Many Americans are wondering why U.S. security agencies don't seem to measure up to the success recently observed in Great Britain.
Most observers probably would agree the British seem to be doing an exceptional job of tracking down the individuals responsible for the recent deadly bombings in London's transportation system.
This admiration for the British is accompanied by puzzlement over why the British seem to be so good and so quick in identifying the terrorists while U.S. intelligence agencies seem unable to operate as effectively.
Granted, England is much smaller than the United States. In fact the entire English land area could be stuffed into the same area covered by the state of Kansas. On the other hand, England has more than 50 million residents, compared to Kansas' 2.6 million.
Whether the size of a country makes any difference in apprehending terrorists is debatable. The fact is, however, British anti-terrorist agencies were able to identify the potential bombers and make quick arrests. They not only picked up the bombers but also have unearthed many other links in the conspiracy and are making inroads into the dangerously wide web of terrorists living in England.
For years, England has had a highly effective domestic spy agency. Some will say many civil liberties have been compromised in England to achieve this record. In England, as in Israel, the primary effort of the intelligence agencies is to prevent crimes against the countries, rather than to swing into action after crimes have been committed.
The world has far greater appreciation today of England's preparation and plans to fight terror and crime. Cameras are located at thousands of locations throughout London and other cities monitoring the actions and behavior of millions of British citizens as well as millions of visitors to the island nation.
Would Americans approve and tolerate the same degree of surveillance? Consider the continuing fight by some to water down or, better yet, eliminate the U.S. Patriot Act provisions, which critics think infringe on some civil rights.
What kind of terrorist acts will it take for Americans to realize the seriousness of the war against those determined to frighten and kill Americans and destroy the image and strength of Uncle Sam in the eyes of others throughout the world?
When will Americans get serious about protecting the nation and its citizens? When will strict government policies be initiated to close our porous borders, require much more information about those from abroad who wish to live in this country and assemble far better information on all those living in the United States?
It is dangerous for Americans, whether in New York or in Lawrence, to think they are safe from incidents such as those that have rocked and shocked London in recent weeks. The World Trade Center attacks in New York should have been a lasting warning. In fact, it is surprising that Homeland Security officials apparently have been so successful in identifying and, we hope, stopping many terrorists actions, of which the public is unaware, aimed at sites within the United States.
It is reported that Israeli counterterrorist officials have been able to prevent 70 percent of planned attacks in that nation. Is there justification to hope there is a similar high percentage of successful efforts in the United States?
Would Americans agree to measures that would give federal, state and local authorities a far better chance of identifying and apprehending those intent on killing and maiming in the United States?
Or would they rebel at actions they think are an invasion of their civil rights? What is more important: protecting this country or temporarily protecting some civil rights? And what is the proper balance?