The blood is dry. The victims will be buried soon. The immediate terror has passed, but the deep-seated rage is just settling in and getting comfortable. We are familiar with this progression of emotion here in the United States, as are citizens of London, Madrid, Istanbul, Sydney, and countless other nations across the world. The citizens of Paris are the latest victims in the seemingly endless cycle of attacks carried out by (likely) Islamic extremists.
In this instance, the militants felt offended by satirical cartoons published by a satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo—a publication that also likes to skewer Christians and Jews, it should be noted.
As I type this, and probably before all the victims were even removed from the scene, the Paris police and French internal security service (DCRI) are already deep into the initial stages of their investigation. DNA is being collected from the scene, and from the getaway cars. Spent shell casings are being collected and analyzed. Explosives residue (if any were used) is being examined. Survivor accounts are being recorded and cross-referenced with police records.
Witnesses from the buildings across the street from the newspaper office, whose videos we have all seen on television by now, are being interviewed. Their videos are being copied and reviewed. Police and internal security officials are asking what language the attackers spoke. They are seizing on the type(s) of weapons used, and where those might have been procured in Paris or elsewhere in France.
These initial investigative measures will produce leads, as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow. Those leads will then be followed. Foreign internal security services will be contacted. The FBI in America will pledge its full cooperation and resources. Neighboring countries’ services will already be watching the EU borders. They will be on the lookout for the fleeing suspects. Leads will be passed via direct law enforcement liaison relationships. The investigation will start to take on an international tint.
Initial leads will take the French services into the neighborhoods where these men lived. Questions will be asked. Sources will be shaken down. Feelers will be put out. Canvassing will be exhaustive. Who is missing? Who might have bragged about this? Who knows something? Someone will talk to the police. It might be a neighbor of the attackers, or a relative, or an acquaintance. Someone will know something. Someone will say something. More leads.
By this point, call records are being examined. Cell numbers linked. Call chaining has begun. Owners of numbers will be rousted. Further leads will be produced. More questions. More leads. It will be time to take things to the French external security service (DGSE), which has of course been involved from the beginning, looking for its own leads internationally.
DGSE will take leads from the investigation and go abroad with them. The external security agency will seek any and all information on telephone numbers, names, passport information, and biometric data collected in the investigation, from its partner liaison services (e.g. the CIA and other intelligence services).
The DGSE will cash in chits, call in favors, plead for any and all help. And the other countries will provide it. They know they could be next, and they will want to foster good will, and rack up a debt or two to be collected later. Intelligence services far and wide will be queried with any and all relevant leads.
Those agencies will then search their own records and sources, tasking as necessary, and return any and all responses in as quick a manner as they can. Some intelligence will be declassified, and/or portions provided to the French to aid in their investigation. Yes, even those allegedly useless detainee reports in CIA databases will be scrubbed for intersecting data points. Some may pan out. Some will not.
International links to the attackers will be established (or disproved). Retaliation, if necessary, will begin to be planned and formulated. Operations will result. Captures and/or kills effected. Borders will become fluid as planners and enablers are sought and fixed. Politicians will soothe ruffled leaders whose sovereignty might be violated.
The net will begin to tighten. The circle will grow smaller, and inside will be at least two, and probably more, attackers and planners. They will start to feel the heat coming down on them. They may try to flee. They will hole up or shoot it out in a furious attempt to die martyrs. More than likely, they will be found in France. Probably, they will be killed by the police or military. And the cycle will go on.
(Featured Image Courtesy: CBS News)