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Right Hooks

Bad Policing Before and After Brussels

How many cells are in the United States, waiting, planning?

National Security Desk · Mar. 29, 2016

Could the Brussels attack have been prevented if Belgian law enforcement realized sooner the extent of the Islamist threat? At least in hindsight, the signs were glaringly obvious, and though the realization would have come at the eleventh hour, it might have been enough to prevent three jihadists from wheeling bomb-laden bags into the Brussels airport. When Belgian authorities arrested suspected Paris attacker Salah Abdeslam, they ignored the weapons and detonators investigators discovered in the safe house where they found Abdeslam’s fingerprints. They read him their version of the Miranda rights, waited for him to recover a bit from surgery, and never asked Abdeslam for details about a forthcoming attack.

“Abdeslam’s questioning is a textbook example of why the law enforcement model for interrogating terrorists is a disaster,” wrote Marc Thiessen, a counterterrorism research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. “As we saw in Brussels, law enforcement officials are in no hurry to extract answers from a detainee, because they are questioning terrorists after an attack has occurred. Their goal is to extract a confession in order to secure a conviction. In such circumstances, patience is a virtue.”

For years, Belgian law enforcement lived in an alternate reality. It placed politically correct policing above national security. That allowed the festering of neighborhoods of jihadist sympathizers that helped shelter the Paris and Belgium attackers. The assumption was that the Islamic State didn’t have a network established in the country, and that Abdeslam was an anomaly from a threat still beheading people in the Syrian desert hundreds of miles away.

But as The New York Times makes painfully clear, the Islamic State was miles ahead of the Belgian police. Even before the group declared itself a caliphate, the Islamic State was sending jihadists to Europe with general directions and deadlines for small-scale attacks so that the network was obscured. Predictably, “enlightened” European leaders dismissed those attacks as isolated incidents perpetrated by mentally unstable lone wolves. Islam is the Religion of Peace™, after all. But the Islamic State was probing — hitting singles instead of swinging for the jihadist version of a homerun. Who knows how many cells are still in Europe, or how many are in the United States, waiting, planning?

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