If there's a lesson to be learned from today's terrorist attacks in Britain, it is the importance of rooting out--and eliminating--the "infrastructure" that makes such strikes possible.
National Review's Aaron Mannes has a brief, but fascinating, essay on the terrorist network that has been building in Britain for some time. After France (yes, France) began cracking down on the Islamists in the late 1980s and early 1990s, many began gravitating to Great Britain, where they found a much more permissive operating environment. Quoting terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna, Mr. Mannes notes:
". . . British attempts to neutralize the infrastructure of Al Qaeda and related groups have been gravely inadequate. Without a doubt, London was Al Qaeda's spiritual hub in the Western world."
Those concerns were echoed by France's leading anti-terrorism judge, Jean-Louis Bruguierre. In an interview with the BBC barely a month ago, Bruguierre observed that British law enforcement and criminal courts lack key legal tools that are useful in fighting terrorism, such as the admission of wiretap information as evidence. The French judge also noted that suspected terrorists have traveled with ease (on false papers) between Britain and other European countries.
At this juncture, it is unclear if today's attacks were conducted by a "homegrown" British Al-Qaida cell, or the work of recently-arrived operatives. But judging from Mannes's essay, it seems clear that the Brits made many of the mistakes we made before 9-11, and still make today. In the interest of freedom and civil liberties, we tolerate the presence of those who may actually be planning to attack us.
During this time of tragedy, the thoughts and prayers of all Americans are with our British allies. But in the aftermath of today's terrorist attacks, it will be interesting to see if how the Blair government deals with a terrorist infrastructure that was "tolerated" for so long....