But as Australian Prime Minister John Howard observed at a press conference in London yesterday with British counterpart Tony Blair, many of the laws currently on the books in the West amount to "19th-century legal responses" to a 21st-century threat.
Earlier this week, Germany's Constitutional Court set free Mamoun Darkazanli, a German national who is suspected of being Osama bin Laden's principal money man in Europe, on what amounted to a legalism regarding the constitutionality of a Spanish judge's extradition request. That followed on last month's release of Mounir el Motassadeq, who had previously been convicted by a Hamburg court as an accomplice in the 9/11 attacks. Here again, he owes his release mainly to legal niceties, which al Qaeda members are trained to manipulate.
All this has ramifications for the U.S. Even as Europe tinkers with new ways of dealing with terrorism, critics of the Bush Administration seek to return the U.S. to where Europe is today. Thus the relentless assaults on the legality of Guantanamo, the renewal of the Patriot Act and the treatment of U.S. citizens, such as Jose Padilla, who are held as enemy combatants.