At a basic level, the EU and the U.S. embrace counter-terrorism strategies that are unified in purpose (preventing attacks) but divergent in approach. On the EU side, the majority of counter-terrorism operations take place under a law-enforcement orbit. In Europe and abroad, EU intelligence operations are generally limited to “cycling” information on a terrorist network’s capabilities and intentions. Conversely, the U.S. government orients its counter-terrorism strategy under a far more aggressive methodology. One day we see arrests by the FBI (law enforcement), but the next day we read about drone strikes by the CIA in Yemen, Pakistan, or elsewhere (intelligence/covert action). The next day we hear about a Special Forces operation in Somalia or Libya (military/direct action). Every day we suspect that things happen of which we hear nothing. Where America subscribes to a “war” mentality, the Europeans take pride in their criminal-justice mentality.
It’s crucial that we recognize this reality; after all, it has caused serious tensions even between the U.K. and the U.S. At the defining level, EU states are far more willing to tolerate terrorist elements in their midst. Instead of “taking down” terrorist networks — a choice that would inevitably require revealing sources and methods in a civilian court — EU authorities often attempt to recruit extremists as “double agent” assets (sometimes failing disastrously), conduct surveillance operations, and hope for the best. Nevertheless, with limited resources and facing a large number of suspects, the EU paradigm cannot satisfy U.S. national-security imperatives. The simple fact is that the U.S. intelligence community has the resources to see through the cracks — to find the plots that have not yet been found. Travel to the United States is not complex for anyone possessing a European passport. The U.S. must do everything possible to protect the American people.