Janet Daley: America lost its mind after 9/11 — but did it lose its soul?

But the trickier questions remain: where exactly is the boundary between prohibiting the inculcation of hatred and creating a thought crime? The law should forbid acts not attitudes, but when does inflammatory speech become incitement to violence?

It isn’t enough to say, as Mr. Brennan did with more than a hint of despair, that there are no simple answers. There are going to have to be, at the very least, provisional ones because we need to find a way through this without losing our own ethical bearings. If the CIA experience shows us anything, it is how quickly terror can dissolve the conscience of a state even when it believes passionately in its founding principles of liberty and justice. These are not abstract philosophical questions that can be complacently consigned to the seminar room of history.

The Western democracies have to produce a day-to-day working formula for confronting an existential challenge that puts their own social values under almost impossible strain – without losing their souls in the process.

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