Saturday, December 15, 2007

Are we safer now?

By Libby Spencer

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 at The Impolitic.)

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