While arch-opportunist Michael Howard tries to score points over Tony Blair's plans, Toby Harnden and his colleagues at the Telegraph offer an instructive look at how the French address the same problem. Fewer qualms about civil liberties there. Alain Marsaud, founder of the Service Centrale de Lutte Anti-Terroriste, believes the Brits are missing the point:

"I have to say for us French, your way of fighting terrorism is difficult to understand...Today, the British Government and British institutions are without doubt the most difficult for us to work with. There is easy cooperation between us and the Spanish, Germans, Italians and even the Americans. But with Britain it remains very, very difficult."

Britain had a "completely different system and a different concept of the law", he said, arguing that a reactive "policing approach" was applied instead of a preventive strategy – a naive approach based on Britain's good fortune thus far not to have been attacked by Islamic terrorists. "We in France have," he said, in a reference to attacks by Algerian groups. The French offence of "association with terrorists" – under which suspicions based on intelligence rather than hard evidence admissible in court are enough to imprison an individual – has been the centrepiece of the country's anti-terrorist strategy.

"This is considered by some to be an attack on the liberty of individuals and I agree totally," Mr Marsaud said. "But it stops the bombs. There has to be a balance between individual liberty on one hand and the efficiency of the system to protect the public on the other. In an ideal world, I would choose the first, but this is not an ideal world, and when dealing with Islamic extremists we have to be brutal sometimes."

|||Clive|||http://clivedavis.blogspot.com/2005/02/terror-tactics-while-arch-opportunist.html|||2/28/2005 10:51:00 am|||||||||