Huh?  --  Isn’t it America that’s supposed to be “the land of the free and the home of the brave”?  --  So why do we read, in the article reproduced below from Saturday’s New York Times: “Despite Terror, Europeans Seem Determined to Maintain Civil Liberties”?  --  And Americans aren’t?  --  What’s gone wrong, when we read that “From the 9/11 attacks through the Madrid bombings, Europeans have refused to sacrifice civil liberties in the fight against terrorism, sharply criticizing the United States for restricting its citizens' rights for the sake of security”?  --  Wasn’t it supposed to be the other way around?  --  As in the Declaration of Independence?  --  The Bill of Rights?  --  And while we’re on the subject, why is that we see nowhere in the U.S. mainstream media reflection upon the fact that Britain has not declared an absurd “war on terrorism,” instead deciding, sensibly, to treat a crime as a crime, and not an “act of war”?  --  The New York Times goes to great lengths to obscure this elementary fact.  --  Only when we are deep in the main article on the investigation into the London bombings do we learn who is its spokesperson: the “deputy chief constable of British Transport Police.”  --  The Times postpones mentioning him, perhaps because it does not want the word “police” to appear on the front page.  --  Till then, all we hear about are “investigators” and “authorities” and “one senior British investigator” and “officials.”  --  The Times is not alone in this approach:  the U.S. mainstream media is doing everything it can to present the London bombings as an “event” produced by a “sleeper cell” in the “war on terror.”  --  The “war on terror,” though, was a crock when it was declared, and it is a crock still.  --  It will always be a crock.  --  What Dr. Jeffrey Record explained in “Bounding the Global War on Terrorism,” published by the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College in December 2003, is still the truth: “Most of the global war on terror's declared objectives” are “unrealistic and condemn the United States to a hopeless quest for absolute security" -- in fact, “it may be misleading to cast the global war on terror as a war,” for the war on terror is “mired in a semantic swamp.”  --  Terrorism is “not a proper noun,” it is a “method of violence”; thus terrorism cannot be a wartime “enemy.”  --  In any case, the war on terror's goals are “politically, fiscally, and militarily unsustainable.”  --  The president is guilty of a misguided “insistence on moral clarity,” also has used the 9/11 attacks as a “political opportunity.”  --  Why is it that these basic (and rather obvious) points have never been laid out in columns of the New York Times, and rarely in any other U.S. mainstream media publication? ...

By Richard Bernstein

New York Times
July 9, 2005
Page A8

BERLIN -- From the 9/11 attacks through the Madrid bombings, Europeans have refused to sacrifice civil liberties in the fight against terrorism, sharply criticizing the United States for restricting its citizens' rights for the sake of security. Even with the London attacks, there is little indication that this philosophical divide is narrowing.

Certainly some European counterterrorism experts believe that Europe's determination to preserve open borders, ease of movement and civil liberties has been what one German expert on terrorism, Rolf Tophoven, calls "a gift to terrorists." It is all too easy for jihadists, once they are inside the European Union, to move from one country to another, the experts say, propagating their views and setting up groups sympathetic to Al Qaeda.

But from the early signs, Europe will not change course.

"I don't think the attack in London will change European policies," Mr. Tophoven said.

For one thing, it is too early to make the case that the London attacks were the product of open borders or too much tolerance of fanatical Muslim activity in Britain.

"If it turns out that the guys who did this were carrying French passports and they came from outside to do this special job, then there may be some feeling about the borders being too open," Gary Samore, a terrorism expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, in London, said in a telephone interview. Investigators, though, lean toward the theory that the London attacks were the work of terrorists already in Britain.

In general, Mr. Samore said, British police intelligence has been very good at keeping tabs on Muslim radicals inside Britain and has succeeded in foiling earlier terrorist plots.

"MI5 has very good relations with the British Muslim community, and it's developed a good network of informants, and they've penetrated the radical groups," Mr. Samore said, referring to the British domestic intelligence service.

Without more evidence it is impossible to know if there was a failure to gather intelligence on groups in Britain, or whether outsiders aided or directed the attacks, going to the country for that purpose.

But whichever turns out to be the case, experts say, radical Muslim communities have been established in several European countries since well before the current wave of Al Qaeda-inspired attacks, and that makes the situation in Europe different from that in the United States.

For the United States, there was a logic to the post-Sept. 11 toughening of immigration procedures, subjecting foreigners to rigorous questioning, general suspicion and even fingerprinting, which has prompted great unhappiness among European visitors. For Europe, with a sizable radical Muslim population already in place, it makes far less sense.

If potential terrorists are already inside the country, then the best way to prevent terrorism is to do what Britain was already doing, which is to keep close tabs on them.

As in the United States, there is a debate in Europe about the relative weight that needs to be given to civil liberties on the one side and law enforcement on the other. But Europeans are generally more inclined to err on the side of civil protections, because they are convinced that taking too severe a line only makes matters worse.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict further divides European and American attitudes. Europeans are far more sympathetic to the Palestinians and prone to anti-Israel attitudes than Americans, and they have therefore tended to see a certain kind of Muslim radical oratory as the natural response of peoples with legitimate grievances.

By and large, Europeans oppose the American war in Iraq, which many say is responsible for increasing the terrorist threat against them. Political leaders in Europe diplomatically avoid criticizing the United States, but it has surely not been lost on ordinary Europeans that the countries attacked, and threatened by attack, are those that have supported the American war in Iraq.

"What we are witnessing in London is the terrorist answer to an imperialist politics," Ernst-Otto Czempiel, a political scientist at Frankfurt University and founder of the Frankfurt Peace Research Institute, said in an interview, giving voice to a widespread European opinion.

"To use military force against terrorism and to see it as a prolongation of the Soviet Union or of Hitlerian aggression is not only wrong politically but wrong practically," Mr. Czempiel said. "Bush has produced the opposite of what he intended to do."

In European intelligence circles, the fear is spreading that Iraq is becoming another Afghanistan, drawing in jihadists who receive training in bomb-making and other terrorist techniques and then infiltrate Western countries, Mr. Tophoven said. "There aren't a lot of them, not even hundreds," he said, "but a few of them are enough to cause harm."

The debate about civil liberties versus strong, intrusive security measures is not restricted only to Europe, of course. In Washington, President Bush is pressing Congress to renew the USA Patriot Act, the broad anti-terrorism law that was passed in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. But the measure has run into roadblocks on Capitol Hill.

The reauthorization bill has yet to come to a vote in either chamber. But last month the House approved a spending measure that stripped the act of a provision making it easier for federal investigators to review the records of bookstores and libraries.

European countries have passed no equivalents of the Patriot Act, but they can nonetheless claim considerable success for their reliance on ordinary police work and intelligence, despite the Madrid and London bombings.

The British police claim to have derailed several previous bomb plots. And in Germany, radical Muslims are under close surveillance, their homes, offices and computers subject to searches by the police in regular raids. Some organizations suspected of fanning hatred have been banned, and a few suspected extremists have been expelled.

Moreover, Germany is the only country to bring people accused of being members of the Sept. 11 terrorism team to trial. But both cases have foundered, not because of some excessive civil liberties scruples on the part of the Germans, but because the United States refused to provide records of its interrogations of terrorist leaders.