Sunday, June 19, 2016

Even A Stopped Clock: Glenn Greenwald: The FBI Was Right Not To Arrest Mateen

   Greenwald is an idiot, he hates the U.S., and he's willing to use dishonest arguments to support his positions.
   But...he's more-or-less in the vicinity of being right about this.
   I think it's an obvious point, and I was muttering to myself about it the other evening...but it's worth saying, I suppose.
   To be more precise than Greenwald: we don't know whether or not the FBI acted correctly in closing the book on Mateen. But the mere fact that he went on to commit mass murder does not show that they acted incorrectly. That is: it doesn't show that their decision was unjustified (though, of course, it shows that their prediction turned out to be false). There's nothing illegal about having stupid, anti-American political views. (This may be what piqued Greenwald's interest in this case...) If that's all the FBI found out about him when they investigated--if there wasn't decent evidence that he was likely to commit crimes--then not only is it permissible for the FBI to close the book on him and move on, it's obligatory for them to do so.
   We don't make decisions on the basis of actual future outcomes, but only on the basis of available evidence. Obviously. We don't know exactly what information the FBI had. It's possible that they should have been more suspicious of Mateen. But we can't conclude that they acted irrationally simply because they failed to predict what actually happened. Of course we might, retrospectively, conclude that we need to apply different standards of reasoning to such cases in the future...that we should be more risk-averse. But there's a trade-off between freedom and security, and there just aren't going to be any standards that catch every terrorist ahead of time yet leave the Constitution intact.
   Of course Greenwald only wants to make this point with respect to privacy, due process, etc.  I'd add: the point applies to the Second Amendment, as well.


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