Don’t give in to fear
After yet another large-scale terrorist attack, this time in the French resort city of Nice which left more than 80 people dead and more than 200 seriously injured, we’re left wondering how our world will be able to cope with the rise of such “lone wolf” or self-radicalized attacks.
While the Islamic State did not claim direct responsibility for the attack by a 31-year-old Tunisian native, much like the attacks at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando last month, this one is a suspected selfradicalized attack.
Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel was known to French law enforcement in Nice as a petty criminal with a violent streak, but he had no known links to terrorism and was not under surveillance, according to England’s Telegraph newspaper. Neighbors described him as a “weird loner” who “became depressed” when his wife left him — a ripe target for the radical rhetoric of a group like ISIS.
On Friday, French leaders extended the country’s 9-month-old state of emergency and vowed to deploy thousands of police reservists on the streets.
“Terrorism is a threat that weighs heavily upon France and will continue to weigh for a long time,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls said after President Francois Hollande called an emergency government meeting Friday. “We are facing a war that terrorism has brought to us. The goal of terrorists is to instill fear and panic. And France is a great country, and a great democracy, that will not allow itself to be destabilized.”
Under the French State of Emergency, exceptional powers are given to the Minister of the Interior and to prefects, including pronouncing house arrests, regulating or forbidding circulation and gathering in some areas, setting curfews and even requiring the temporary relinquishing of legally-detained weapons, although few firearms are owned by private citizens in France.
The law, as written, also allows censorship of press, radio, films and theater representations, and the transfer of some crimes from the judiciary to military justice — although legal experts say the provisions are unlikely in today’s political climates.
In effect, the French are living under a semi-police state and even that was unable to prevent Thursday’s attack on Bastille Day. So how then do we begin to prevent further tragedies when so much of the planning and coordination can be done on the back channels of the internet?
In America, the outgrowth of 9/11 was the PATRIOT Act, which significantly expanded the surveillance and ability to investigate private citizens on scant amounts of information. The U.S. Supreme Court eventually found many of the PATRIOT Act’s results, such as longterm GPS monitoring or warrantless searches, to be unconstitutional. Edward Snowden’s disclosure of the National Security Agency’s widespread data collection program under Section 215 led to legislation that imposed limits on the ability of the government to surveil citizens.
While studies have found that the PATRIOT Act largely failed to increase protection from terrorism and filing of criminal cases, to an ignorant public it evokes a feeling of safety. They believe if no one has privacy, then everyone has safety.
We cannot fathom such a world, however, and hope that answers for this latest scourge can be found sooner rather than later. Giving up our freedom is not the answer.