December 22, 2016
Round up the usual suspects
Germany was well equipped to deal with the RAF terrorism of the 1970s until the 1990s. But that was a different form of terrorism - the devil we know. Neither police, nor the intelligence services, let alone German society at large, are well equipped to deal with modern forms of terrorism, which require a different kind of approach - one that is at odds with German privacy laws and law enforcement procedures.
The absurdity of German privacy laws mean that, initially, the media were only allowed to show the suspected terrorist with his faced blurred, which is not really what you want when you start a Europe-wide manhunt. Yesterday the German government quickly tried to fix another problem, the lack of CCTV in places where large crowds gather such as shopping centres, football stadiums, and train stations. But this will still be a voluntary measure. If you run a Christmas market, you will be allowed but not required to do it under the new proposed legislative change.
One of the problems investigators have faced is lack of information. There has been no public footage of the Berlin attack - and the police even asked any eyewitnesses who filmed during the attack to upload their footage to a special police website - which was temporarily crashed by hackers - rather than allowing this footage to be distributed publicly on the internet which would have helped the investigation. It is quite instructive to compare the reaction by the German police and media to the French one after the Nice attacks. The police made mistakes in Nice, but when the attack happened anti-terror police was quickly deployed and shot the terrorist. The German police was not present, and a citizen managed to chase what turned out to be the wrong man, which gave the real culprit 24 hours to flee. And it is not even clear that Amri, whose papers were found under the seat, is the culprit. The papers may just have been a decoy.
Amri is a marginally more convenient terrorist for the German government because he did not arrive as part of last year’s stream of refugees. But this does not fundamentally change the political problem, which is a loss of control of the entire asylum process. What makes this case so shocking is that Amri was known to the police as a criminal and classified as a potential terrorist but efforts to deport him failed because he didn’t have valid papers on him.
The Daily Telegraph cites British intelligence officers as pointing out that one of the most important changes that were made in the UK after the attacks in the last decade had been efforts to get the police and the intelligence agencies to work more closely together, which is not the case in continental European countries.