In my column, "Which Has More Islamist Terrorism, Europe or America?" I show that "the Muslim per-capita arrest rate on terrorism-related charges in the United States is 2.5 times higher than in Europe." I mentioned there a difference in the legal systems between the two continents that makes that ratio even higher but lacked the space to explain it. In brief, European laws make it much easier to arrest terrorism suspects than do the American ones. Consider two expert views on the topic:
Jeff Breinholt of the International Assessment and Strategy Center notes that the Europeans arrest terrorist suspects more freely because the U.S. constitutional tradition would not permit charging some of the persons for the conduct charged in Europe, while European anti-terrorism laws "are more expedient and give them broader ability to reach people who merely advocate violence or solidarity with terrorists." Unlike Europeans, Americans "rarely play catch-and-release," further skewing the numbers.
Evan Kohlmann of GlobalTerrorAlert.com adds that
Sageman and others rather carelessly overlook significant differences between the U.S. and European legal systems. First, the anti-terrorism legal codes in the U.K. and Europe cover a range of offenses considered protected activities under the U.S. Constitution. In the United Kingdom, for instance, it is illegal to merely possess a terrorist training manual—even one that is available for download on the web. Secondly, because civil liberties are less formalized, British and European authorities are much more likely preemptively to arrest and interrogate a suspect, or make use of "protective orders" (which limit the movement of individuals) with far less evidentiary rigor than what would be required in the United States.
Kohlmann concludes by noting that "there are quite an assortment of individuals in the U.S. who have carried on terror-related activities for which they will never be punished—but very well might have, had they been subject to European legal jurisdiction."
(1) These differences in the legal systems suggests that were European states to follow U.S. standards, the number of their arrests would be significantly reduced, and vice versa, that if the U.S. were to follow European standards the number of arrests would be significantly increased. My article counts 527 arrests for the United States and 1,400 for Europe; if both held to the same legal standard, the numbers would be closer to parity.
(2) The difference in legal systems further undermines Sageman's conclusion: the Muslim per-capita arrest rate on terrorism-related charges in the United States would be now 7 times higher than in Europe, not, as Sageman asserts, 6 times lower, making Sageman's ratio off by a factor of about 42. (July 3, 2008)