Monday, September 10, 2007

German Terror Plot: After Action Briefing

Here is a piece that shows German officials are doing some serious reflecting, in the aftermath of the recent arrest of three radical Islamists plotting to stage a horrific terrorist attack on German soil.

After thwarting what might have become a "massive" attack on American installations, German authorities will review ways to fight homegrown terrorists, including a proposal to allow Internet spying on all German converts to Islam.

The more that is learned about the enemies of the Western world, the more adjustments will need to be made. Sometimes, those adjustments will need to be unpopular within the circles of those that fail to understand the gravity of the situation.

I cannot say that I am well-pleased with any country spying on its own citizens. It is certainly not something that the citizens of the United States have been accustomed to, and it's definitely not something that I would normally welcome. You can imagine how a lot of Germans might feel about this:

As shocked as they were by the arrests, the idea of spying on other Germans unnerves many in civil-rights minded Germany, where government surveillance recalls memories of Adolf Hitler.

Being reactive is never preferable to being proactive. In medicine, prevention is always a better course of action than waiting for something to happen, then treating it. Knowing the warning signs of diseases and illness is necessary for reacting. Knowing if one is in a high-risk category for something, gives us a better chance of heading off a serious illness. The same is true of trying to stop diseased elements in society that want to kill innocent people, for a maladaptive cause.

As I think back on the horror that 9/11 brought to the nation and the rest of the free world, I cannot see any other way around it. There is a formidable enemy lurking in the shadows and they must be found, watched, stopped, and if necessary, killed. To do this requires the ability to gather information and observe. When it is clear that the threat is real, it is then imperative to act.

This article I linked to shows that Germany is recognizing the importance of this.


Greg said...

LAS, I share you mistrust of the gov't, but a couple of notes on surveillance, especially the electronic type. First, the gov't has been doing it without a warrant forever. Sure, in the late 70's the Congress passed a law to make sure the gov't always got a warrant, even in terrorism cases (from the FISA court). But in practice, it is so ridiculously easy for the NSA to listen in on virtually any phone call world wide, that it would be naive to say the least to believe that we can control it. Someone flips a switch, and suddenly, they are listening. (I posted a great article on the technical aspects of this on S-F way back. Maybe I can find it again.)

This may totally alarm you, but the upside is that the gov't really does have to be selective so as not to be buried in a mountain of useless information. By necessity, they will limit their spying to likely terrorists and their contacts. In the event they do spy on you or me, they can't use it against us in a criminal case. No harm no foul (almost). In any case, it's worth the intrusion, as you apparently end up concluding as well....

A related comment: what a dilemma for many Europeans, indeed! On the one hand, like most left-leaning Americans, they don't really believe in the threat; but on the other hand, they don't want to face the fall-out of a massive attack in their country.

LASunsett said...


//This may totally alarm you, but the upside is that the gov't really does have to be selective so as not to be buried in a mountain of useless information.//

Exactly. This is something that many critics of the current surveillance policy cannot bring themselves to understand.

I said to something to this effect on another blog, some time ago:

If the government wants to listen in on my conversations with my wife on her way home from work (after a bad day), if they want to hear what we are having for dinner that night, if they want to listen to me talking smack about sports with my friends from all over, so be it. The government listeners will not make rank very fast, because they will not gather anything that will net them an arrest.

My problem with government is not so focused that I cannot see the necessity of tracking those that want to interrupt my conversations with my wife after that bad day at work, what we are having for dinner, or my sports talk with my friends.

And if there is a rogue security listener that wants to waste time listening in on my calls, he/she will soon realize just how boring my life can get. Then, he/she will be fired for sleeping on the job.

Greg said...

Quote of the day on this subject:

German politicians are debating whether to make it illegal for citizens to attend terrorist training camps in Pakistan, but Germany Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries said that is not possible.

"It's very difficult to automatically make visits to training camps a crime because the person that has been there hasn't actually hurt anybody yet," she said. "We can't punish someone who hasn't committed a crime yet."

Oy vay.

LASunsett said...


// "We can't punish someone who hasn't committed a crime yet."//

It is my understanding that Germany has some pretty tough laws on anti-semitism. It seems to me that if they really wanted to make it unlawful, they could merely tie the camps into this category, which they clearly are. No?