Hat tip to the ever reliable libertarian Ian Scott for pointing me onto this post from Rational Reasons, which is closely matched by this post from Tim at POGGEh. This collection of posts spans the spectrum, which I think is itself notable.
It looks as though the “imminent terror threat” that I complimented the British secret services for arresting, may not have been nearly so imminent. Consider this post from the conservative-libertarian Andrew Sullivan:
So far, no one has been charged in the alleged terror plot to blow up several airplanes across the Atlantic. No evidence has been produced supporting the contention that such a plot was indeed imminent. Forgive me if my skepticism just ratcheted up a little notch. Under a law that the Tories helped weaken, the suspects can be held without charges for up to 28 days. Those days are ticking by.
None of the alleged terrorists had made a bomb. None had bought a plane ticket. Many did not even have passports, which given the efficiency of the UK Passport Agency would mean they couldn’t be a plane bomber for quite some time.
In the absence of bombs and airline tickets, and in many cases passports, it could be pretty difficult to convince a jury beyond reasonable doubt that individuals intended to go through with suicide bombings, whatever rash stuff they may have bragged in internet chat rooms.
Now, I’m not here to criticize the police work that identified these suspects and brought about their arrest. I mean, if these alleged terrorists were serious about their plans, and there was evidence enough to convict them, I don’t particularly care if they were arrested one year before they brought their plan about, or one day before.
However, one has to wonder just why CNN, Fox News and all the rest of the media, not to mention airports around the world went berzerk with this news? Let’s not forget that it was wall-to-wall coverage through all the papers and through television. There were pictures of crowds at Heathrow, lots of people angry and terrified. The whole reaction created a sense of imminent mayhem — public officials went so far as to state that imminent mayhem was possible — when, clearly, mayhem wasn’t so imminent. Why?
I won’t be cute and will only once and briefly mention that the reaction of public officials to this threat helped to create a lot of terror — maybe not as much terror as if the plotters had succeeded, but enough that one has to wonder why these officials are doing the terrorists’ job for them.
But we should be following up on this and asking ourselves why so much of a mountain was made out of this molehill? Because, along other things, too many such incidents would be like the boy who cried wolf. By not keeping this matter in perspective, our public officials are damaging their own credibility, especially with the appearance that beleaguered politicians like Bush or Blair may benefit from playing this security card.
This feeds back to what I’ve said before, about why there seems to be individuals who don’t understand why I’m unafraid, and why it’s important not to give into the temptation to be afraid. Our police forces are to be commended for the work that they do, especially in the case where plotters tried to purchase fertilizer to bomb Canadian targets, but it is important to keep the threat in perspective. As we see here, a lot of effort has been wasted, credibility has been damaged, and people have been terrorized needlessly. We have not thought rationally.
That’s what terrorism does: it keeps us from acting rationally, from maintaining perspective. It makes us make mistakes, like voting to reduce the very freedoms that makes us better than the people we’re fighting against, or seeing all members of a group as a threat, rather than a radical few. And it’s easy to imagine how some people could benefit from our fear, to benefit from this suspect announcement and claim that they’re the most capable of maintaining the security of the populace.
As I said, fear makes us make mistakes.
So let us put aside fear and act rationally, and let us not stop asking questions. Some issues around the arrests and the overreaction to the alleged plot don’t make sense. It is in the public interest to ask why.