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10 March 2006

Failed states and failed legal approaches in counterterrorism

This item, at Counterterror Blog, outlines the increasing absurdity of using the legal system as a weapon in the Long War. In this case, it is the polite fiction that the deportation of terrorist suspects (a tactic used in the absence of other enforceable criminal sanctions against these individual) is at all effective in addressing the dangers these individuals pose.

One has only to look at the example of Khalid Sheik Mohammed to understand that a terrorist actor will later leverage experiences gained while in the United States just as readily, and rely upon others yet unknown to carry to fruition plans and operations relying on insight gained from those experiences. This dynamic has long been one of the factors leading to the fundamental failure of applying criminal geographic profiling techniques to terrorist threat actors. While lack of access to the United States of course imposes a greater barrier to potential terrorist attack, it is not insurmountable.

The underlying failures in this incident are not only evidenced in the lack of effective prosecution of terrorist suspects for criminal offenses, but also in the clear failures of the immigration system to prevent wide-scale and long-term abuse of short term visa programs such as offered to students.

This problem will continue as long as our legal system continues to treat failed states as if they were functioning members of the international system. From Somalia to Palestine… from Algeria to Yemen… the lack of effective means of ensuring long term neutralization of the threat posed by terrorist conspirators in overseas jurisdiction with weak or non-existent incarceration mechanisms makes a mockery of US investigative and enforcement mechanisms.

Our legal system cannot continue to create new categories of protections for persons from failed states who conspire to commit acts of terrorism. These persons are essentially stateless international threats, and based on the precedents set to deal with other stateless threats as organized piracy should be dealt with as such.