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American and European Approaches to Domestic Counterterrorism
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The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, produced a revolution in domestic security in the United States. The Bush administration responded quickly by aggressively enforcing existing laws, sponsoring new legislation, overhauling domestic intelligence, and employing the president’s executive power in ways that drew criticism from civil libertarians on both the left and right. Many hoped that the succeeding administration would adopt a more “European” approach to domestic security–an approach typically understood to be more compatible with the rule of law and friendlier to civil liberties.
But Europe has suffered major terrorist attacks as well–in Madrid in 2004 and London in 2005–and terrorist plots continue to plague America’s European allies. Has this shared experience engendered a common approach to domestic security, or, as many believe, is there a transatlantic divide in counterterrorism strategy? In Safety, Liberty, and Islamist Terrorism: American and European Approaches to Domestic Counterterrorism, Gary J. Schmitt leads a group of security and intelligence experts in analyzing the domestic counterterrorism regimes of the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Germany, and the United States. The authors’ in-depth analysis provides a unique window into the similarities and differences among the counterterrorism efforts of these major democracies and explores the possibilities (and limitations) of applying one country’s lessons to another.
Safety, Liberty, and Islamist Terrorism concludes with a broad assessment of the changes made to U.S. counterterrorism strategy since 9/11 in comparison with current European laws, institutions, and practices, and with policies instituted during past American domestic security crises. The analysis uncovers evidence of a shared strategic imperative: preemption. For the United States, preemption occurs both at home and on battlefields abroad, while for Europe, preemption is primarily a domestic affair, often resulting in laws that allow more aggressive policing of terrorist activity than occurs in the United States. The comparison also yields insights about how the transatlantic community has balanced the need to address the jihadist threat with maintaining civic order at home.
Although no country has a perfect record, Schmitt contends that changes made to domestic security policy in response to the terrorist threat have not undermined the United States and Europe’s shared commitment to democracy and liberty. “Certainly, tradeoffs have been made between individual liberties and domestic security,” Schmitt writes. “But if we take the broad view, we are struck by how minimal those intrusions on our liberties have been, given the threat we face.”
Gary J. Schmitt is a resident scholar and director of the Program on Advanced Strategic Studies at the American Enterprise Institute. He is a former staff director of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and served as executive director of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board under Ronald Reagan.
Contributors: Rafael L. Bardaji, Ignacio Cosido, Eric Gujer, Tom Parker, Gary J. Schmitt
Advance Praise for Safety, Liberty, and Islamist Terrorism
“Safety, Liberty, and Islamist Terrorism is a rare thing: a genuinely enlightening and helpful book on counterterrorism. Through a careful comparative examination of the counterterrorism practices of four European constitutional democracies (France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Spain), it explodes the myth that U.S. counterterrorism practices are unduly aggressive or violative of global due process norms. This outstanding volume will be invaluable to counterterrorism policymakers and comparativist scholars around the world.”
“This is an illuminating and invaluable study, well-researched and well-written. The comparisons between American and European counterterrorism methods will surprise many. And, in the end, the study offers reason for optimism. The system–on both sides of the Atlantic–has worked pretty well, protecting our rights as well as our security.”
“Subtly argued, consistently judicious, and fascinating both in its details and in the broader comparison it draws between Europe and our own situation, this is an indispensable volume for anyone seeking to understand the varying responses of open societies to the hidden dangers in their midst.”
“Safety, Liberty, and Islamist Terrorism: American and European Approaches to Domestic Counterterrorism is the most thorough and useful comparative study of European and American counterterrorism regimes I have read. It offers not merely an excellent overview of the similarities and differences between contemporary Western counterterrorism approaches but a careful account of the political development of those approaches and a savvy understanding of their attractions and vulnerabilities. Those inclined to criticize European governments as uniformly soft on terrorism will find it surprising, as will those inclined to admire Europe’s law enforcement-oriented terrorism regimes. This is a book that will complicate even the most sophisticated understanding of the transatlantic divide over terrorism.”
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