Western Europe Needs to Improve Security

It is impossible to guarantee perfect security in these days of terrorist attacks, but Germany could be doing more. Today, belatedly, Germany is installing concrete barriers around the Christmas market that was attacked two days ago in Berlin. Had those barriers been in place days ago, the truck, which ran down dozens of people, would not have been able to enter the market.

After the terrorist attack on the market, German authorities bumbled the investigation. They arrested the wrong man based on the word of a witness. It took them a day to realize that the man they arrested had not been in the truck. He had an alibi and the fingerprints, DNA, and identity papers that the terrorist left in the truck did not match his. Why did it take 24 hours to figure this out?

Finally, the Germans began looking for the man who apparently was the driver, but by this time the fugitive had a 24-hour head start and will be difficult to find. Given Europe’s open borders, he could be almost anywhere on the continent or could have even left the European area with no record of his having done so.

The man, who goes by several names and apparently has several passports from different countries, was in German custody, and the German authorities attempted to deport him to Tunisia last summer, but apparently Germans were able to prove that he was a Tunisian citizen and refused to accept him. German authorities then released him after only two days in custody.

German authorities had every reason to suspect that he was a danger. They knew that he had been in touch with jihadists, had served time in jail in both Tunisia and Italy, and had been arrested in Germany. German authorities had also received a warning about him from the United States government.

It is time for Europe in general and Germany in particular to take more aggressive steps to protect their citizens. Foreigners whose asylum applications are rejected because of a criminal history should be locked up until they can be deported. Areas of public gathering should be protected against the entry of vehicles by concrete barriers. More people entering public gathering places should be screened, and more police officers should be present. Had more heavily armed police officers been present at the Berlin Christmas market, one of them might have shot the terrorist before he could run down so many people.