The Pentagon pledged on Monday to coordinate in new ways with the French government on counterterrorism efforts, following attacks in Paris on Friday that killed 129 people and wounded hundreds more.
Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter and Director of National Intelligence Jim Clapper provided new instructions to their organizations that will enable U.S. troops to more easily share operational planning information and intelligence with French troops “on a range of shared challenges to the fullest extent allowed by existing law and police,” Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said in a statement. The new guidance underscores the partnership between the two countries, particularly when it comes to defeating the Islamic State militant group, Cook added.
The Islamic State said over the weekend that it is responsible for the attacks. It also threatened similar attacks in Washington in a new video released Monday.
The new instructions from Carter and Clapper will build “on longstanding cooperation that will improve our ability to deter and defeat mutual enemies, particularly ISIL,” Cook said, using one of the acronyms for the militant group.
The announcement raises questions about may change behind the scenes with intelligence sharing. The United States shares intelligence closely with Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada through an alliance commonly referred to as “The Five Eyes.” France is not part of it, but has pressed for access to information gathered through it in the past.
A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, declined to provide specifics on how the new instructions will increase cooperation between the two countries, which already were working together as part of the multinational coalition that is fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Many of the programs involved likely involve classified or sensitive information.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch said on Monday that the Justice Department also is committed to doing everything it can to assist French law enforcement authorities in finding those responsible for the attacks. She spoke with President Obama and his national security team at the White House on Saturday following the attacks.
“Justice Department attorneys, the FBI, and other agencies are currently working with French authorities through our international legal assistance channels to obtain further information that may be relevant to the attacks,” Lynch said. “And we are working on an expedited basis to ensure that our Office of Justice for Victims of Overseas Terrorism is available to assist any American victims and their families.”
The Office of Justice for Victims of Overseas Terrorism, sometimes shortened to OVT, was established in 2005. The FBI is responsible for investigating the attacks from an American perspective, and The United States can prosecute individuals involved instead or in addition to the country where an attack occurs.