No, Americans didn’t overreact to 9/11

Contrary to received wisdom, Americans have been, if anything, more tentative and cautious in their approach to the jihadist threat than many of our European allies, who routinely use surveillance, administrative detention, and prosecutorial methods much more intrusive than those employed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, our primary counterterrorist organization on the home front.

I’m quite certain that Mr. Zakaria might not approve of some of the things that France and Great Britain do (I don’t), but I doubt he’d depict either country as tilting over the edge of some dark abyss. In fact, even as France and Great Britain were gearing up their counterterrorist machinery after September 11 (the French didn’t have to do too much, as their own internal security organization, the DST, became well aware of what jihadists could do when terrorists tried to derail a high-speed train in 1995), their societies were becoming more open and liberal. Today, civil liberties are no more endangered among our two closest European allies, which also boast the two most effective Western counterterrorist systems, than they were before September 11.