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Terrorism sets new brit prime minister agenda { July 3 2007 }

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The Brits were lucky
Al-Qaida link seen with failed bombers

July 3, 2007

The knighthood for writer Salman Rushdie? The NATO air strikes on civilians in Afghanistan? A warning shot across Prime Minister Gordon Brown's bow? Who knows what motivated the failed terror bombings in London and Glasgow?

It's safe to assume, as British counter-intelligence officials already have in their investigation, that the plotters have some connection with al-Qaida. But that linkage may have more to do with ideology and fanatical commitment to grotesque ideals than with operational control.

If so, Britain was lucky. The would-be bombers - at least two of them physicians from the Middle East - were amateurs. With better training and access to detailed technical instructions on activating bombs, the attacks would have been catastrophic. The cars were loaded with gasoline and gas canisters that, had they been ignited with the right trigger in the proper sequence, would have become fuel-air bombs, one of the most powerful types of explosions known. Casualties could have been in the hundreds.

British investigators were helped in tracking down suspects by the closed-circuit TV cameras that monitor movement on every street. The same devices may be under consideration in New York. But, as ever, we must balance the quest for security and renewed vigilance in the face of terrorist threats with the protection of civil liberties that define the very nature of this and other Western societies. It's a delicate balance that must be maintained.

Copyright 2007 Newsday Inc.

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Terrorism sets new brit prime minister agenda { July 3 2007 }

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