London jihadi told Italian police last year en route to Turkey, "I'm going to be a terrorist"

There are lone wolves, there are “known wolves,” and then there are the guys who tell you, “No, really, I’m going to do it.”

What happened here?

Youssef Zaghba, 22, was the third man shot dead by police during Saturday’s terrorist attack in central London. He had been notified to British and Moroccan authorities by Italian intelligence when Italian police intercepted him on 15 March 2016 at Bologna Airport with a one-way ticket for Istanbul, two officials said on condition of anonymity.

He was stopped because he looked “agitated,” one source said. When questioned by police at the airport about the reasons for his journey, he replied, “I’m going to be a terrorist.” He was carrying no luggage.

Police phoned his mother who, according to the source, said she had been worried about her son because he had talking about jihad. She told the Italian authorities that Zaghba was working in a Pakistani restaurant in London. The Italian authorities seized his phone and several sim cards but did not arrest him because he had not committed a crime. They did report him to the authorities in Bologna which began proceedings against him for terrorism offences.

Italian police did notify British security about Zaghba but only via a “routine communication” about a potential suspect, not an emergency alert requiring urgent scrutiny. Between this and the fact that one of the other jihadis appeared on a TV show about jihadism, imagine the sort of threats UK intelligence must be dealing with to render these two obviously dangerous cretins a low enough priority by comparison to let them fall through the cracks.

Jim Geraghty wonders how much longer it’ll be before Islamist rhetoric is itself a crime in the west warranting jail time. That won’t happen anytime soon in the U.S. due to SCOTUS’s broad protections for inflammatory speech under the First Amendment, but in the UK?

But when we’ve witnessed and endured Islamist terror attack after Islamist terror attack in one Western city after another, isn’t it fair to ask how many who call for an Islamist overthrow of the government and imposition of Sharia law are truly harmless? Is that a threshold where an angry young male who’s drifting into Islamism reaches and stops? Or is it a stepping stone on a path to launching an attack? Are there many young Muslims out there who say, “Yes, I want to see the U.K.’s traditional governing structure destroyed; stoning and beheading added to the system of criminal punishments; adultery, dishonor, and blasphemy added to the criminal code; the criminalization of homosexuality; the devaluing of the testimony of a female witness in court; the banning of conversion from Islam to another faith, the imposition of dhimmi status upon all non-Muslims… but I don’t want to be violent about it”?…

Put another way, how many permanently nonviolent radicals are out there?

On the other hand, depending upon the results of Thursday’s election, maybe Britain is further away from criminalizing Islamism than we think.

Further to Geraghty’s point about “permanently nonviolent radicals,” here’s counterterror expert Maajid Nawaz on Fox this morning warning that the same jihadi who appeared on the TV show also attacked a member of his staff last year — and that police knew about it. He wasn’t nonviolent. So why wasn’t he tracked more closely?