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Europe is a Threat to the United States

Asked by the BBC (video) where he sees the biggest threat coming from, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff answers that the US is increasingly concerned that "Europe will become a platform for terrorists." Chertoff said he had seen "home-grown terrorism begin to rise in Europe".

The Homeland Security officials have been increasingly concerned for a long time now. In July 2005, Atlantic Review quoted a Brookings Fellow writing in Foreign Affairs: "The growing nightmare of officials at the Department of Homeland Security is passport-carrying, visa-exempt mujahideen coming from the United States' western European allies."

Apparently the nightmares have not been all that bad in the last two and a half years. Business is considered more important. That's why the US is not canceling the the visa-waver program for Europeans. The Bush administration is not as tough in the war on terrorism as they present themselves.

Related posts: "Terrorists on Honeymoon" in Lower Saxony and WSJ: Russia and Jihadists Target America's "Giant Aircraft Carrier with Sausages" and NYT's Correspondent Mark Landler's Shrill Coverage of Germany

Meanwhile, Germany is preparing to send 250 combat troops to northern Afghanistan as part of NATO's quick reaction force to join in the search for and fight against terrorists. This marks a departure from the Bundeswehr's current mission. To date only stabilization forces have been deployed to the main German base at Masar-i-Sharif, reports DW World.

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Pat Patterson on :

The point of counterespionage is to be absolutely certain the worst thing will happen and that the little noise heard from under the bed is the enemy sharpening his knife. Considering how succesful Europe and the US have been in foiling various plots maybe a little paranoia has a purpose.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

Pat, I am not saying that Chertoff is paranoid, not even a little bit. I am just slightly surprised that the US does not seem to be taking any significant measures despite talking about nightmares and increasing concern for years. Unless, of course, the sharing of passenger date information is such a significant measure: EUROPA - Rapid - Press Releases Passenger Name Record [url]http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=MEMO/07/294&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN[/url]

Pat Patterson on :

At least two steps being taken and implemented soon are the Real ID program where a new form of a more difficult to copy ID will be required by the states at the behest of the Federal government. Which will be required to work, open a bank account, rent a car and obviously to take flying lessons. Another is that any travel into the US or out can only be accomplished by holding a passport. So that kid going to Baja to surf or drink for the day better have his passport when he comes back to San Ysidro. Among other acts are eliminating local and state laws when it comes to constructing any border facility and changes to the immunity laws of federal law enforcement officials. Plus the ongoing adjustments being made to the FISA law concerning listening in on overseas calls between terrorists and between the US and terrorists. I didn't really think that Sec. Chertoff is paranoid but merely that his organization and other nation's counterespionage departments must always assume the worst. But now that you mention it he does look a little tightly wound.

Don S on :

Germany is actually sending combat troops to Afghanistan? That's pretty amazing. I'm not sure what is the most amazing, the fact that the Germans are finally coming, the vast quantity of the German committment, or how late in the game it is. I'm sure I will learn more amazing things in coming days though.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

"the vast quantity of the German committment" Is that sarcasm? 250 combat troops is significant for a country like Germany, but I would not call it "vast quantity."

Don S on :

"Is that sarcasm?" I gave up sarcasm for Lent last year and have not returned to it since. I was trying for a tone of light irony - I fear your question implies I did not succeed. My point (assuming I had one) is to point out the differences in POV. 250 troops is an enormous committment from the German POV. Less for the quantity than for the paradigm shift which it represents. I don't want to sneer at that or at the quantity of angst which has gone with it. It's an improvement. A symbolic improvement wholly out of scale with the amount of argument and hand-wringing which has gone into it. I hope that in future this symbolic committment will grow into something more real. Probably not in Afghanistan, but in somne future conflict which we know nothing about today.

Zyme on :

I consider this movement a door-opener. Up until now the norwegians provided 350 battle troops needed to put out insurgent fire. It was stated that Germany needs only 250 due to its current military infrastructure (intel, surveillance, supply, communication, medical facilities) in the north. But 250 are surely needed. Once the situation in the North worsens, more will have to come. And you can guess who will have to provide them - the country that considers itself responsible for the North. I would not however expect the germans to support those in the South.

Reid of America on :

Norway has "battle troops"? Are these "battle troops" 40% female as required in other sectors of Norweigan society? For some reason "battle troops" and Norway seems like an oxymoron in the 21st century.

