Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Capone Strategy

Federal agents famously arrested Al Capone for tax evasion rather than for his greater crimes.

A couple of sentences in Lorenzo Vidino's recent post on the Counterterrorism Blog remind me of how useful the Capone strategy can be. In discussing the connection between the July 7, 2005 bombers and the men behind the "Fertilizer Plot," Vidino writes:

[T]he MI5 revealed that two of the 7/7 bombers, Mohammed Siddique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer, had been seen with Omar Khyam and other Fertiliser Plot members in early 2004. Khan and Tanweer were taped discussing ways to raise money through fraudulent schemes but, since no specific mention of an attack was made, the MI5 decided not to investigate them.

Given its limited resources, MI5’s decision not to divert human resources to investigate individuals that, while clearly interested in jihadi activities and intentioned in committing crimes to support them, did not constitute an immediate threat, was probably a sound one and second guessing it today is as easy as useless.
It is commonly known that terrorists often rely on illegal schemes to fund their operations - a significant vulnerability for them. Even in the absence of a specific terrorist plot, local police are natural partners in exploiting this vulnerability.

Cross-posted in IPS Blogs at the Institute for Preventive Strategies.

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