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Hats Off to the British Police and Security Services

BRUSSELS -- Britain foiled what could have been the biggest terrorist attack in its history last week,”mass murder on an unimaginable scale”, as Paul Stephenson, the deputy chief of London’s Metropolitan police put it. The uncovering of a plot to destroy several aircraft over the Atlantic has boosted the image of British police and particularly the country’s security services. Details are still emerging, but it is clear that co-operation between national intelligence services and advanced electronic surveillance are alive and well and improving. British security sources acknowledge Pakistani assistance but most importantly their electronic interception of messages between the alleged terrorists in the UK and their links and direction somewhere in Pakistan as the main source of intelligence. For Europeans, the danger is internal, inside our borders, and it appears to be growing; there is a general unease about this terrorist threat being home-grown. The terrorists’operation thankfully failed but Europeans are paying a price. The hundreds of cancelled flights in and out of Heathrow airport and the stringent new security regulations have affected hundreds of thousands and will inconvenience more air travelers. The damage to race relations and acceptance of different cultures could be even more severe in an increasing multi-ethnic Europe. But, the battle against terrorism will continue, with increased fervor. The Commission and Finnish Presidency will convene a meeting of EU Home and Justice Affairs Ministers (extremely unusual in the middle of August) next week to discuss a further strengthening of cooperation between intelligence services and improvements to electronic surveillance systems.

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