“Failure to provide effective protection does a disservice to freedom”by Pauline Neville-Jones / December 21, 2016 / Leave a comment
The horrifying—presumed terrorist—attack in Breitscheidplatz, Berlin has the makings of a landmark event. On Monday, 19th December, a truck ploughed into a Christmas market in the city, leaving 12 dead and 49 wounded. It has cast a long shadow over Christmas festivities, as intended by the perpetrators. The attack could have potentially major consequences for politics in Germany and Europe more generally.
As things stand, nearly 48 hours later, there are more questions than answers. As the attackers are still at large, the trail will have cooled, making their detection and apprehension more difficult. Islamic State has made what looks like an opportunist claim of responsibility. A Tunisian is now being hunted and it is a good bet that more than one individual was involved. It is a commonplace—and nonetheless important—principle that good intelligence is the key to reducing risk and increasing security. Coming days will reveal whether there were specific leads which were not picked up, understood or passed on in time by intelligence agencies and police in Germany or across Europe.
That said, the Berlin police will still have questions to answer about protection. There were enough general warnings about the threat to Christmas markets as well—as well as experience of the earlier attack in Nice, where a lorry was used to plough into pedestrians—for high priority to have been given to monitoring and controlling access to such crowded places. So why was it that this huge articulated vehicle was able so easily to drive right into the market? It is widely argued in Germany that concessions should not be made to the terrorists and this robust attitude is commendable. But it is hardly jettisoning the stuff of liberty to make wanton murder harder to commit. And failure to provide effective protection does a disservice to freedom.