In case you didn’t have enough to worry about, there are signs that foreign fighters are joining up with the Islamic State:
Douglas McAuthur McCain, of San Diego, California, was killed over the weekend fighting for the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), according to the Free Syrian Army. Photos of McCain’s passport and of his body — which feature a distinctive neck tattoo — have been seen by NBC News. According to an activist linked to the Free Syrian Army who also saw the body and travel document, McCain was among three foreign jihadis fighting with ISIS who died during the battle.
This should put radicals who object to effective anti-terrorism on defense. We don’t know whether this specific jihadist killed anyone, but he reportedly had taken up arms in league with an enemy of the United States. So let’s play out what would happen at various stages in his evolution as a jihadist if anti-government extremists got their way.
He almost certainly had some contact direct or indirect with terrorists or their affiliates. It may have even been a mode of contact common to many foreign jihadists. But if we rip out the National Security Agency surveillance program or make it so cumbersome that intelligence officials can’t detect developments in real time, any chance to stop the jihadist wannabe before he left the country would be lost. I suppose the libertarians would shrug and say that’s acceptable.
Then suppose while he is still in training or running errands for his new comrades in Syria, the United States gets whiff of his identity and has an opportunity to take him out by drone. We have no forces on the ground (the isolationist types are against that as well), but if we listen to the libertarians and leftists, we can’t touch him. Presumably we have to wait until he is in battle and has already killed or maimed innocents. Or because he is an American, do we have to go get a search warrant to arrest him? This sounds bizarre — and it and the anti-drone crowd are just that.
Let’s skip ahead. Perhaps the terrorist drifts into Iraq or territory controlled by the Free Syrian Army. Rather than kill or extract information by torture (the real kind that leaves permanent injury), the forces turn him over to the U.S. military in Iraq or elsewhere. The “treat war like a crime” gang would immediately read him his Miranda rights and ship him back into the United States for trial. But the “evidence” against him does not pass muster under civilian criminal justice standards, so he goes free. Or perhaps we get a conviction, but without extracting valuable information that might save lives or help foil the terrorists’ operation. Too bad, I guess, for the victims of terror attacks that might have been prevented. And then, of course, the convicted terrorist goes to a U.S. prison, where he can inculcate other convicts with his jihadist philosophy. They will be getting out, in many cases, rather soon. Now we have a group of jihadists to worry about.
None of this is improbable. It is, however, the inevitable consequence of a mindset that says we can’t drone American jihadists overseas, can’t set up an efficient data collection system, can’t interrogate jihadists without Mirandizing them and can’t put them in the Guantanamo Bay prison, where they can be isolated from a civilian prison population. The pols need to acknowledge the consequences of the policies they advocate — and then be held accountable by voters for a disposition that needlessly incorporates civilian criminal justice principles into war. But then again, many of these same folks don’t think we are at war or think we shouldn’t be.
What, then, do they favor — more ambulances for the next 9/11-type attack on the homeland?