The investigation into the Boston bombings is still in its early stages but what seems to be emerging is that the presumed perpetrators were not directly linked to any foreign terrorist infrastructure. Rather, they were individual Americans radicalized by jihadist teachings and guided in their weapons-making by jihadist websites.
In a sense, events in Boston last week served to remind us of similar episodes in the recent past where no direct connection to foreign terrorism was ever revealed.
Afghan immigrant Najibullah Zazi, the so-called subway bomber, was foiled in his attempt to mount a “martyrdom operation” in 2009 with a homemade bomb. The Fort Hood massacre, also in 2009, was perpetrated by Major Nidal Malik Hasan, who reportedly was driven by the jihadist ravings of the notorious Anwar al-Awlaki.
And then there was the 2010 aborted attempt by Faisal Shahzad, the Koran-quoting terrorist who railed against American military forces “who have occupied the Muslim lands,” to blow up part of Times Square.
Plainly, this phenomenon creates enormous problems for the United States. Not only are we all placed at substantial risk by homegrown terrorists who are part of the variegated American fabric, but there is the very real danger that in our efforts to identify these free agents by anticipatory and preventative measures we chip away at our time-honored traditions of the right to privacy and the notion that one is innocent until proven guilty.
It will be recalled in this connection that New York City’s robust, proactive monitoring of the Muslim community was roundly criticized by Muslim groups and their fellow travelers on the left.
Thus, Mayor Bloomberg’s common sense post-marathon observations have particular relevance:
The people who are worried about privacy have a legitimate worry. But we live in a complex world where you are going to have to have a level of security greater than you did back in the olden days, if you will. And our laws and our interpretation of the Constitution, I think, have to change.
Where to draw the line – not whether – seems to be the fundamental issue.
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