The Daily Demarche
Monday, February 07, 2005
L'Ombre de l'Olivier defends Euro CT measures
In response to "The Dutch Still Get It", below, L'Ombre de l'Olivier has posted a rebuttal defending Euro counter terrorism (CT) measures on his very good blog. If you have not yet read my post, and the rebuttal the rest of this post won't make much sense, so go ahead and read them. I can wait.

OK, welcome back. Now I really like it when another blogger rebutts something we write here, I enjoy the challenge of rethinking my position and am always glad to get out of the echo chamber for a while. In this case L'Ombre makes it clear that he does not agree with me, and chooses a few key points to counter.

He claims that EU nations "round up suspects all over the place" (quick aside: go to Bug Me Not to get passwords and logins for many registration required sites without creating your own login- The LA Times "free subscription" is very invasive) and I will stipulate that they have enjoyed some successes. What they have not done, however, is become mobilized by the fact that there are terrorist cells alive and well in the EU. How many al Qaeda members are there on the loose for every one that is captured?

L'Ombre then goes on to write:

Dr D thinks that showing ID is an aid to security. Why? Any competent terrorist will have half a dozen apparently valid passports or ID cards. They may not work when scanned by a real customs/immigration guy but they will work fine when shown to a harassed check-in desk person.

First of all, I am not sure I buy into the very Robert Ludlum like idea that every terrorist has a bevy of identities a la Carlos the Jackal, but let's set that aside. I think showing an ID is a good idea because it provides a bit of human interaction- a moment in which a potential terrorist is face to face with what could, and should, be a trained observer. Consular officers and almost all police investigators are taught to look at "micro-expressions" and other non-verbal cues when conducting an interview. There is no reason airline personnel cannot be taught the same thing. In addition passports with pages missing or otherwise defaced may tip off a trained clerk. Every reasonable step to keep a terrorist off an airplane should be taken, period. I do not hold this akin to a police state.

L'Ombre continues (this is a quote of him quoting me):

Dr D also comes out in favour of the EU, which is rather odd:
The Europeans have to date been loathe to cede any national security powers to the EU. Shortly after the van Gogh murder Deutsche Welle reported on the problems caused by the wide ranging mix of police powers found in the Union.

I am not certain what he means when he states that I am "in favour" of the EU. I am not particularly fond of some of the actions (or inactions) the EU has undertaken of late, and it often strikes me as a largely self defeating system. I am not a European and so have no say in the formation of the EU or in it's policy decisions- but I am a big fan of the single currency. As a concerned outsider, however, I feel comfortable making recommendations or pointing out what I perceive as flaws in the works. For example, I am not recommending that the member states cede sovereignty or national authority to the EU, but if the Union is going to hold there are certain powers that must reside primarily at the center. Case in point: in America the local police may investigate a local crime, but there are trip wires that might kick a case up to the federal level. States rights are preserved and the common good is served. Is that not the goal of the EU?

Regarding the points made about data bases, I have to fully disagree with L'Ombre. From a technical side he might be correct, I am not a software engineer. From a crime prevention and end user side I think he is dead wrong. The existence of a central database for terrorist information is critical. All information regarding a particular person need not reside in one data base, but a central catalog of databases is needed for reference. Let's say the Germans arrest someone for a petty crime and search this database. They then learn the Spanish have information on this person. The Germans can then go to the Spanish for details. Without a catalog of information no one knows what they do not know.

I agree 100% with L'Ombre about US immigration issues, and have blogged about it before; here, here and here. It is an issue I am very passionate about, as is terrorism. So when L'Ombre suggests I "look at fixing the US's catch and release immigration issues before worrying about how we do things in Europe" I have to respond with the following.

The EU is an attempt to break down barriers and borders and I applaud that. Unfortunately al Qaeda has beaten you to the punch. For the Islamofascists borders are meaningless, the war on terror is global whether we like it or not. We cannot afford to each look to ur own borders, and to solve one problem at time. We can and must work together to resolve the issues facing us on multiple fronts. Protecting airplanes and denying terrorists freedom of movement are two key elements in this ongoing battle. The US cannot afford to deny the merit of a particular idea because it is EU in origin, nor can the EU do the reverse. Each system must be willing and able to face the other in the cold light of day and have our various flaws and foibles identified, with two stronger systems serving and protecting their constituencies better as the ultimate goal.


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dé·marche 1) A course of action; a maneuver. 2) A diplomatic representation or protest 3) A statement or protest addressed by citizens to public authorities.

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