Germany’s bungled handling of the suspect in the Berlin Christmas market attack – which began long before the attack itself – will most likely call into question the antiquated procedures currently in effect in this Western country that has found itself on the frontlines of Islamist jihad.
Hopefully, the current tragedy will prompt changes in the way Germany operates.
“In Germany, [as is] … common with other mainland European countries, they are a long way behind,” said David Videcette, a former Scotland Yard counter-terrorism officer who worked on the London 7/7 investigation, speaking to The Telegraph. “There are numerous agencies operating in the same space and this creates problems. Information is not shared and things get missed.”
Videcette noted that after the 7/7 bomb attacks and the 21/7 shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, the UK reassessed its counter-terror operations and, particularly, its intelligence gathering.
“Prior to that, you had the Security Service on one side, the police on the other and Special Branch in the middle deciding what information was being passed between the two.
“After the attacks on London it was recognized that this relationship was not working and things were going wrong. Now the police and Security Service talk to one another and share information and that is one of the reasons we are successful in stopping plots,” he explained.
Consider what just happened in Germany:
- Anis Amri, 24, a Tunisian asylum seeker and the prime suspect in the attack, was under investigation for “preparing a serious crime endangering national safety.”
- As long ago as March 14, police had been tipped off that Amri was planning a robbery so he could buy automatic weapons he was planning on using in a terror attack.
- He was been seen dealing drugs in a park in Berlin and observed fighting in a bar.
- German authorities tried to deport Amri in June, but because he had no documents to prove his identity and Tunisian nationality, he was allowed to stay and given “toleration” papers. Ironically, his new Tunisian passport arrived two days after the attack.
- In July, Amri was arrested and charged with assault with a knife (in an altercation over drugs that occurred on a public bus).
- In August, he was arrested but released even though he was carrying a false Italian identity document. (Some say that arrest was in connection to a grievous bodily harm case.) In sum, Amri was arrested three times this year alone.
- It is now known Amri had many identity documents which sported six different aliases and three different nationalities. He was convicted of criminal charges and spent four years in an Italian jail for acts of violence and vandalism in a migrant center before coming to Germany. He was also convicted in absentia of aggravated theft with violence in Tunisia.
- For an inexplicable reason, the surveillance on him was ordered stopped in September. (Others say, his phone was still being monitored, but it dead and police officers were unable to locate him.)
- In November, his roommate, along with a number of others, was arrested on suspicion of recruiting for Islamic State in Syria. Included in the arrest was an extremist imam with whom Amri was believed in contact. Amri was known to be a supporter of Islamic State and had received weapons training.
- While Germany was busy arresting the wrong man based on a traffic violation tip, Amri may have received care in a German hospital for his wounds.
- (The man originally nabbed by police was a Pakistani asylum seeker who was detained after someone saw him run a red light a mile away from the location of the attack. It took the police 18 hours to determine Naved Baluch has nothing to do with the attack, even though he had no physical signs of blood or injuries on his body or clothing.)
- Due to the Schengen Agreement that opened Europe’s borders, Amri could now be holed up anywhere in Europe.
- When police finally figured out who the right suspect was (after they found Amri’s ID on the floor of the truck), authorities released a picture of Amri minus his last name and with his eyes blurred out.
- This was due to Germany’s privacy laws which prevent the release of a clear picture of a suspect and his or her full name. It was only later that his total identity and a clear picture of Amri were released since German police eventually deemed he was “highly dangerous.”
- A police hotline set up to gather tips about Amri’s whereabouts was hacked in a well-known scheme. A large number of people flooded the site at the same time, which caused it to crash.
- Unlike most Western countries, Germany does not have widespread surveillance cameras in the public sphere, due to the dual traumas of the spying carried by the Nazi-era Gestapo and the later Stasi secret police of East Germany.
- Two days after the attack, the German parliament passed a bill allowed for CCTV surveillance cameras in public areas due to the need for “protection of life, health and freedom.”
Above all, as noted by a senior German politician, Amri was free to carry out his attack because of the prevailing attitude of “institutional political correctness” that most likely prevented the police from enforcing the law and arresting Amri due to his many offenses.
No one wins when laws are not unforced equally – neither native German citizens, whose quality of life has been severely downgraded by this phenomena nor the legitimate refugees who have have their names, reputations and worse smeared because of the jihadis living among them against whom the government seems paralyzed to act.
Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org