Security Dilemma: Threats From Citizens With Clean Records


The attempted Times Square bombing illustrates the challenge of handling security threats from citizens with clean records, says the Wall Street Journal. U.S. authorities are limited in the tools they can employ to legally monitor travel and other behavior of Americans who haven’t otherwise aroused suspicion. As the numbers of such near-miss cases mount, officials and lawmakers are trying to develop additional measures to identify people who pose a threat who can easily hide in plain sight. “How do you do that with people who are living in this country, who are naturalized citizens or are born here?” said a U.S. counterterrorism official. “That’s exactly the challenge were trying to think through.”

Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection agency can question anyone to determine whether they are a threat when entering the U.S. The agency’s decision to send Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad for additional screening when he returned from Pakistan in February elicited a phone number that helped link him later to the Times Square incident. The FBI is more limited in the steps it can take to monitor U.S. citizens without reason to believe they are about to commit a crime, said spokesman Paul Bresson. The FBI is required to show probable cause of potential illegal activity in order to conduct any kind of monitoring, such as entering a mosque and observing activities there. “If it’s brought to our attention that there’s something afoot so far as a criminal act, we can open an investigation,” said Bresson.

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