Terrorists Among Us
All of the 9/11 hijackers were foreigners, admitted into the United States on non-immigrant visas. Since 9/11, therefore, there has been substantially increased attention to policing the borders—on the theory that terrorists can’t strike here again if they can’t get in.
The British Government has just published its Report of the Official Account of the Bombings in London on 7th July 2005. Much of the report emphasizes how the young suicide bombers who struck the London transit system last summer were second-generation British citizens. They had lived their entire lives in Britain, in ethnically mixed neighborhoods, and attended British schools. One of the bombers had worked as a government bureaucrat and done volunteer work with disadvantaged youth. Another worked with special needs children at a local primary school. A third was an avid sportsman and worked in his father’s fish and chip shop. The men were not well off but nor were they destitute. Their Muslim communities provided them with resources and support.
“Why did they do it?” asks one major section of the government report.
There are no clear answers—nothing in the report that explains why one morning these British men blew themselves up and killed dozens of commuters and injured hundreds more.
According to the report, the men were serious about their religion—but then so are thousands of other members of the very same community. The men spoke out about politics at times but, of course, plenty of people do that.
Some evidence suggests that a local gym the young men attended attracted people with radical views. A local bookstore was rumored to stock radical writings and DVDs. The men liked to go on camping trips—leading to speculation that the trips were training programs. The report finds little significance in any of these things. The men had visited Pakistan with their families. Again, though, many Britons make the very same trip.
The report reaches some chilling conclusions. “The case demonstrates,” it says, “the real difficulty for law enforcement agencies and local communities in identifying potential terrorists.” There was “little in the backgrounds” of the London bombers to “mark them out as particularly vulnerable to radicalization.” On the whole, the men were “well integrated into British society.” While they may have experienced moments of “instability” there was nothing “extraordinary” about their life circumstances.