Skip to comments.Dutch Try to Thwart Terror Without Being Overzealous
Posted on 11/25/2004 8:05:52 AM PST by neverdem
AMSTERDAM, Nov. 18 - His telephone was tapped, his apartment was watched and many of his friends were already behind bars, so the Dutch authorities were not surprised by evidence that it was Mohamed Bouyeri, a Dutchman of Moroccan descent, who murdered the filmmaker Theo van Gogh in broad daylight one morning this month. Yet they had been powerless to stop the crime.
It is a problem faced by most European governments as radical Islam spreads across the Continent: how to arrest suspected militants before they act, without trampling on individual rights or risking charges of discrimination.
The government of the Netherlands has come under criticism for missing Mr. Bouyeri when Islamist death threats were made against Mr. van Gogh. But stopping him would have meant assessing guilt before the crime, Justice Minister Jan Piet Hein Donner said in an interview.
"You're dealing with processes that take place in one's head," Mr. Donner said. "We can't arrest people for wearing certain clothes."
Mr. Bouyeri first came to the attention of the Dutch authorities in 2002, after he moved out of his family's home and rented a tiny one-bedroom apartment on quiet Marianne Philips Street in the Slotmeer district of western Amsterdam.
The apartment, in a two-story complex that rings a small park, soon became a regular meeting place for a group of young Muslims under the tutelage of a Syrian named Redouan al-Issar, known to the group as Abu Khaled.
The young men stood out with their flowing Arabic robes and beards in a tidy neighborhood where most of the residents were older and Dutch. Neighbors say they were always polite, though they received frequent visitors late into the night.
Mr. Issar, believed to be 43, sought political asylum in Germany in 1995 before moving to Amsterdam. By 2003 he had established himself as the group's spiritual leader and talked to them about "violent jihad," according to intelligence reports cited by the Dutch Justice Ministry in a recent report to Parliament. He often stayed in Mr. Bouyeri's cramped apartment.
But intelligence officials were more interested in a high school student named Samir Azzouz, who also attended the meetings at the apartment and who in early 2003 was arrested in Ukraine, apparently trying to make his way to Chechnya.
He was sent back to Amsterdam, where social workers and schoolteachers tried unsuccessfully to coach him through his final exams.
Months later, Spanish intelligence officials notified the Netherlands that they had intercepted communications between Mr. Azzouz and a Moroccan in Spain who was suspected of involvement in suicide bombings that killed 45 people in Casablanca in May 2003. A wiretapped conversation suggested that Mr. Azzouz and several other men were planning a terrorist attack.
The Dutch authorities found bomb ingredients in Mr. Azzouz's possession and remain convinced that a plot was taking shape. But Mr. Azzouz and the others arrested in the case were released within 10 days for lack of evidence. Mr. Issar, their spiritual leader, was eventually deported to Germany.
The Netherlands has since enacted a law making it a crime to conspire to commit a terrorist act. Like the rest of Europe, the country is gradually strengthening laws to thwart terrorists. Mr. Donner has asked for legislation to lower the threshold required for the police to hold suspects before they are charged - he wants suspicion alone to be enough.
He said the Netherlands was also going beyond many countries in Europe by seeking to allow prosecutors to use intelligence reports as evidence without revealing their source. "We are doing things that would be unthinkable in many other countries," he said.
But, he added, it is important to distinguish between terrorist cases and normal criminal cases in drafting new laws, "so that we don't infect the whole criminal law by relaxing the rules of evidence in these cases."
Countries in Europe with little experience of terrorism lag behind those, like Britain, France and Spain, that have faced terrorist threats before. Britain's 2001 Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act allows indefinite detention of foreigners suspected of terrorist-related activities.
In Spain, terrorism suspects can be held for up to 13 days without charge and as long as four years without trial. People in France can be imprisoned for association with terrorists; a woman has been in jail for nearly a year awaiting trial on charges of knowing of a plot by her son, who is still under investigation.
But the tougher laws inevitably lean more on Muslims than on the population as a whole, exacerbating tensions that are already polarizing many European societies.
"The deterioration of community relations may actually undermine counterterrorism measures, because it reduces the willingness of people in these communities to cooperate with police and intelligence services," said Benjamin Ward, a lawyer for Human Rights Watch.
Nor can the draconian rules keep all potential terrorists off the streets. Several of the people involved in the March 11 train bombings in Madrid were well known to intelligence agencies.
With an estimated 15 million to 20 million Muslims in Europe, most of whom occupy the lower rungs of their adopted societies and many of whom are sympathetic to militant causes, identifying and tracking potential terrorists is an enormous undertaking.
