Her Majesty's Secret Service

Her Majesty's Secret Service

Mini Teaser: 7/7 tested how the British cope with Islamist terrorism. Were they found wanting?

by Author(s): Steven N. SimonJonathan Stevenson

The FBI's law-enforcement approach, then, has the doubly perverse quality of being both ineffective in counter-terrorism terms and alienating with respect to Muslim Americans. In light of this dysfunction, it may be necessary to consider investing a full-scale domestic intelligence capability in a new agency or within the FBI. Indeed, being up-front about such a capability would probably be politically more palatable than developing a domestic intelligence arm via less overt and more suspicious means, like the Defense Department's Total Information Awareness plan, which Congress torpedoed, or the skewed enforcement of immigration statutes. The costs of so profound a change are admittedly serious: In focusing overt and wholesale government attention on a distinct and sensitive population, we risk alienating it further and weakening our civil libertarian traditions. But taking this risk before crisis takes hold, when measures can be more moderate and nuanced, may be necessary to ensure that Islamist radicalization does not gain the traction that it has in the UK and other European countries--at which point even more intrusive security practices, fulfilling even gloomier prophecies, would be required. Even if more robust domestic intelligence operations don't gain currency, greater and more constructive government attention to the domestic Muslim community would make the United States palpably more secure.

Steven Simon is the coauthor, with Daniel Benjamin, of The Next Attack: The Failure of the War on Terror and the Strategy for Getting it Right (2005). He is an adjunct professor at Georgetown University. Jonathan Stevenson is a professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College.

Essay Types: Essay