As no doubt have many others, I've followed media reporting on the horrific truck attack at the Christmas market in Berlin with dismay because, at least from the public perspective, there has been a certain Inspector Clouseau-like quality to the actions of German intelligence and police officials.
First, according to what we've been told, the Germans did nothing to set up extra security or physical barriers around the market, even though the United States and European countries (including Germany) were already aware, and announcing publicly, that soft targets such as these markets were in the scope of jihadist groups such as Islamic State. Some media accounts say that there were only five uniformed officers afoot for the entire extensive market in downtown Berlin.
Second, after the attack, which left a dozen dead and many more critically injured, police latched onto a Pakistani (or perhaps Afghan, according to other accounts) suspect whom they unceremoniously covered with a pillow, shoved into a patrol car and whisked away. Within hours, the Interior Minister announced he was the wrong guy and they let him go. Could very well be – we don't know why they focused on him to begin with – but it certainly wasn't because he was cleared by the forensic evidence; not enough time had elapsed for a lab to have given back the results of any biometric data such as fingerprints or DNA from inside the tractor trailer cab (inside which was the body of the real driver, apparently murdered during takeover of the truck).
Third, we are then told that the real suspect—who got away—is a Tunisian, Anis Amri, who left his identity card in the cab of the truck. (As Clouseau would say, "Zoot alors! A clew! We have a clew!")
Next, we discover that the Tunisian had a long criminal history in his own country, and in Italy, and in Germany, and was supposedly "on the radar" of the police at the time he hijacked the truck.
Finally, we are told that he was one of the 1.1 million aliens who sought asylum in Germany, although in his case he was denied (persumably at least in part because of his criminal past), but was still roaming the streets because the Germans couldn't get rid of him: the Tunisians didn't want him back.
All of this stands in sad and stark contrast to the 1970s when West Germany's GSG 9 were the wunderkinds of anti-terror forces world wide—and the terror of terrorist groups such as the Baader Meinhof Gang and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Things are so different, now, that recently the German authorities were obliged to arrest one of their own: an intelligence officer who was a jihadist sympathizer and mole in their midst. What has happened to make Germany's intelligence and police forces so flaccid in recent years?
One can speculate that it is political and cultural change, among other things. The Cold War and the existence right next door of East Germany's Stasi and its Soviet sponsors almost certainly kept a sharp edge to the West German state that no longer exists. Then there is also the consistent leftward social drift of almost all of Europe, with Germany at its forefront. Chancellor Angela Merkel exemplifies this perfectly, though ironically she was raised in the Eastern bloc herself. Merkel is the reason Germans are now coping (badly) with the influx of more than a million migrants, many of whom are unassimilable, in no small part because they don't want to be assimilated.
Andrew McCarthy at National Review has written an excellent article in this regard that I encourage others to read. There is one portion of McCarthy's article I'd like to highlight (emphases in the original):
His terrorist activities aside, Amri has also been involved in narcotics trafficking, theft, and the torching of a school. That last felony occurred in Italy, where the "refugee" was sentenced to five years in prison before being welcomed into Deutschland. All that baggage, and still the Germans allowed him to remain. Reportedly, officials felt they could not deport him because he did not have a passport and the Tunisian government would not acknowledge him (despite the fact that the Tunisian government had convicted him in absentia of a violent robbery). That might explain a brief delay in repatriating him; it does not explain a legal system that permits a suspect with a lengthy, violent criminal record to remain at liberty while he is suspected of plotting mass-murder attacks.
The whole sequence of events sounds pretty screwed up, and it's tempting to think of the Germans with contempt. Yet it could easily be a description of something that happens here. We too have an out-of-control asylum system; we too have had a chief executive constantly haranguing the populace at large to see only unexpurgated good in refugees and asylees; we too have seen increasing numbers of dubious and badly vetted migrant influxes from jihadist-infected parts of the world, even as our Congress does nothing to rein the executive in – an executive who has, for no discernible reason, even negotiated an deal with Australia to take large numbers of primarily Middle Easterners off that country's hands and out of its offshore detention centers. And we too rarely detain asylum seekers while they wend their way ever so slowly, slowly through a cumbersome administrative system which permits them to remain for months (sometimes years) and gives them many bites at the apple should they be denied the first time.
Lastly, and significantly, we too are plagued with the problem of countries refusing to accept their nationals back when they are ordered deported, and our State Department has consistently refused to exercise its considerable muscle to force a change in attitude on the part of recalcitrant governments. And what happens when the immigration authorities can't get the needed travel documents for repatriation? Why, after six months (in the off chance that they were detained, for example because of extensive criminal histories) they are released into the street, courtesy of a Supreme Court decision which makes keeping them in custody beyond that point a near-impossibility.
So, while I maintain a healthy skepticism about the Germans' conduct of the investigation, at least as we are able to glimpse it from the outside (which I acknowledge may not be entirely fair), I am also all too painfully aware that what happened there could, indeed, happen here—and almost certainly will at some indefinable point in the future, should we not learn the lessons that are there to be absorbed.