Thursday, June 07, 2007

A terror law we do need

I couldn't be happier that the FBI is entrapping people intending to murder, maim and interfere with daily business. Just don't treat them as if they didn't need entrapping. There ought to be a suitable category of offense with which to classify and charge such actors. Call it "Criminal lack of scruple" and have a "third degree" or "Type T (for Terror)," for example. As some have more dubiously advocated for torture, require a judge-authorized warrant for which enforcers must appeal in order to entrap and draw up standards and showings enforcers must satisfy to undertake or carry through any plan to entrap. We allow planes to spray pesticides over suburbs with the approval of a public health commissioner, though the thought of wanton spraying is disturbing, and I see no reason not to consider the same principle appropriate to entrapment. If overzealous enforcement looks to be a peril, let the sentences be light--perhaps as light as probation, in exchange for which the probationer agrees to obey special rules affecting his or her liberty and privacy, including in cases of intention to commit terrorism, for example, such surveillance as the White House now seems to be applying wantonly. If easy access to technology amenable to mass murder make our legal traditions appear to be unsafe and unsustainable, then in principle revisions are apt, and to me in practice the laws relating to entrapment seem like a perfectly reasonable place to go to work.

No comments: