Even while respecting civil liberties we need to do more than just put potential terrorists on a list…

Still wondering how effective so-called terrorist watch lists are. Certainly I think we need them, but why is it that most of these terrorists who commit murder and mayhem are said to have been on the watch lists?

The 9/11 attackers were on a watch list and yet let onto the airliners. And in the latest terrorism in Germany, well the suspect, on the loose as I write this, was on the German authorities’ watch list. They even had reason to believe he was actively planning something.

But in Western democracies we prize freedom of movement and rightfully so. Police cannot legally detain a person or take someone into custody on a mere suspicion not backed up by some kind of clear evidence. If we were to allow otherwise think of what might happen. Over-zealous authorities or ones on a personal or political vendetta could grab and detain people on trumped-up (excuse the expression) charges.

But we know that the predominant source of this spate of terror that is being inflicted on the world is from groups who identify themselves as Islamic — therefore we usually refer to them as Islamic terrorists, even though it is felt or hoped that these people do not represent all of or even any of true Islam, at best, or perhaps better put, worst, they represent an extreme sect of the religion, with a distorted view, although some charge it is not really distorted at all.

(Christians were fairly extreme in the Middle Ages.)

With the attack in Germany at a Christmas market, President-elect Donald Trump is basically saying I told you so, in reference to his campaign position in favor of banning the entry of Muslims into the U.S. It has been said that he has modified his position to a ban on those coming from terrorism hotbeds, and I think he has sometimes used the phrase a temporary ban, as until we can get a handle on the situation. Actually, as much as I detest Trump, I have a hard time arguing with that proposition, which seems, dare I say it? common sense.

Even in cases where the suspects or perpetrators were not on a watch list, they had contacts with people who were. This is especially true in the case of so-called “home-grown” terrorists who are “radicalized”, as they say.

I know the authorities often have their hands tied in situations where they have seemingly convincing or obvious information but cannot act because of civil liberties restrictions. I would in no way propose sacrificing our civil liberties in the name of fighting terror. However, people coming into the U.S., or say, coming into Germany, don’t have the rights of citizens of the respective countries (and some legal expert might argue with me on this — and win I guess). And non-citizens it would seem would be subject to deportation (or should be) if there is a reasonable concern they are up to no good. And it would seem the standard for deportation in such cases would be lower than that of detention for a citizen.

And when it comes to home-grown terrorists or those from abroad but under the radar — I guess if you see (or hear) something, say something. I mean stockpiling weapons might be a clue. It’s amazing and scary how often we read that there were clues, such as terrorists telegraphing their plans by public statements or stockpiling weapons in their apartments.

And of course not all terrorists wear the Islamic label. Just wanted to be fair, clear, and accurate about this.

And I don’t want to fall prey to inadvertently spreading fake news, but I know in some of my reading it has been charged that the outgoing Obama administration scrubbed some names from watch lists in the interests I think of not making anyone and everyone who is somehow connected to Islam a suspect — and that is my own interpretation.

In these troubled times we have to be fair and true to our values but we also have to be prudent and not ignore the obvious.

If I say suspicious things or act in a suspicious manner at an airport, I will almost surely be detained by the TSA or other police or authorities. While we cannot or should not broaden that to everywhere, neither can we walk around blind to the threat.

Authorities need some latitude, but latitude that is held in check, as it is supposed to be now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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