EEI#17 “What kind of war” – continued (3 of ?) – Civilian Courts no place for terrorists

Essential Elements of Information for a Culture of Preparedness

Fooling ourselves into thinking that terrorism is a just a criminal problem best handled by halfhearted security measures and civilian courts that rely on a “reasonable-doubt” standard is both naive and dangerous. 

Bob BrooksBob Brooks is the Sheriff of Ventura County California. He has a Master of Arts in Security Studies (Homeland Defense and Security) from the Naval Postgraduate School.  An excerpt of his Masters’ thesis Creating a Coordinated Game Plan: Improving the Effectiveness of Miliary Civil Support to Law Enforcement appeared in Edition #6 of this website. He has served as a Project White Horse 084640 advisor since first publication.

This article was originally published by the Ventura County Star on Wednesday Jan 6, 2010 and is presented with permission of the author.

Civilian Courts no place for terrorists - Sunday morning, I listened to the president’s top counterterrorism adviser say that there was no “smoking gun” that could have prevented the attempted mass murder of airline passengers approaching Detroit on Christmas Day.

As a member of the executive committee of the Los Angeles Joint Terrorism Task Force, it is troubling to believe that specific information available on this terrorist was not enough to generate a response that would have prevented him from conducting an attack on our shores.

The adviser, White House aide John Brennan, went on to defend the decision to prosecute Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab as a common criminal protected by all the rights granted to a citizen of the United States, saying that prosecutors may be able to use our system to make a deal for him to disclose information about other threats.

Abdulmutallab stated that there were other terrorists coming with similar intent, before his taxpayer-funded attorney prohibited him from making further statements.

If Abdulmutallab was right, can we afford to wait weeks or months before finding out if there is an imminent threat? If he was willing to die for his cause, will a plea-bargain agreement convince him to divulge al-Qaida’s plans? How many potential terrorist recruits will be influenced by this trial being played out on a world stage?

This is a continuation of a shocking trend toward treating a war as a law-enforcement problem. Changing the political terminology does not change the reality. Clearly, this terrorist is a soldier of an extreme ideology that intends to destroy the West and, therefore, he should have been dealt with as an enemy combatant. We must acknowledge that our enemies do not have to be nation-states, or we will enable our enemies and handicap those charged to protect us.

Later Sunday, the Transportation Security Administration announced that individuals flying to the United States from one of the 14 countries we recognize as state sponsors of terrorism will be subjected to additional screening measures.

While this policy, in addition to the use of full-body scan technology, are good ideas, why did it take this attack to implement these common-sense measures? Unfortunately, most of our security screening is directed at stopping certain items from being taken on planes, while a trained terrorist can make a weapon out of a wide variety of materials that can make it through screening.

In contrast, Israel’s state-run airline has an outstanding record for passenger safety. It relies on the far more successful approach of looking for terrorists rather than a four-ounce shampoo bottle or nail clippers.

Israel’s security personnel do pay attention to country of origin, but they also gather additional passenger information and rely on careful questioning of individuals to determine whether they display a combination of characteristics consistent with someone who may pose a threat. I have been subjected to the process several times and found it to be respectful and reassuring.

If we are really serious about protecting our skies and our communities, we need to acknowledge that we are at war with a serious and determined enemy and that this conflict may continue for decades.

Fooling ourselves into thinking that terrorism is a just a criminal problem best handled by halfhearted security measures and civilian courts that rely on a “reasonable-doubt” standard is both naive and dangerous.

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