Saturday, December 15, 2007

Are we safer now?

By Libby
Updated below

I don't know. Maybe I just have fake terrorist threat fatigue but don't you think this latest conviction on conspiracy to commit terrorism is just a little bit oversold as "one of the most realistic terrorism threats on U.S. soil since Sept. 11." Maybe I'm missing something here, but it appears this terrorist group consists of four guys, three of whom spent most of their time in prison plotting this attack and one of whom has been judged mentally unfit to stand trial and is now under psychiatric care.

The plan was pretty scary, but I see no indication that they managed to accumulate any guns, much less build a bomb. The worst thing they did was write a really threatening manifesto and rob a few gas stations.

Don't get me wrong, it's good to get them off the streets. They're obviously violent men who don't belong free in civil society, and it's heartening to see our law enforcement cooperate well to put them back behind bars. But it does us no great service to hype this as the greatest threat ever. The recent shootings by lone gunmen at the Omaha mall and in Colorado did more damage than this hapless group of wannabes did.

This is what makes trading our civil rights for a false sense of security so ridiculous. The government's massive surveillance programs weren't responsible for the capture of these would be terrorists. Good old fashioned police work was. Neither did those databases protect those who died in the shootings. If we're to learn anything here, I think the lesson is that the world is full of disturbed and violent people and no one can protect us from them all.

[cross-posted to The Reaction]

Update: Mark expands on the point of this arrest coming about as a result of good police work and notes the conviction was obtained without the use of torture. He also makes a really good point that the overcrowding of our prisons contributes to the growth of these home grown terrorist wannabes.

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Blogger Capt. Fogg said...

It's taken years, but they've turned us into a nation of whimpering cowards begging for a police state to take care of us. No risk seems acceptable any more. Everything is so very dangerous and we'll give up anything for a fraudulent feeling of safety; anything including our liberty and the right to make decisions about what we consider acceptable risk.

We have come full circle in the United States. It's not just the fascists in Washington, the idea that giving up freedom for security entitles you to neither would be shouted down by an army of self-righteous activists who would be happy in a country where everyone is a prisoner.

4:58:00 PM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

Sometimes the sheeple who just don't get what's happening in front of their faces scares me more than the government, Fogg.

5:35:00 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

It's worth pointing out that this was the most realistic plot that's been foiled domestically since 9/11. Of course, that's not exactly a high bar, but it's true nonetheless.

As important though, this plot was apparently stopped through good, old fashioned police work that didn't seem to involve any of the Patriot Act-style incursions on civil liberties. I argue at my blog that this case actually shows that respecting civil liberties makes law enforcement more effective.

9:24:00 PM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

Hey Mark, it may have been the most serious plot they discovered so far but still it hardly was a huge threat. I continue to think it's dangerous to overhype this arrests because it will inure the public to real threats or cause them the over-react to non-existent ones.

I agree on the civil liberties angle though. I'm going over to read your post right now.

10:01:00 AM  

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