Despite recent international successes against the group, we are not treating al Qaeda as a global entity. Borderless and stateless, the terrorist organization has cells all over the world, but we are failing to make our effort against the group a global one. With abetting cells in Germany, Italy, Malaysia, the Philippines, and several others, including, of course, the United States, September 11 proved that al Qaeda functions globally. Focusing on a global effort, the cells operated in a transnational web - all cohesively coordinating plans, personnel, financing, and other material support. Without the cells' seamless support for each other, September 11 could not have happened.
Reeling off the success of the uncovery of al Qaeda cells in New York, Michigan, and Oregon, the United States has put the emboldening Patriot Act to excellent use. But domestic success will not prove effective in the long run, given al Qaeda's global nature. Though the U.S. has enacted new laws such as the Patriot Act to combat terrorism, the other nations of the West have not followed our necessary lead.
International counterterrorism cooperation has so far been moderate at best. Limited cooperation between Western countries has been effective - our success in Afghanistan is an example, and the reserved willingness to share information between countries has led to several arrests and prosecutions, including the recent capture by Pakistani authorities of September 11 ringleader Ramzi bin al-Shibh. There remain, however, several inexplicable gaps in the coordinated effort against terrorism, stemming from the inherent values upon which Western culture is based. Al Qaeda recognizes these gaps and exploits them at every possibility.
Al Qaeda has adapted to Western culture. They understand the way by which Western countries cooperate. The group knows our laws, our judicial system, and our way of life. Cells blend in extremely easily all over the Americas and Europe. Al Qaeda training manuals teach what to do in case of capture and indictment - to lie and exploit the pathos the West has for mistreated prisoners. One manual seized in Britain notes, "If an indictment is issued and the trial begins, the brother has to pay attention to the following...the brothers must insist on proving that torture was inflicted on them by State Security."
Western countries have failed to recognize al Qaeda's abuse and exploitation of civil liberties and the Western justice system. Nowhere is this more apparent right now than in England, which is openly harboring several militant supporters and leaders of al Qaeda, some of whom the U.S. has indicted and requested their extradition. Thus far, England has not allowed the extradition of any of these al Qaeda members or supporters to the United States.
Khalid al-Fawwaz, indicted by the U.S. for his direct role in the 1998 East Africa U.S. Embassy bombings, helped bin Laden plan those attacks from his base in London. Though al-Fawwaz was bin Laden's point man in England, British authorities have not permitted his extradition to the United States, which was requested in September 1998.
Fawwaz is a man with unparalleled knowledge of al Qaeda's inner workings. Serving as a top leader in al Qaeda, the United States could extract crucial information from his intimacy with al Qaeda. The U.S. has also indicted two of al-Fawwaz's assistants, Ibrahim Eidarous and Adel Abdelbari, and asked for their extradition. Though Britain has in fact granted extradition rights to the U.S. to al-Fawwaz and his accomplices, they remain in jail in England exploring legal avenues by which to challenge the ruling.
Abu Doha, indicted by the U.S. for his direct role in the plot to blow up the Los Angeles Airport in 2000, remains in British jail. Providing material and financial support to Ahmed Ressam and the others involved in the plot, Abu Doha was the mastermind behind the planned bombing. The U.S. requested his extradition over a year ago, but Britain has not complied.
These men, thankfully, are at the very least in jail, where they harm they would do can be regulated. While the information they contain might prove extraordinarily valuable to the United States in preventing future attacks, Britain has been uncooperative. Far more dangerous, however, is Britain's inexplicable tolerance for so-called "activists," who do nothing more than vituperate the United States and its allies and incite hatred and violence. These men push the Western notion of "Freedom of Speech" to new limits. Some openly recruit for Osama bin Laden, yet the British government does nothing to stop them.
Yassir al-Sirri, a supporter of al Qaeda indicted by the U.S. for functioning "as a facilitator of communications" between terrorist groups, walks the streets of England a free man, under the guise of a bookseller. Though the U.S. has requested his extradition, Britain has not cooperated. Sentenced to death in Egypt for plotting to kill the prime minister, al-Sirri has repeatedly denied any connections to al Qaeda or any other terrorist group. England believes him, where a British judge at his most recent trial ruled that al-Sirri was nothing more than "an innocent fall guy."
Another al Qaeda supporter based in Britain and who fought in Afghanistan alongside bin Laden in the 1980s is Abu Hamza al-Masri, whom the U.S. has designated a terrorist entity and has frozen his assets. Abu Hamza currently resides in London, claiming disability from the British government. He is the Sheikh of the Finsbury Park Mosque, the same mosque where shoe-bomber Richard Reid prayed, as well as Zacarias Moussaoui, charged in the September 11 catastrophe. Abu Hamza was also named as an unindicted coconspirator in the charges against James Earnest Ujaama, who was indicted for attempting to set up a militant training camp in Oregon. For several years, Abu Hamza has been spitting anti-Western rhetoric and inciting violence, always remaining distanced enough from any terrorist activity to avoid direct prosecution. The U.S. has requested Abu Hamza's extradition, but he is currently free.
A braggart who boasts about his recruitment efforts for jihad, Omar Bakri is the head of the fundamentalist al-Muhajiroon group based in London. Bakri reportedly has called for the assassination of Tony Blair, while claiming disability from the British government. In 1999, Bakri submitted an open letter to Osama bin Laden that he posted on his website and read aloud in several mosques around the country, offering his full support to bin Laden. Bakri, of course, vehemently denies being in contact with Osama bin Laden, despite having received a fax from bin Laden in 1998 that enumerated how to wage jihad against the United States, urging to "bring down airliners." Britain has declared al-Muhajiroon to be a designated terrorist supporter, but it has done very little to deter Bakri's fanaticisms and incitement. Omar Bakri remains free, proclaiming at a rally in Trafalgar Square two weeks ago, "We believe in the same philosophy as bin Laden."
These al Qaeda supporters are shrewd enough to place themselves on the thin line between terrorist and innocent fall guy, just as the famed Italian mafia in the United States once did. Al Qaeda members do not leave an easy trail of evidence to follow and when questioned under oath either in court or interrogated by police, they have an easy way out - they lie.
They proclaim their innocence, knowing full well that any Western government must prove their guilt, as their innocence is assumed. These men care little for our "Western" rules and laws. Lying has little effect on their consciences - they are taught to lie. Should we be surprised? Do we expect them to proclaim their affiliation and support of al Qaeda?
We try them by a standard in which they do not believe. They cannot be tried by a "jury of their peers" because they are peerless. These men can stare at a judge, a lawyer, or a jury member and lie indefinitely, and we have no choice but to believe them because we have values and scruples and morals. They are terrorists. They manipulate those handcuffs which we should place on them, and instead put those handcuffs on us.
We are playing a deadly game with these terrorists. We have defined the rules, but they do not play by them. We must figure out a different game to play, starting with unanimous cooperation in the war on terror. Countries must aid one another by making arrests, providing information, and extraditing criminals.
We must also recognize that our laws and culture have become a shield for al Qaeda activists. Understanding the limitations of our laws in the war on terror, the United States passed the Patriot Act, which broadened the powers of law enforcement, enabling us to stop terrorist attacks before they happen. The terrorist cell uncovered in Buffalo has hopefully precluded a dangerous situation. No longer must we wait until after an attack to arrest and indict terrorists. Other countries must take the same initiative. Al Qaeda has made a global effort to destroy the West. We must make a global effort to stop them.
- Rita Katz is the director of the SITE Institute, based in Washington, D.C. Josh Devon is an analyst at the SITE Institute.