Don S on :

My impression is whether soldiers are 'battle troops' or not depends more on national will than anything. That and the question of whether they are taking part in actual battle, or have done in reasonably recent times. Whether the troops are 'crack battle troops' is a different matter, because that requires both experience and training, or so I see it.

John in Michigan, USA on :

Chertoff's statements to the BBC seem to be a fairly straightforward repetition of existing US-Europe transportation security policy. This policy was first stated not long after 9/11. Chertoff is simply making the point that the policy hasn't changed, i.e. we are still concerned but we still won't be requiring visas. Joerg am I missing something? Joerg: "Apparently the nightmares have not been all that bad in the last two and a half years [since 2005]" Huh? What about the August 2006 London Airline plot? Thankfully that was foiled, but should we really stop being concerned just because it was? The plot proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that the enemy is still active, still targeting airline travel, and that the jihadis see UK airline security as a potentially viable method (although surely not the only one) to access the US air travel system. Also, the plot confirms the idea that, since 3/11 (11/3 ??) and 7/7, the focus has changed, from bringing down the US government directly, to damaging the trans-Atlantic relationship. Even if European airline security were in all cases stronger than in the US (which I doubt), an operation that exploited the inevitable gaps or disconnects between US and European security systems might be desirable in support of this focus. However, Chertoff should have distinguished between different parts of Europe. If Daniel Pipes' 2005 article [url=http://www.danielpipes.org/article/2764]Weak Brits, Tough French[/url] is still correct, France is doing a much better job at disrupting home-grown terrorism than the UK. Therefore, Chertoff should be most concerned about visa waiviers UK citizens. Are German anti-terrorism practices more like those of France, or the UK? I am interested in anyone's thoughts. There is still [url=http://www.euimmigration.org/eu_passport.html]no such thing as a EU passport[/url], correct? An extra 250 German combat troops in Afghanistan would be nice, even at this late date. But I'll save my praise until those troops are actually on the ground and we've had a chance to see what their actual rules of engagement are, do they have a curfew, etc. The idea that a few combat troops will make Germany a bigger target is silly. Those stubborn, difficult jihadis insist they are still angry over how Germany so cleverly exported its Jewish Problem to the Middle East, instead of dealing with the problem in Germany. Sorry, my little Gummibärchen, you're a target, even if you close down the aircraft carrier. What will make a difference is, if the German government gives these new troops the authority they need to fight and win battles. If they do, it will show the US-German relationship is strong, and Germany will become a slightly less desirable target. But, if the new troops are put in an impossible situation and are seen as a failure, it will be seen as a chance to further weaken the US-German relationship. In which case, I fear Germany will become a very desirable target indeed.

John in Michigan, USA on :

I should have written: "Sorry, my little Gummibärchen, you're a target, even if you keep the troops home and close down the 'giant aircraft carrier with sausages'." Maybe now that line will make more sense.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

@ John [i]Joerg: "Apparently the nightmares have not been all that bad in the last two and a half years [since 2005]" Huh? What about the August 2006 London Airline plot? [/i] Yes. But what has changed in US policy since then? Were the nightmares big enough to lead to a change in policy?

John in Michigan, USA on :

@Joerg: It almost sounds like you are suggesting that the nightmare is real and therefore, US policy should become more strict. But in fact I think you are keeping your original position, which (if I understand it right) is that the Bush administration is hypocritical in favoring business over security. Maybe you are also suggesting they use the fear of terrorism to make people afraid, but the fact that they don't let it interfere with commerce somehow proves they aren't seriously worried about it and are only using the fear for their own, evil plans? But what policy would you suggest for the Bush administration? If they require visas for all Europeans, they will be denounced as paranoid. Furthermore, in my opinion, requiring visas would further weaken the trans-Atlantic relationship, which is what the jihadis want. But, if they keep the current policy, they are denounced as hypocrites. It seems they are damned if they do, and damned if they don't. If this is what you are saying, it is frustrating. This sort of thinking is why some on this side of the Atlantic sometimes loose their temper and accuse Europeans of being sympathetic with jihadis, since the jihadis' tactic is also to force us into lose-lose dilemmas. Of course, once people on this side of the Atlantic regain their temper, they realize this is an unfair criticism of the Europeans. Still, it would be nice if European complaint was more constructive and included a proposed solution. Personally, I think this visa question is one of the rare times when our Homeland Security policy is striking the correct balance between security and openness. The correct response to terrorism attempts is to keep the policy in place and remind everyone that we really need to make the policy work, since the alternatives are worse. Hence the call for more efforts to combat home-grown jihadis, since without them the visa question would be moot.