European intelligence and police agencies have interrupted several major terrorist plots, from a 1999 plan to bomb the American Embassy in Paris to last month's scheme to bomb the National High Court in Madrid, Spain's main counterterrorism court. But as the Madrid train bombings and Mr. van Gogh's murder make clear, it is often people on the periphery of known networks who turn out to be among the most dangerous.
Mr. Bouyeri, for example, shared his small apartment with another known extremist, Nouredine el-Fahtni. During a search of the apartment, the police found a "martyr's testament" under Mr. Fahtni's name suggesting that he was prepared to die as a holy warrior.
Under interrogation, Mr. Fahtni asserted that the martyr's testament actually belonged to Mr. Bouyeri, and he warned intelligence officials that Mr. Bouyeri was an adherent of Takfir wal Hijra - roughly translated, Anathema and Exile - an ideology that condones extreme violence in fighting Islam's enemies.
But despite intelligence reports noting Mr. Bouyeri's rapid radicalization, officials did not take Mr. Fahtni's statements seriously. With more than 100 radicals on the watch list, Mr. Bouyeri still did not rise to the level of an imminent threat.
Mr. Azzouz and others were of greater concern. When Mr. Azzouz was detained in June on suspicion of armed robbery, the police found photos, maps and other materials in his apartment that led them to believe that he was planning a terrorist attack on government installations, including the country's nuclear power plant and its largest airport.
Several other men were arrested in the case and more arrests were announced in September. Mr. Bouyeri was also arrested, but only for riding a streetcar without a ticket and resisting the officers who caught him. He was set free. Within weeks, the authorities say, he killed Mr. van Gogh.
Headline should be "Nut tries to cook omelet without breaking eggs"
"Overzealousness" in the fight against terrorism is no vice.
Kill them all and let the 72 virgins sort 'em out.
Yeah, this approach will work, after all, it worked for the USA in Iraq, right? Remember how we played nice in Falluga?
i hate the words "islamist" "fanatics" "extremists" when referring to these muslim terrorists. they are just muslims. stop trying to make it like the problem is isolated to just a few crazies.
Perhaps that is because Muslims are more likely your local terrorist than say your Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, Jew, Baptist etc.
Nevertheless, this portion of the article deserves special emphasis, though the Times fails to mention Britain is introducing a national identity card:
* * *
"Britain's 2001 Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act allows indefinite detention of foreigners suspected of terrorist-related activities.
"In Spain, terrorism suspects can be held for up to 13 days without charge and as long as four years without trial. People in France can be imprisoned for association with terrorists....
"With an estimated 15 million to 20 million Muslims in Europe, most of whom occupy the lower rungs of their adopted societies and many of whom are sympathetic to militant causes, identifying and tracking potential terrorists is an enormous undertaking.
"European intelligence and police agencies have interrupted several major terrorist plots, from a 1999 plan to bomb the American Embassy in Paris to last month's scheme to bomb the National High Court in Madrid, Spain's main counterterrorism court. But as the Madrid train bombings and Mr. van Gogh's murder make clear, it is often people on the periphery of known networks who turn out to be among the most dangerous."
* * *
If we did likewise -- as a supplement to our Patriot Act -- and used biometric indicators, we might be able to not only reduce security lines at airports, but also curb terrorist plots. It will never be 100%, but computers make "enormous undertakings" feasible. The Right to Life has always been held superior to the 'right' to Privacy.
There's more cracks in the Dutch multi-culturalism dike than can be found at a plumbers convention. The little Dutch boy finger trick won't work this time. Dutchmen, be prepared to get deluged with more of your own blood.
The Dutch don't want to be denounced and condemned by the anti-haters who believe it is wrong to draw conclusions based on observable facts or that any nation deserves to preserve its culture, heritage, and people. After all, that's what nazis do.
"...or risking charges of discrimination."
Just take the risk. You can do it. Yes you can. Don't be afraid. Names will never hurt you. Grow up little boys, the barbarians are at the gate.
Oh c,mon ..Be overzealous!. You have a lot to make up for.
"You have a lot to make up for."
I'd say they have a lot to be sorry for.
It's time for overzealousness
There are gangs of young Arab men everywhere. They give you a menacing look as you walk by, and they deliberately follow you to see what your reaction will be.
You don't put out a three alarm fire with a squirt gun.
No 'overzealotry' please!
A zealot puts a head on a pike - an 'overzealot' makes a shishkebab. Extremely tasteless, imho.
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Dutch refuse to accept there is evil afoot and barbarism -- and its about to murder them all and rape sexually mutilate and convert all of their women and children.