WASHINGTON — United States investigators are on the ground in Paris, but France has not yet asked U.S. intelligence services to be directly involved in the ongoing investigation into Friday’s terror attack that killed nearly 130 people.
“To this point, U.S. investigators are in Paris, but not active in the investigation,” Senate Intelligence Committee chair Richard Burr said Tuesday after an hours-long classified briefing on the Paris attack. "The French have not asked for any FBI explosives or technical folks to be involved.”
Burr, flanked by Intelligence Committee ranking member Dianne Feinstein, stressed that the investigation was in the very, very early stages, but said all signs suggest ISIS directed the attack from Syria.
“While the investigation is still ongoing, there’s strong likelihood that this was ISIS directed,” Burr said. “There’s a likelihood that this was ISIL directed,” he continued, using the government's preferred acronym for the group.
Burr added that the ISIS conspirators likely used hidden communications in an effort to evade intelligence collection programs.
“It is likely that end to end encryption was used to communicate between those individuals in Belgium, in France, and in Syria. And it’s a wake up call for America and for our global partners, that globally we need to begin the debate on what we do on encrypted networks,” Burr said.
Both Intelligence Committee leaders suggested that the Paris attacks would lead to a policy debate over how the global intelligence community should handle readily available encrypted communication channels. Apps and programs that encrypt are now widely available commercially, Feinstein said, underscoring the importance of alert and aware communities.
“Some [programs] encrypt in a way that even with a court order, you can’t break into it,” Feinstein said. “So good intelligence from people in communities all over I think is extraordinarily important.”
Ali Watkins is a national security correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
Contact Ali Watkins at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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