Antiterrorism 101

The Boston Globe had a well-reasoned editorial earlier this week pointing out one crucial difference between Germany’s recent detention of suspects in a terrorist bombing plot, and the “war on terror” being conducted by the Bush administration: Germany has followed a law-enforcement paradigm, not a war paradigm, and hence has been more protective of civil liberties.

There is, however, one more vital distinction. The German antiterrorist units appear to have uncovered actual explosive materials that belonged to the alleged terrorists. In the typical Homeland Security/FBI operation, undercover FBI informants supply the materials and weapons in an exploitation and manipulation of hapless (usually Islamic) individuals who would otherwise be all-talk and no-action, like the seven men arrested in Miami on conspiracy charges last year.  In other words, Germany is actually busting terrorist cells, while, too often, the FBI is creating the illusion of it, and in the process criminalizing bad thoughts and speech, rather than real crime.

How sad it is that the United States needs now to take lessons from its erstwhile enemy in World War II in how to conduct national security and criminal investigations in a fair and effective manner that protects civil liberties.

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