The Paris attacks: Former CIA chief weighs in

French Authorities Identify 'Mastermind' Behind Paris Attacks

Have we reached a state of "global war?" After Europe's deadliest terror siege in more than a decade -- with multiple attacks in central Paris, and the death toll reaching 129 when this story went live -- it's fair to worry that the Islamic State has spread its deadly tentacles far beyond Syria and Iraq.

For months, the Islamic State has ravaged the Middle East, gassing civilians, beheading innocents and unleashing such terror that millions of refugees have fled to Europe for a semblance of safety. The events of Friday night -- bombings, point-blank executions and random shootings -- have reverberated far beyond the City of Lights, as has the fear.

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What it all means is this: It's time for the West, including the United States, to come to grips with the terrorist threat. That's according to former acting CIA director John McLaughlin, who is also a longtime OZY columnist. In an interview hours after the Paris attacks, McLaughlin weighed in on a bevy of questions, from whether a frightened citizenry should travel to the big one: Can we win this?

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The Paris attacks: Former CIA chief weighs in
People run after hearing what is believed to be explosions or gun shots near Place de la Republique square in Paris on November 13, 2015. At least 18 people were killed in several shootings and explosions in Paris today, police said. AFP PHOTO / DOMINIQUE FAGET (Photo credit should read DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images)
Spectators gather on the pitch of the Stade de France stadium following the friendly football match between France and Germany in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, on November 13, 2015, after a series of gun attacks occurred across Paris as well as explosions outside the national stadium where France was hosting Germany. At least 18 people were killed, with at least 15 people killed at the Bataclan concert hall in central Paris, only around 200 metres from the former offices of Charlie Hebdo which were attacked by jihadists in January. AFP PHOTO / FRANCK FIFE (Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 14: French officials and medics work near Le Petit Cambodge restaurant in the 11th district after a drive-by shooting killing 11 people, November 14, 2015, Paris, France. At least 142 people were killed deadly shootings and explosions took place in several neighbourhoods of Paris. 1,500 troops deployed in French capital says Elysse. (Photo by Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Two men evacuate the Place de la Republique square in Paris as a police officer looks on, after several shootings on November 13, 2015. At least 18 people were killed in several shootings and explosions in Paris today, police said. AFP PHOTO / DOMINIQUE FAGET (Photo credit should read DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 13: Police survey the area of Boulevard Baumarchais after an attack in the French capital on November 13, 2015 in Paris, France. At least 18 people were killed in a series of gun attacks across Paris, as well as explosions outside the national stadium where France was hosting Germany. (Photo by Thierry Chesnot/Getty Images)
Rescuers rush to the scene following an attack in the 10th arrondissement of the French capital Paris, on November 13, 2015. At least 18 people were killed as multiple shootings and explosions hit Paris, police said. Police also said there was an ongoing hostage crisis in the Bataclan a concert hall in the French capital. AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 14: French officials and medics work near Le Petit Cambodge restaurant in the 11th district after a drive-by shooting killing 11 people, November 14, 2015, Paris, France. At least 142 people were killed deadly shootings and explosions took place in several neighbourhoods of Paris. 1,500 troops deployed in French capital says Elysse. (Photo by Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A firefighter attend to an injured person lying on a stretcher near the Bataclan concert hall in central Paris, on November 14, 2015. At least 39 people were killed in an 'unprecedented' series of bombings and shootings across Paris and at the Stade de France stadium on November 13. AFP PHOTO / DOMINIQUE FAGET (Photo credit should read DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images)
People are evacuated by bus, near the Bataclan concert hall in central Paris, on November 14, 2015. More than 100 people were killed in a mass hostage-taking at a Paris concert hall on November 13 and many more were feared dead in a series of bombings and shootings, as France declared a national state of emergency. AFP PHOTO / MARTIN BUREAU (Photo credit should read MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 13: U.S. President Barack Obama departs the White House briefing room after delivering remarks on the recent violence taking place in Paris, France November 13, 2015 in Washington, DC. Gunfire and explosions erupted in the French capital with early casualty reports indicating at least 60 dead. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Football fans leave the Stade de France stadium following the friendly football match between France and Germany in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, on November 13, 2015, after a series of gun attacks occurred across Paris as well as explosions outside the national stadium where France was hosting Germany. At least 18 people were killed, with at least 15 people killed at the Bataclan concert hall in central Paris, only around 200 metres from the former offices of Charlie Hebdo which were attacked by jihadists in January. AFP PHOTO / FRANCK FIFE (Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images)
supporters run in panic on the pitch during the International friendly match between France and Germany on November 13, 2015 at the Stade France in Paris, France.(Photo by VI Images via Getty Images)
Police are seen outside a cafe-restaurant in 10th arrondissement of the French capital Paris, on November 13, 2015. At least 18 people were killed as multiple shootings and explosions hit Paris, police said. Police also said there was an ongoing hostage crisis in the Bataclan a concert hall in the French capital. AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)
A policeman stands behind a cordon blocking the street near the site of an attack in a restaurant in Paris on November 13, 2015. At least 18 people were killed in multiple attacks in Paris Friday, including one near the Stade de France sports stadium and another at a concert venue. AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)
A victim lies on the ground covered by a white sheet (Rear L) as special police work at the attack scene rue Bichat, in central Paris, early on November 14, 2015. More than 100 people were killed in a mass hostage-taking at a Paris concert hall late on November 13 and many more were feared dead in a series of bombings and shootings, as France declared a national state of emergency. AFP PHOTO / FRANCK FIFE (Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images)
Firefighters and rescuers evacuate injured people near the Bataclan concert hall in central Paris, on November 14, 2015. At least 39 people were killed in an 'unprecedented' series of bombings and shootings across Paris and at the Stade de France stadium on November 13. AFP PHOTO / DOMINIQUE FAGET (Photo credit should read DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images)
People are evacuated following an attack at the Bataclan concert venue in Paris, on November 13, 2015. At least 18 people were killed in multiple attacks in Paris Friday, including one near the Stade de France sports stadium. AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)
Forensic experts inspect the site of an attack outside the Stade de France stadium in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, early on November 14, 2015, after a series of gun attacks occurred across Paris as well as explosions outside the national stadium where France was hosting Germany. A number of people were killed and others injured in a series of gun attacks across Paris, as well as explosions outside the national stadium where France was hosting Germany. AFP PHOTO / FRANCK FIFE (Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images)
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OZY: The French government is blaming ISIS for the tragic attacks in Paris this weekend. Do you think ISIS was responsible?

