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 Osama bin Laden’s capture and the April bombing in Marrakesh raise serious questions about government use of the terrorist threat as a tool in achieving policy objectives.

In hindsight, it is hard to dismiss the possibility that at least some American agencies had known beforehand that the 9/11 attack was imminent, allowing it to happen anyway. Before the tragedy, Paul Wolfowitz wrote an essay centred on the idea that Americans respond to threats only after a major catastrophe prompts them into action.

In August 2001, whilst living in Adelaide, Australia, even I had noticed an unusual agitation among a radical, anti-American fringe group in my neighbourhood calling themselves …”S-11”, short for September 11. Its members occupied a compact area of the neighbourhood, one street away from the electoral office of a prominent Liberal MP, whom I alerted in the first instance, and enjoyed the protection of the local police and courts. One of them was subsequently found fighting alongside the Talibans in Afghanistan and imprisoned at Guantanamo.

I also contacted a conservative think tank in Washington with privileged access to the Bush White House, alerting its security experts that something really big was afoot, but to no avail. I have no specialised security training and no personal connections in the intelligence community. If I, thousands of miles away, was able to get wind of a major threat, it is hard for me to believe that US agencies were so deaf and dumb to bin Laden’s plans in 2001. It is not inconceivable that in order to get voters to approve additional funds for the military-industrial complex, a major attack on American soil was, if not masterminded as some have claimed, at least allowed to take place.

Then there are many question marks surrounding bin Laden’s capture and reported execution. According to most sources, his Pakistani hideout was well-known to American services since August 2010, possibly longer. From August to April, American special agents supposedly planned the capture of the world’s most wanted terrorist. What took so long ? Was his capture to be integrated into the US electoral process ? I, for one, am inclined to think so.

Over the past ten years, al-Qaeda, AQMI and other terrorist organisations have served Arab dictators rather well. Politicians have not hesitated to use the spectre of terrorism as justification for both repressing their population and for staying in power well past their expiry date. Think Mubarak, Ben Ali, Ali Saleh, Bashar al-Assad, Qaddafi or the king of Morocco, and many others.

In some cases, dictatorial or absolutist governments could go even further. On the 14th of April, for example, under pressure from his citizens to adopt reforms transforming Morocco into a constitutional monarchy, Mohammed VI took the apparently unwise decision to free a few notorious AQMI terrorists from prison. Days later, the Marrakesh bombing occurred and the blame was hastily assigned to Islamic terrorists. Moroccan sources, however, claim the bombing was masterminded by circles close to the palace in order to avoid the promised reforms (source: Le Monde). Such a scenario is plausible : by putting in danger foreign retirees in Marrakesh and killing some of them, there is a security reason for repressing demonstrators, while Western support for their cause is badly weakened. This tactic of killing two birds with one stone is not unfamiliar to dictatorial or absolutist rulers, regardless of how much long-term damage it brings to the fabric of any given society.

Left-of-centre regimes, from Romania to Venezuela, have traditionally hosted or used terrorist organisations in order to eliminate opponents or silence their critics. I should know, as I have had a personal experience of this kind. In 1996, a political decision was apparently made by the Iliescu camp to eliminate me from the commercial life of my country using the services of Hezbollah and some Syrian agents residing in Romania. These people were smugglers who shared their ill-gotten gains with local politicians, military secret service agents and some policemen. When I notified state authorities about the smuggling activities which affected my own lawful small business, I found myself condemned by the local court to pay damages to a Hezbollah boss for “affecting his reputation”. According to press reports, such organisations were very important financial contributors to the electoral campaigns of Ion Iliescu’s political party in the 1990s.

Historian Marius Oprea – the former national security adviser who, after the September 11 attack, blew the whistle about the Iliescu regime’s cosy and unlawful cooperation with terrorist organisations such as Hezbollah, Hamas, al Qaeda and the like – had his ORNIS clearance revoked and was harassed in the Romanian courts for years. My own case against the Romanian state at the ECHR (nr.31993/02) is still pending after nine years. To me, it seems that the ECHR could not break through the firewall of Romania’s seven secret services to get to the bottom of it, as yet.

I am not saying that secret services should not infiltrate and keep tabs on terrorist organisations operating on their soil. However, giving terrorists the freedom to engage in illegal trafficking and even share into their proceeds (as in Romania’s case) – while supposedly investigating them – is unacceptable. So is knowing their hideouts and what they’re about to do and not arresting them and preventing tragedies. Even worse, the terrorist threat is being used as a handy justification for infringing upon our rights and freedoms, as well as for channelling unreasonable amounts of money to security forces and assorted “covert operations”.

Military secret services and reactionary branches of the freemasonry have been known to use terrorists in the past to damage their enemies and further their political aims. The consequences of using terrorists as policy tools, however, are always tragic and can affect humanity for decades. The most notorious examples from the 20th century were the use of Serbian terrorists to assassinate archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, which sparked the devastation of the first world war, and the logistical assistance afforded to Lenin and his group by the German military services in order to reach St. Petersburg in 1917 (source: Comanescu, The Official History of the Romanian Freemasonry). Was it all worth it ? Not quite. A few generations later, the Serbians lost all the territories they fought so underhandedly to acquire. As for the Germans, 28 years from that ill-fated error, the Red Army tanks rolled into Berlin where they stayed for half a century.

These are but a few reasons why I believe time has come for EU and national governments to get a grip on the issue, preventing the use of individual terrorists or organisations for political ends. EU and national parliaments, on the other hand, should try much harder to keep tabs on European secret services, before the relationship between these, some politicians, heads of state and international terrorists becomes symbiotic. (sources: Reuters, Le Monde, The Guardian)

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EurActiv Network