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Britain's finest hour

MSNBC analyst and former FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt explains the international impact of the London raids and arrests related to the string of bombings.
Armed British police patrol London's Leicester Square, Thursday July 28, 2005. Police in  London were on high alert, while the search for three suspected London bombers continued. Anti-terrorist officers investigating the July 21 failed attacks on the British capital arrested nine men in south London on Thursday.(AP Photo/Max Nash)
Armed British police patrol London's Leicester Square, Thursday July 28, 2005. Police in London were on high alert, while the search for three suspected London bombers continued. Anti-terrorist officers investigating the July 21 failed attacks on the British capital arrested nine men in south London on Thursday.(AP Photo/Max Nash)Max Nash / AP

British Police, to include MI-5 and MI-6, have now accounted for the arrests of all four of the attempted suicide bombers believed responsible for the 7/21 attacks in London.  It appears that a combination of the thousands of security cameras around London (noting the average person in London is photographed 300 times per day) and Londoner's calling in by the thousands, (5,000 calls to the anti-terrorism hotline since 7/21), along with the investigation by British and international security services, has resulted in the identification and arrest of the four failed bombers of 7/21, along with a number of other men and women detained and arrested who are believed to be elements of, or support for the terrorist cells involved in the suicide bombings of 7/7 and the botched attempt two weeks later.

Since the bombings of 7/7 that killed 52 and wounded many more on three London trains and a double-decker bus, British authorities have had 6,000 officers patrolling their transportation system, and hundreds of investigators dedicated to preventing a new wave of terrorist attacks.  "Hunt them down and stop them at all costs," said the British Prime Minister, and so they did!  The London Metropolitan Police, Scotland Yard, and special operations (SWAT) teams raided at least two residences in London on Friday.  When the terrorist suspects at one of these locations refused to surrender, the police first attempted to talk him out (with at least one suspected suicide bomber indicating he feared that he would be shot...), and then the police quickly employed SWAT teams using flash bang diversionary devices to assault the apartments and arrest the subject(s), this while police snipers provided cover to the assault teams and other officers closed off neighborhoods while asking the media not to report the story until the arrests were concluded.  It is chilling for Londoners to see machine-gun toting police officers conducting raids throughout the U.K., but that government obviously takes these new acts of terrorism as potentially indicative of renewed efforts by radical elements to disrupt that government and kill its citizens.  The British have rallied against terrorism much like they rallied in a similar manner against the Nazis in WW II, and it is obvious that the Blair Government intends to win this next war of the 21st Century.

Some have questioned why the four attempted suicide bombers all allowed themselves to be arrested.  The reality is that although the four were part of a plan that included their death in a mirror image of the 7/7 suicide attack in London, (noting in this second attack that although the detonators fired on the backpack bombs, the explosive package itself apparently failed to explode in all four attempts — but that is another story), but anyway the bombers appeared to have no plan that included their possible survival.  By this, although the four were apparently prepared to die, they had no escape plan, no exit strategy for their escape other than to try to run away and hide, something with which the British authorities were more than prepared to deal.  This is something like a Second World War Kamikaze pilot trying to land on an aircraft carrier after a failed mission — it just wasn't supposed to happen.

We know that the British intelligence services provided Italian investigators with information concerning the fourth suspected bomber of 7/21, Osman Hussain, a naturalized British citizen from Somalia, who, like the three arrested before him in London, was in his case arrested in Rome on Friday.  This level of international cooperation is desperately needed to stop this new wave of bombings and will, hopefully, help to break the back of many terrorist cells across Europe, with countries like Italy now believing that if they do not cooperate in these investigations that they may be the next target of terrorists.

The recent terrorist activities in England will give the U.K. cause to review the believed radicalization of individuals that is believed to be taking place in some Mosques in England, with "graduates" of such hate seminars prepared to carry out suicide assaults against the British people.  The U.K. has provided a safe haven for many internationals and has had a very liberalized asylum policy that allowed many questionable individuals to reside in the U.K., noting that one or more of the recent bombers was receiving welfare payments from the British Government while he plotted to bomb and kill the very British citizens that paid for his support. 

A recent survey of Muslims in the U.K. revealed that 32% of the respondents believed that "Western society is decadent and immoral and that Muslims should seek to bring it to an end," and the equivalent of 16,000 of such responders declared themselves willing to resort to violence if necessary to achieve this end.

In addition to the raids and arrests of Friday, there are many similar investigations, raids and arrests being conducted in the U.K. and around the world that are not making news, this simply because they are being conducted without media coverage, but nonetheless, such are an important part of the international war on terrorism.  By this, although the raids and arrests of Friday were very dramatic in London, such investigative activities will continue as the U.K. and other nations identify and arrest suspected terrorists and their supporters around the world.  It appears that radical Islamic extremists have attempted to embarrass and punish the British Government for its fight against terrorism, to include that government's commitment to the war in Iraq.  These recent arrests and the dedication of the British authorities to bring these terrorists to justice have set an example for other free nations to follow, and may have many terrorists on the run or heading deep underground as the authorities continue to round up anyone suspected of supporting their murderous activities.

Some ask if the U.S.A. will see such attacks on U.S. soil in the near future.  It is logical to suspect that such extremists may attempt to attack the U.S., especially as we near the anniversary of 9/11, something that U.S. authorities are concerned about.  While others may logically question some of the provisions of the U.S. Patriot Act, it is obvious that U.S. authorities need, at least for the short term, the continuation of the investigative capabilities that that Act provides them.  America is a target-rich environment and the FBI and other law enforcement agencies have identified terrorists and stopped a number of planned assaults in America and against U.S. interests overseas.  What we do not want to see are terrorist cells activating London-like attack plans in the U.S.A., to include, as is everyone's worse case scenario, the use of WMDs such as chemical, biological, nuclear and so called "dirty bombs." 

Although such attacks are possible, and we know that various Islamic fundamentalist groups have written and spoken of their attempts to acquire such capabilities, "terrorism 101" is still conventional explosives, something that the terrorists know and understand.  Although the "killing genie" in the WMD bottle could be released, there are many reasons why this has not been done so far; but with the advent of new, homegrown terrorists, i.e., converts to radical Islamic fundamentalism who carry U.S. passports, this threat is now just around the corner.  This is, therefore, just one more reason to give the authorities the investigative capabilities that they need to keep this "radicalized killing genie" in the bottle. 

Just like Great Britain, Americans must become the eyes and ears of law enforcement; watching for unusual activities and while not racially or religiously profiling their neighbors, also not being deaf, dumb and blind to the obvious that occurs around them.  Since 9/11 we have become our brother's keeper and law enforcement needs the support of the public to stop potential London-like attacks in America.  Justice may be blind, but it cannot be stupid.  We all have a dog in this fight; its name is Freedom.  Our ability to balance our freedom and liberty with our safety and security will be the true test of our national scales of justice, to include our Constitution, our government and our people.     

Clint Van Zandt is an MSNBC analyst. He is the founder and president of Inc. Van Zandt and his associates also developed , a Website dedicated "to develop, evaluate, and disseminate information to help prepare and inform individuals concerning personal and family security issues." During his 25-year career in the FBI, Van Zandt was a supervisor in the FBI's internationally renowned Behavioral Science Unit at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. He was also the FBI's Chief Hostage Negotiator and was the leader of the analytical team tasked with identifying the "Unabomber."