Yesterday (Sunday) I happened upon a conversation that had been started on Facebook. .An ex colleague was mulling over the options that the UK would have in the event of terrorist incidents such as Paris the other day. Some of his thoughts are reproduced below
Many years ago, in the face of numerous known terrorists being similarly free in Northern Ireland, a government acted decisively to intern them. As of course we did during both World Wars. It is much easier and cheaper to keep tabs on the enemy when they are all kept, securely, together. That would be possible now, or at least we have the resources to do so. But many years ago safety and security were not trumped at every stage by the need for ‘social cohesion’………..
………..Do we have the leadership prepared to do what is necessary, in Government or the Police? Of course not. There is an election brewing for one thing, but beyond that our political elite seem to be lacking in vision, in their ability to act in the national rather than personal interest and in, well, common sense. They will steadfastly refuse to be decisive now and protect our nation.
it got me thinking, and I’m perfectly well aware that my thoughts will not be popular with all of you.
We (and our government) HAVE to accept that the face of International Terrorism has changed drastically already.
Successive government policies have weakened our ability both to prevent a terrorist attack such as Paris, and to investigate it afterwards, or mount a proactive operation such as we saw last week.
Questions have already been asked by the media such as “How could those events be allowed to happen?” and “If those terrorists had already come to notice how could they be allowed to carry out those attacks?”
Nobody ALLOWED them to happen. Intelligence is not evidence. 17 innocent people, including 3 Police Officers, lost their lives. Any Law Enforcement Agency would have prevented that if they could. Nobody wants that on their watch.
So, the authorities had received intelligence about all four of them at some time.
I have been that man that trawls through thousands of lines of telephone data trying to make sense of it. There are some excellent bits of proprietary software that will do it for you, but they can only tell you that Phone A was in contact with Phone B 27 times yesterday. They cannot tell you who was making or receiving the calls.
That takes good old-fashioned coppering. It takes time and it’s resource intensive. Or it requires a warrant signed by the Home Secretary (no laughing at the back).
So what are the alternatives, what else can we do?
My initial response is reproduced below.
Seeing as how terrorists seem to rewrite the rules of engagement with alarming frequency maybe a combination of Internment and a panel of Judges to oversee it might work. Not a huge fan of locking people up on mere suspicion, but you’re right, it probably is time to try something different, but we would need to get it right first time.
We can’t put very many more Police Officers on the streets etc than we do because we’ve simply run out. May and Winsor have seen to that, with nearly 17,000 gone already with the promise of more to follow.
Soldiers? We could put soldiers on the streets except that the government has slashed the numbers in the military as well.
We could increase the number of Bobbies that are armed, but last week’s operations in Paris apparently involved over 80,000 Gendarmes, Marines, Soldiers and Special Forces. We could not currently match that I’m sure. We most certainly possess, or have access to, all the skills and equipment needed, but a tad short on numbers, and a government with the balls to authorise such an operation.
To return to my response above, if the face of Terrorism has changed, we have to change. If you’d asked me a year ago my answer may well have been different, but just maybe George Dixon has had his day.
If numbers are to stay reduced maybe the Police Service (or a big chunk of it) needs to become more paramilitary. Maybe the government do need to rethink Internment, with suitable safeguards such as a panel of judges hearing all the intelligence, possibly in camera.
I have never been a huge fan of Internment, and I think I can see most of the problems and objections, but if it saves lives, would that make it worthwhile? I most certainly don’t make this suggestion light-heartedly and would welcome alternative suggestions and discussion.
I’m sure someone in the private sector will be only too happy to build and run a couple of Detention Centres.