Anti-terrorism centre one of possible solutions towards preventing potential attacks

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Five years after 9/11 and roughly a month after British intelligence thwarted an alleged plot by terrorists to blow up US airliners over the Atlantic, the Czech Republic is still undecided over how to further improve and streamline its own communication and data sharing between the police and intelligence services. Shortly before leaving office, former Interior Minister Frantisek Bublan advocated founding a special centre that would improve the chances of preventing potential attacks on European soil, by working more closely with BIS counter-intelligence, the Office for Foreign Relations and Information, and military intelligence.

Vladislav Husak
Mr Bublan has since left office, but the idea of the centre is still being discussed. Police president Vladislav Husak speaking on public broadcaster Czech TV on Sunday, said that such a centre - if approved - could now be formed within a month, indicating that he would soon put forward the proposal to the government:

"We think that the centre could improve operations. While it's true that special police units even now can react effectively from one day to the next, they don't have certain available information. With one centre the information could be the same across the board. In terms of operations we could still gain information faster and there could be improvement, even though I think that the quality is high even now."

There is little question most back the idea of improving terrorism prevention - the question is whether such a centre is the solution. Not long ago, for example, European MP Jana Hybaskova told Radio Prague that creating such a facility would be "tricky and complex" because of the need to introduce certain changes first: new legislation, improved communication among existing structures, and clear parliamentary controls. Then - and only then - would the idea for such a centre be reasonable.

Ivan Langer, the new Interior Minister who replaced Frantisek Bublan this month, also has not ruled out the idea of an anti-terrorism centre, but he too has expressed some serious doubts. On Sunday he told Czech TV that what was important now was not discussing a concrete centre, but the government's hammering out an overall strategy.

Frantisek Bublan and Ivan Langer, photo: CTK
"The police themselves have admitted that in order for the new unit to have 'ears' and 'eyes' it needs to be coordinated with the intelligence services: but there the question is over sensitivity of information. The intelligence services are always very careful about which to share because any leak would put lives at risk... I wouldn't talk about an anti-terrorist centre but about a strategy that should be outlined by the government. Whether things will stay the same with three services, or two, or just one anti-terrorism centre... the government needs to outline this. But, until an information-sharing method is found, I remain sceptical about the idea of a separate police unit."

Mr Langer's predecessor Frantisek Bublan takes the opposite view - that the centre should be created first, and the details ironed out later. On Sunday he outlined that such a solution would rely on trust and help the police react better while information was "fresh".

For now, it remains unclear what solution the government will approve, what is clear is that until one is found the issue will remain on the table.