John McLaughlin: It will take sometime to nail this 100 percent, but this was almost certainly either planned by ISIS, probably in Syria, or inspired by them — or a combination. Some of the techniques, like mass casualties, have an al-Qaeda feel, while others are ISIS trademark tactics: drive-by shootings, suicide bombings. But terrorist tactics are increasingly merging due to the availability of virtual training and social media.

OZY: The synchronized nature of the attack, combined with other recent bombings and the downing of the Russian jetliner, suggest we are now in a state of "global war." Would you agree?

J.M.: Yes, this war now stretches well beyond the boundaries of Syria and Iraq. We've seen in recent weeks ISIS-managed or inspired attacks in Turkey, Lebanon, France, Belgium, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and elsewhere. In fact, the number of ISIS or ISIS-inspired attacks against Western targets doubled, from 20 last year to 41 so far this year. About 4,500 fighters have joined ISIS from the West, which gives the group unprecedented mobility and access to Western targets.

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OZY: President Obama is heading to Turkey for a summit of 20 global leaders. What immediate response should they take?

J.M.: The most important thing they can do immediately is to remove barriers to full exchange of intelligence. They should focus first on what is known about the identities and movements of suspicious individuals.

A more important forum at this moment might be the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). French President François Hollande has called the attacks an "act or war," and as a NATO member, France is entitled to request a NATO consultation that could lead to invoking Article 5 of the treaty. Under Article 5, all 28 members must come to the aid of a member who is attacked. If approved, NATO would then have to decide on appropriate steps ranging from training missions to actual combat operations. This would be a big deal. The only other time Article 5 has been invoked was after September 11, when all of the members voluntarily said they would come to the aid of the U.S.

OZY: Returning to the crisis at the moment, what's your analysis of the French response? What might the U.S. government or CIA have done differently?

J.M.: The French are among the best in the world on counterterrorism, given their years of experience with it. So it's all the more impressive that the terrorists pulled this off. But the magnitude of the threat now stretches the security services too thin everywhere, and it's a bit too soon to say if there's something we or they should have done differently. France had already strengthened its intelligence and surveillance capabilities. Look for more of this.

OZY: What effect will the attacks have on the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe?

J.M.: Given that ISIS had threatened to infiltrate the groups of fleeing migrants, Europeans are likely to become even more wary of the new arrivals. Opposition to refugees is certain to rise, along with efforts to screen these populations more carefully.

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OZY: As a U.S. citizen yourself, is there any change people should take themselves in the near term? Would you avoid traveling abroad or attending large events?

J.M.: I can't give advice to others, but personally, I would not curtail travel plans. That's what terrorists want us to do. When we start doing that, they win.

That said, it's always wise to exercise caution and support and cooperate with those responsible for your security wherever you are, even when it's inconvenient. And the advice to "say something" if you notice something suspicious is a good idea anywhere you are. You'd be surprised how many times that has made a difference. In Times Square in 2010, for example, a street vendor noticed and reported a suspicious truck that, had it exploded, would have sent deadly shrapnel through many blocks of New York City.

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