Given the exigencies, it was entirely understandable. There had been a massive sneak attack against the United States. Thousands of Americans had been killed. The enraged public demanded action. The president, bolstered by a full-throated demonstration of congressional resolve, unleashed the armed forces.

The enemy responded, in plots designed at the highest levels, by smuggling trained operatives into the United States to conduct bombing operations and other terrorist acts. The targets were civilians and civilian infrastructure. Nevertheless, the FBI, acting on precious intelligence derived from the interrogation of a terrorist, moved in. A United States citizen was apprehended—the enemy having recognized that co-opted Americans could more easily infiltrate a nation on heightened alert.

The government actions here, it is worth underscoring, were by domestic law enforcement authorities, not...


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