Experts look for direct connection between Paris terror attack and Islamist groups

Foreign policy and counterterrorism experts are using Wednesday’s deadly attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine as a way to find a potential connection between the terrorists in Paris and Islamist groups abroad.

Fox News National Security Analyst KT McFarland spoke to Fred Burton and David Adesnik about the investigation into the suspects’ background.

They told there is a potential link between the Paris attack, which left 12 dead and several wounded, and conflicts going on in the Middle East.

“These are two faces of precisely the same conflict, same threat. It’s not that there is one terrorist threat to Europe or other Western places, then a different threat that ISIS and other groups present in the Middle East,” said Adesnik, a fellow with the think tank Foreign Policy Initiative.

Investigators are continuing to track individuals in Europe with connections to terror groups. “That’s the daunting challenge … there are simply too many jihadis and not enough counterterrorism agents or cops to [monitor] them,” said Burton, vice president of intelligence with geopolitical intelligence firm Stratfor. He believes this will be the biggest challenge facing authorities for the next decade.

Wednesday’s shooting suggests officials weren’t able to clearly piece together information beforehand. This is once again raising questions over the role of government surveillance to prevent terror attacks.

“The role of NSA surveillance -- that has been questioned as something that might infringe on our own freedom of speech, but I think this attack underlines that the real threat to freedom of speech are the terrorists, they are murdering cartoonists and journalists,” said Adesnik.

“Usually attacks go forward and are carried out due to a lack of human intelligence or a lack of tactical analysis … and that was the failure point in pretty much every terror attack I investigated,” said Burton, who was a former U.S. State Department counterterrorism agent.

Both believe it’s only a matter of time before a similar plot is attempted within the United States.

Burton believes private and public organizations need to boost their efforts in working with law enforcement to notify them of any potential threats. Adesnik added, “people can come back into the country without raising too much of an alarm because they have American passports … we have to step [up] our ability to find those people.”