Terror Case Issue: When Should Agents Intervene?


A crucial question in terrorism cases is when should the government step in and make arrests? If law enforcement waits for bombs to be made, says the Christian Science Monitor, it may act too late, and innocent people could be hurt. If it acts too soon, it may not have a good case. In its latest terror arrests, involving three men born in Afghanistan, the U.S. seems to have decided it was riskier to not act. The U.N. General Assembly meets this week, followed by the Group of 20 summit in Pittsburgh. Any terror incident would instantly gain world attention.

“The critical issue is, when should the government intervene and intercept?” says Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond in Virginia. “In all cases, it’s a different calculus.” British authorities have been willing to let plots more fully develop before moving against suspects, says Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, terrorism expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “Britain has had far more prosecutions for actual terrorism plots,” he says.

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