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July 19, 2005
Why The Law Enforcement Approach To Terrorism Doesn't Work

Germany has shown once again why using a law-enforcement approach with terrorists ultimately fails to protect Western nations. A German court released suspected terrorist financier Mamoun Darkanzli because of a dispute over an extradition request and the reversal of a newly-passed German law intended to strengthen legal tools to fight terrorism:

In a ruling seen as a sharp blow to coordinated counterterrorism efforts in Europe, Germany's highest court refused Monday to turn over to Spain a citizen suspected of aiding Al Qaeda, arguing that a recent European agreement to streamline extradition procedures violated the rights of German citizens. ...

But on Monday the German Constitutional Court declared the law creating the European warrant void, even though it was ratified by the German Parliament in November. The court reasoned that the law infringed on the right of every citizen of Germany, enshrined in its Basic Law, to a court hearing in this country before extradition can take place.

The ruling will surely be seen as a setback in a Europe that has closer coordination to prevent terrorism at the top of the public agenda and is still reeling from the terrorist attacks in London this month.

"He must be set free following this ruling, which is a blow for the government in its efforts and fight against terrorism," said the German justice minister, Brigitte Zypries, referring to Mr. Darkazanli.

Mr. Darkazanli, who was interrogated by German investigators for several months after the Sept. 11 attacks, has denied having engaged in any terrorist activity, saying he was a businessman who knew members of the Qaeda cell in Germany only "by sight."

One of those "sights" came at a Hamburg wedding attended by two of the 9/11 hijackers. Spain's justice Baltazar Garzon invoked the European extradition procedure for Darkanzli based on Spain's further evidence tying Darkanzli to al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. The EU arrest warrant, enacted in 2002, supposedly overcame the individual obstacles of extradition in each member nation, allowing a more secure approach to handling terrorist cases. However, the German court interpreted national law to require that Germany have enough evidence to try Darkanzli in Germany before extraditing him to Spain -- requiring Spain's evidence and intelligence to be exposed publicly. Failing that, Germany could not extradite Darkanzli -- and he left German custody in a taxicab instead.

No one knows where he is now, of course.

This shows the predictable results of relying on law enforcement to fight Islamofascist terrorism. First, it underestimates the threat of terrorism by equating it to the grubby environs of organized crime, instead of the existential threat it clearly represents after 9/11, Madrid, Morocco, and London. Second, it takes the crucial intelligence battle and forces it to be exposed in open court, making Western nations decide whether the risk of blowing covers is worth a criminal conviction for a single operative. Third, the process takes so long that it eats up resources clearly needed elsewhere in the war and in civil law enforcement.

In short, as we saw in the 1990s, it provides a recipe for stalling and timidity, when boldness and quick action serve us better.

Terrorism may involve committing crimes, but it is not a criminal enterprise in the same sense of the Mafia. The Mafia and other organized-crime syndicates exist to skim money off of capitalist economies, using strong-arm tactics as well as corruption and stealth, but they don't aim to destroy the societies in which they operate. They exist as parasites, not predators, to Western societies. Islamofascist terrorists want to destroy us, and then take command of what's left. They are an existential threat, not mere parasites, and pretending that they are the same as a ring of car thieves puts us all at risk.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 19, 2005 6:46 AM

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