Commenter “Artfldgr” has offered this link from Haaretz:
The security services knew, with a high degree of certainty, that attacks were planned in the very near future for the airport and, apparently, for the subway as well.
Despite the advance warning, the intelligence and security preparedness in Brussels, where most of the European Union agencies are located, was limited in its scope and insufficient for the severity and immediacy of the alert.
As far as is known, the attacks were planned by the headquarters of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Raqqa, Syria, which it has pronounced as the capital of its Islamic caliphate.
The terror cell responsible for the attacks in Brussels on Tuesday was closely associated with the network behind the series of attacks in Paris last November. At this stage, it appears that both were part of the same terrorist infrastructure, connected at the top by the terrorist Salah Abdeslam, who was involved in both the preparation for the Paris attacks and its implementation…
Abdeslam’s arrest was apparently the trigger for Tuesday’s attacks, due to the concern in ISIS that he might give information about the planned attacks under interrogation, particularly in the light of reports that he was cooperating with his captors…
The testimony of the detained terrorist, alongside other intelligence information, part of which concerned ISIS operations in Syria, should have resulted in much more stringent security preparedness in crowded public places in Brussels, along with a heightened search for the cell.
We don’t know whether this report is accurate or not, but let’s say for the sake of argument that it is.
The question is: what should the authorities have done that they didn’t do? Which is a subset of the question: how do we prevent attacks on soft targets at their most vulnerable points (the Brussels airport attack occurred before the security checkpoints were reached)?
I’ve often wondered about that, whether it be a mall, a subway, a bridge, an airport, a theater—even with a warning, how would you protect against such an attack? What should you, the government, actually do about it if you don’t know where or in particular when, or who? In the case of Brussels, do we really know that, after Abdeslam’s capture there wasn’t a “heightened search for the cell”? It’s not as though “heightened searches” necessarily lead to success, either, and it’s not as though there wasn’t probably a “heightened search” already going on, in order to effect Abdeslam’s capture in the first place.
I can’t find the information at the moment, but I remember reading long ago that in Israel airport security begins when a person is approaching the airport in a car. In other words, it doesn’t just begin at the security counter when people put their carry-ons on the machines, it starts long before. But just a moment’s reflection should make it clear that the Israeli approach can only work in a country so small with so few airports and flights. To do something similar here would nearly paralyze our air travel system, not to mention the traffic coming into airports.
The Haaretz article calls for “more stringent security preparedness in crowded public places.” Again, what would that entail in a city the size of Brussels? I would imagine it would mean more police presence looking for suspicious people, “suspicious” meaning those with backpacks or bulky clothing, which probably covers half the people on the subway. If you add “those who look Middle Eastern” into the prescription, you’ve still got a lot of people (for example, I and my entire family would most definitely be among them). This would require an extraordinary outlay of police, money, and public education, and I don’t think it necessarily would have prevented a thing. We also don’t know it wasn’t already in place in Brussels, at least to a certain extent.
The bottom line is that such attacks are extraordinarily difficult to defend against, even with advance (general) warnings.
There are other things I think should have been done. I agree that neighborhoods known to harbor Muslim immigrants who are radicals need greatly stepped-up surveillance and if necessary much more deportation (and greater border security and immigration limits, including from other EU countries, to avoid their coming back in). Same for radical mosques. Whatever the current level is, it does not seem to be nearly enough.
But there’s also the source— Raqqa, Syria. Why is that place still standing? Why has it been allowed to function for so long?
Another thing that troubles me is how much information—unnecessary and dangerous information, in my opinion—the MSM routinely gives out. The terrorists might have been concerned anyway that Abdeslam would squeal, but why oh why did we also have to be given “reports that he was cooperating with his captors”? It is not unusual for the MSM to reveal information that has harmed security and intelligence, all for the sake of a story.
[NOTE: I have little doubt that some people will say that the way to protect against such attacks is to deport all Muslims. I’ve already discussed that in several previous threads (including comments sections), such as this and this, among others. I also plan another post at some point soon that will discuss it.]