Anonymous on :

If you'd already tried to get a visa for US, you'd know that isn't easy easy : see what happened to a french cartoonist : http://img204.imageshack.us/img204/1948/criminal2cjwn9.jpg well I think all the wealthy western countries are in the terrorists focus, because that's where they get the best possible mediatic advertizing ; when AQ will be out, another threat will rise ; according to a study made by a sociologist, Christian Mesquida, http://www.wilsoncenter.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=events.event_summary&event_id=7094 the young male population is too numerous in those acrimined countries, that why wars are a natural way to recover the equilibre ; that happened in EU in the previous centuries ; now that we manage to control the births, it ain't coming soon ; but we do have to consider that the third world contries are bellicose

John in Michigan, USA on :

...and nomad = Frenchie, if I remember right. Thanks for the cartoon. The gal with the lovely, pink hair is angry because, after all the paperwork and delays, she can't get the transit visa because she has un délit (similar to a misdemeanor in the US system). Also I think there are délits, and then there are délits graves which are closer to crimes than misdemeanors. We are not told which type of délits she did, but I wonder if the comic is pointing out a cultural difference between the US and France? Si elle ait la rage and set fire to a car, or something, in the US this is considered a crime (arson). We love our cars, and besides, someone could get seriously hurt, the fire could spread, etc. In France, if I understand correctly, this would be treated as un délit (maybe not even un délit grave?), since it is only a crime against property and no-one is supposed to get very excited about such bourgeoisie things. If on the other hand she simply got caught making an illegal download, or something, of course it is absurd that she doesn't get a transit visa. She could probably find a more direct flight to Tahiti on her national carrier, but of course that would cost more... Instead, she imagines burning our flag...which is still not even a misdemeanor in the US (as long as you have the permission of the flag owner). If she had burned our flag instead of a French car, then there would be no problem getting her US transit visa! So you see we are not unreasonable. As I've written elsewhere, our State Department is badly in need of reform. I have no doubt the visa process lets people through that should be stopped, and stops people who should be let through, and is more complicated than necessary, and is absurd in other ways.

Don S on :

The other problem with beauracracies is that they tend to be overly risk-averse in times like these. That consular official the cartoonist lampooned had to make a decision requiring judgement. The decision could be up or down, but the consequences of a mistake or a correct decision would be very different. If she issued the transit visa despite un délit and the cartoonist proved to be a danger or even an embarressment - there could be negative consequences for the official. If she refuses there are unlikely to be negative consequences of any kind unless the cartoonist has powerful friends in a position to raise trouble (think Sarko or PM Fillon). The latter is very unlikely of course, but someone probably issued a visa for Mohammed Atta prior to 9/11 - back in the palmy days when we KNEW nothing too bad could go wrong. Today we (and the consular offiails) know better. So we're much more risk-averse these days, and undoubtably reject many applications for visas which should go through because most applicants are no danger whatsoever. I do wonder why the cartoonist had to have a visa at all, if she is a French citizen I don't believe a visa is required by the US. Does anyone have more information on the case?

nomad on :

well anonimous = nomad

joe on :

It is not like terrorists attacking the US have not already used Europe as a logical and staging base. Why would one think they would not do so in the future?

nomad on :

Well, I think the cartoonist just made somme silly rebellion jokes against the cops. What she discribed is more of derision, idem for the mediatic cliché of burning the american flag yes we need a visa, unless we got the special passport that is available since 2 years ago

Don S on :

"Well, I think the cartoonist just made somme silly rebellion jokes against the cops." And the cartoon implies that the consular didn't read the specifics of the case. Well that is understandable; could be she had a heavy load of paperwork that day. Or she had a hangover after barhopping in Paris all night. Or (most likely) the consular rejects everyone with a nominally 'criminal' record and passes everyone else.

Pat Patterson on :

Not to say that these problems are solely American but on one of my trips to the UK when arriving at Heathrow one of the debarking passengers when asked if he had anything illegal in his carryon said, "Sure, an atomic bomb." The groan from the rest of the line caused people from all over the terminal to look up as the police "escorted" the idiot away. Naturally the rest of us were then taken out of the line and questioned to find out if we knew him.

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