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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Crisis Exposes Cracks in Police

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The hostage-taking is just the kind of a terrorist attack that falls between the cracks in Russia's law enforcement and security community, exposing corruption and a lack of coordination and human intelligence.

Police clearly should bear responsibility for allowing more than 40 rebels to spend weeks in the city accumulating explosives and submachine guns and casing possible targets. It is also clear that analysts in the FSB should have discerned that Chechen separatists had been cornered and had lost hope of winning the war by conventional means, and might try to stage a large-scale hostage-taking as they did in Budyonnovsk in 1995 when they found themselves in similar circumstances.

But it should also be clear that, even though it would be perfectly appropriate, replacement of those found guilty of negligence would not make law enforcement agencies any more prepared to ward off terrorism than they were before Oct. 23.

Those who would fill the vacated posts are unlikely to be more skilled than their predecessors. But they could do a much better job if encouraged and compelled to re-focus on preventing crime rather than waiting for something to happen and then trying to catch the culprits.

The FSB and Interior Ministry should also be compelled to end their long rivalry and start working together, sharing information in real-time, if not establishing a single structure to fight terrorism.

Even more vital for minimizing the chance of a terrorist attack is developing an extensive network of informers inside groups of Chechen rebels as well as inside those organized-crime gangs whose members cooperate with separatists. As tight-knit as these ethnic groups are, they could still be penetrated by people of the same origin but who sympathize with Moscow, of whom there are plenty in the North Caucasus.

Human intelligence typically accounts for 80 percent or more of the information that, if pieced together quickly, allows authorities to avert a terrorist act. As sophisticated as it is, technical intelligence is often useless when it comes to interpreting vaguely worded communication between terrorists.

Another problem that the Kremlin has to tackle is corruption in the ranks of the law enforcement community. It has gotten to a point when some detectives are afraid to report information supplied by their agents because they fear it will be stolen by colleagues and sold, according to chairman of the State Duma security committee and retired police commander Alexander Gurov.

Gurov and other veterans of the so-called power agencies rightly crusade against corruption and call for better financing of police and security agencies. And, in response to the hostage-taking crisis, the Federation Council has already promised to add 7 billion rubles to next year's anti-terrorism budget. But this money will be wasted unless accompanied by structural reforms. Simple increases in the budgets of law enforcement and security agencies will only prompt them to do more of the same.

So far we have heard nothing from the Kremlin about what will be done to prevent terrorist attacks, except for the president's vows to give "an adequate response" to any "means of mass destruction" used by terrorists, modify plans for use of armed forces and increase national security expenditures. Clearly such a response alone will not deter terrorism.

When written in Chinese, the word "crisis" is composed of two characters. One represents danger, the other opportunity. The Kremlin should seize on the opportunity created by the hostage-taking to push through restructuring of the law enforcement and intelligence community to give it a sustained capability to detect and interdict threats of terrorism. We should all remember, however, that such restructuring will help to decrease the capability of Chechen rebels to stage terrorist acts, but their motivation will remain and grow for as long as the war goes on in their republic.