so that we can make the best risk calculus about how we might go forward."

The attacks have sharpened the focus on existing initiatives between the two countries' intelligence arms in a bid to take on an enemy that closely studies Western capabilities and concepts of operations, and evades detection behind a mask of social media and open source-intelligence "noise," Cardillo told reporters in a briefing at NGA on Nov. 16.

"You can imagine what those conversations [with French counterparts] before Friday night involved – here's where we think the relationship is healthy, here's where we're getting mutual benefit, and here's some things we can try more," he said. "Be very confident that everything we can do for our French counterparts, we are doing. That was happening on Friday morning, and that was amplified on Friday evening and continued throughout the weekend, to include this morning."

NGA's involvement – and likely at least some of the rest of the intelligence community's, although Cardillo spoke only for his own agency – boils down to a longstanding partnership with France, an ongoing dialog and presidential directives handed down to the entire U.S. law enforcement community.

"When it comes down to me and my team and what else could we do, I won't put specifics into this; you can imagine that any relationship we have is bounded by classification level, by volumetric level, by technology connection. So one thing we're looking at is what could we propose that increases our technical connection, what could we do that could increase our interaction with the French going forward?" Cardillo said. "We're going to change our operating behaviors, our interfaces [and] our technical architectures where it makes sense so that we can be a better partner."

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