France has been the focus of three major terror attacks within 18 months, the latest which was carried out Thursday by a suspected terrorist using a truck as a weapon while families watched Bastille Day fireworks in Nice.
Alain Bauer, a security advisor to the French government who helped New York City set up its counterterrorism unit after 9/11, told Circa just days before the gruesome attack in the south of France that the French are only just waking up to the real terror threat.
"People are scared and they don't move. They don't get out of their house," he says.
Today, law enforcement officials in France are grappling with a growing list of people to watch amid a system that was recently shown to have poor coordination among intelligence agencies.
Nice and the neighboring city of Cannes, famous for its film festival, was known to authorities as a center for terror activity even before Thursday's attack. The notorious "Cannes-Torcy cell," which planned numerous attacks that sometimes targeted soldiers in the south of France, and had ties to Syrian jihadists, was branded by counter-terrorism officials as the most dangerous jihadist group in France when it was dismantled in late 2012.
Intelligence services knew all the attackers at the deadly Bataclan theater attack in November and the Charlie Hebdo attack last January, according to a recent government report.
"Whatever happened in terrorism for the last 16 years, every attack, every terrorist was not only known, some of them were even famous. We knew everything about almost every time, every day, every act, every possibility. We did not understand what we knew, this is why we failed," Bauer said.
Last week, a French parliamentary investigation revealed a "global intelligence failure" among French intelligence agencies in the country's recent terror attacks. The commission recommended a total overhaul of intelligence and a single American-style national counter terror agency.
Bauer says more needs to be done to counter this growing threat.
"After any attack, when you look at what you knew about the attacker, you're very surprised. Why didn't we watch this guy?"