In the last year, it appears that the vehicle has become a new “weapon of choice” for international terrorists. Whether a cargo truck deliberately driven into the crowds of people celebrating Bastille Day in Nice in July 2016, a tractor-trailer that plowed into a Berlin Christmas market in December 2016, the car and van attacks in London at the Palace of Westminster and London Bridge in March and June of this year, or last Thursday’s van attack in Barcelona, this low-cost, low-planning method of spreading terror has produced high-fatality, high-impact results.
Mary B. McCord is currently Legal Director and Visiting Professor of Law at the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown University Law School. She is the former Acting Assistant Attorney General and Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for National Security at the U.S. Department of Justice and was a long-time federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.
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Last Thursday at the Aspen Security Forum—an annual gathering of current and former government policymakers, foreign officials, foreign policy experts, and journalists hosted by the Aspen Institute—Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Thomas Bossert told the audience that there are three viable options for taking an enemy combatant off the battlefield: “we can kill him, we can catch him and release him after a few weeks, maximum, or we can outsource our responsibility and send him to a third party.”