October 3, 2019: Mislabeled stabbings in Paris

On October 3, 2019 a knife-wielding employee killed three officers and one administrative worker at police headquarters in the centre of Paris.

PARIS, FRANCE – Not everything turns out to be what it seems at first blush: that is why police and intelligence agencies do investigations.

In an era of unlimited information and the 24/7 news cycle we are inundated with noise. I am old enough to remember when the news came to us twice a day: at 6 PM and later at 10 PM. News channels were unheard of, let alone something called the ‘Internet‘.

Now of course access to breaking news is a blessing, not a curse. We no longer have to wait for the ‘slow boat from China’ to know what is going on around the world. The other side of the coin, however, is that there is a concomitant demand not just for instant news but also for ‘instant analysis‘. We do not seem to be satisfied with waiting for more information to come in to allow for more measured contemplation on what the event really means. Often this instant analysis is wanting.

Luckily, those who keep us safe rarely (if ever!) engage in instant analysis. Professionals take the time to collect intelligence and/or evidence before making any statement that even sounds definitive. And yet we get frustrated when they tell us, say in press conferences, that they are not ready to make any pronouncements. We want answers and we want them NOW!

The wisdom of waiting can be seen in today’s featured incident.

On this day in 2019

A knife-wielding employee killed three officers and one administrative worker at police headquarters in the centre of Paris. No motivation was obvious at first, although there was initial speculation it was linked to a workplace dispute. Except it wasn’t.

It turns out that the attacker, Mickaël Harpon, had had contact with members of the fundamentalist Salafist movement: he also defended the deadly 2015 attack on the magazine Charlie Hebdo and other atrocities. In other words, he was a jihadi. French police later arrested five people linked to the attack, including an imam at a mosque which Harpon attended.

The police prefecture was struck at its heart, like never before in the past. This tragedy is all the more terrible for us that this attack occurred inside the Police Headquarters and was carried out by one of us.

Chief of Paris Police

It is thus clear that by taking the time to ask questions French authorities got a more accurate picture of what had transpired. That is why we overturn every rock – it helps that many terrorists appear to live under those rocks!

Read More Today in Terrorism

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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