IN THE NEWS
A recent Frontline special, "Al Qaeda's New Front," mentioned in passing an interesting statistic: over 30 arrests of terrorist cells in Western European countries in the last several years. If you go to the Frontline website, you can click through a map of Europe to see a summary of the arrests, by country.
What's striking, of course, is how different that looks from the map of the United Status since 9/11. How many pins could you put on a US map to signify genuine terrorist plots thwarted. Um...er...Well, there was that group in Lackawanna...Of course, the prosecutor in that case never demonstrated an actual plot, just that the Lackawanna Six went to an al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan...Oh, yeah, and the SIx say that they left once they found out it was a terrorist camp, and not the Islamic equivalent of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade...OK, there was that guy in Minnesota, except he was released...
Maybe the US government is just being more careful than their European counterparts. However, given how quick Ashcroft and Ridge were to grab the microphone, even when there weren't any specific plots or terrorists to talk about, it's tough to accept that explanation. Apparently, counterterrorism within the European "homeland"--intelligence gathering, arrests, prosecution, conviction--proceeds apace, in spite of their willingess to talk about it. In fact, a German court could not convict the only suspect linked to the 9/11 plot in Europe, Mounir el Motassadeq, because the US government refused to let his lawyers cross-examine Ramzi Binalshibh, a terrorist suspect in patented, hyper-secret American custody. Presumably, Binalshibh has valuable intelligence that can stop a terrorist attack--though we haven't heard about it--or bring other terrorists to the bar of justice--which hasn't happened yet.