Two Chechen Islamist terrorists have succeeded in turning Boston, America’s cradle of liberty, into a prison. Just when we had gotten used to obscene lines and searches at airports as the price we pay for safety, the lockdown of Boston illustrates the extent to which civil liberties are at stake in the war on terror. Since 9/11, there has been an ongoing debate about the protection of the rights of suspected terrorists. But today’s events show that its is not just the civil liberties of terrorists at stake, but also those of millions of innocent civilians.
If Boston is “closed” for just six hours, that is 175000 man days of functional house arrest; roughly as many as would be required to keep everyone in Guantanamo confined for a year or two. No doubt the police overreaction will be severely criticized in coming days, but largely on policy grounds, not civil rights grounds.
Yet such freakouts are nothing compared to what is in store if the the Marathon bombing means that Chechen jihadis has come to U.S. shores. The Chechens mounted one of the most vicious terror campaigns ever against Russia in the 1990s, blowing up apartment buildings, and launching massive attacks on theaters and even schools. They are known as among the most violent and dedicated terrorists in the world. They can be found fighting in Libya, Syria and every other major jihadi campaign. Though usually they have to sneak into the target countries, rather than coming on a visa as the Boston bombers apparently did.)
Russia only succeeded in suppressing the Chechen Islamists with extremely brutal tactics that would never find support in the U.S – essentially leveling the Chechen capital. Yet dealing with such a threat would also be impossible with a politically correct approach to counter-terror that, for example, turns away from talking frankly about the terrorists profiles and motives.