France, already under a state of emergency following the terrorist murder of a police officer in the Champs-Elysees shopping district, has just reported that a car has rammed a police van, immediately catching fire, and police immediately opened an anti-terror probe. Meanwhile, U.K. police are investigating the London terrorists attack near a mosque, while emerging information suggests that authorities might have been able to prevent the earlier terrorist massacre in London if only they had been permitted to require, under certain circumstances, that persons likely to engage in terrorism – e.g., young men returning from terrorist areas – wear GPS ankle monitors to permit their movements to be effectively tracked in real time, suggests public interest law professor John Banzhaf.
Since British Prime Minister Theresa May has said, in response to the earlier London terrorists attacks – Britain’s 3rd major terrorist attack in only 3 months, and the 13th in Western Europe since the beginning of 2015 – that “enough is enough,” and that new measures will have to be considered, she may well decide to follow the lead of Germany, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan in using GPS ankle trackers to insure that those already under suspicion can be effectively monitored.
It has been reported that some 3000 people are apparently already on British watch lists, including “650 jihadis that returned to the UK,” so individual surveillance is obviously impossible. On the other hand, notes Banzhaf, GPS ankle trackers permit one law enforcement official to monitor the locations of hundreds of suspected terrorists in real time around the clock, and to be alerted immediately by a computer if a suspect visits a sensitive location, departs from an established routine, etc.
According to THE SUN newspaper, one of the London terrorists had previously been quizzed by police, had appeared on a program called “The Jihadis Next Door,” and had been thrown out of his mosque for his radical rantings. Moreover, a former friend had warned the police about his extremist views which grew out of being radicalized by things he saw over the Internet. For these many reasons, it is likely that he would have been required to wear a GPS ankle monitor had a program permitting the use of such devices been in effect at the time, suggests Banzhaf.
Even more striking, according to a report in THE TELEGRAPH, “counter-terrorism officers secretly recorded an alleged ISIL-inspired terror cell in Barking last month discussing how to use YouTube to plot a van and knife attack in London . . . The investigators were monitoring the alleged extremist cell in the east London borough weeks before Saturday night’s attack.”
Thus, even with this very strong evidence to suspect that a deadly terrorist attack might be imminent, it appears that U.K. authorities did not have enough manpower to maintain effective surveillance on the conspirators to stop this preventable tragedy. On the other hand, had the law authorized them to require those under suspicion to wear GPS ankle trackers, a computer program would have alerted police to any changes in their daily routine and probably prevented the tragedy, argues Banzhaf.
With two new terrorist attacks still searingly fresh in the minds of Europeans, perhaps – following May’s outrage that “enough is enough” – they will begin using the only tool which would permit them to effectively monitor the movements of those under greatest suspicion of engaging in terror; e.g., young males who have recently visited countries where terrorist recruits are being trained, suggests Banzhaf.