Maybe this Wasn’t Just Another Cock Up

From the Standard

Like a hungry machine, political debate in Britain needs an endless supply of raw material. Just before Easter the arrest of the Pakistani “terror suspects” provided the fuel which kept the engines of punditry turning.

Our student visa restrictions on Pakistanis were lax, came the cry. Our borders were too open . Our Home Office was a shambles. Our universities were hotbeds of Islamo-fascism.

So great was the commotion that it caused a diplomatic row when the Pakistan’s high commissioner to London accused the British of not asking for help with vetting potential suspects and the British accused him of naivety.

And while the tubs were thumped and breasts beaten, I thought “hold on, no one has been convicted of any crime”.

Now it seems that many of the arrested men won’t even be charged, but deported back to Pakistan (assuming, that is, the British can get believable assurances that they won’t be tortured on return).

We’ll have to wait until the full 28 days are up before they must be charged or released, but already there is a temptation to regard this as another police cock-up. After the video of an officer launching an unprovoked assault on a passer-by at the G8 demonstrations, and Bob Quick flashing official secrets to newspaper photographers, it is easy to believe the worst. Maybe these men are innocent victims – in which case the argument for deporting them looks very shaky.

And yet there is another possibility I don’t think the public fully grasps. The threat of suicide bombings forces the police on occasion to act before they have evidence that will stand up in court. Partly it is the nature of the crimes. The 9/11, 7/7 and Iraqi atrocities were on such a scale that the authorities have a duty to snuff out the faintest chance of another crime against humanity, even if the resulting legal process ends with an embarrassing muddle.

A second repellent feature of jihadism also mandates haste. Ordinary criminals do not want to be caught as a rule. They spend time plotting how to cover their tracks and make a getaway. This gives the police more opportunities to monitor and plan arrests. By contrast, a suicide bomber does not care what happens to him after he has committed the crime, because he expects to be on his way to paradise.

As a result, I think that for a generation we will have to live with muddy and unsatisfying police operations. Detectives will rush in for fear that desperate men are planning a massacre, and the rest of us will not be sure if they are being prescient or alarmist.

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2 thoughts on “Maybe this Wasn’t Just Another Cock Up

  1. That last point is a good one to remember. This is not easy stuff like lifting drunks or pulling a mountain bike out of the bushes. The stakes are so high and it must be very difficult collecting and deciding on information.

  2. “As a result, I think that for a generation we will have to live with muddy and unsatisfying police operations.”

    There is no alternative…

    “Detectives will rush in for fear that desperate men are planning a massacre, and the rest of us will not be sure if they are being prescient or alarmist.”

    I’d rather that my betters were competent representatives of the law rather than terrified cretins. And I’d rather that men of letters were capable of at least wanting to be able to tell the difference. If this is a new kind of threat it needs a new kind of response by and within the law, not a simple failure of outmoded responses.

    It is dangerous to generalize from a single raid launched on the basis of a senior police officer’s incompetence. If there is nothing to redeem here there is no reason to try to redeem it And it is even more dangerous to argue for the creation of the society the jihadis claim they are fighting against on the basis of this.

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