Polemics & Exchanges

On The Unsleeping Eye

There is no current American commentator from whom I would rather receive praise—and rebukes—than Philip Jenkins.  I am therefore very glad that, in his review (“A Week of Thursdays,” February) he found readable my book The Unsleeping Eye, which, of course, was written well before I (or anyone else) could benefit from his own book Images of Terror.  His evocation of Chesterton, in particular, is a point exceptionally well made.

Certainly a congenital believer, like myself, in Original Sin would not purport to be “the deepest-dyed libertarian,” so I hope I can reassure Dr. Jenkins on that score.  My own convictions, for what they may be worth, are: First, Al Qaeda or no Al Qaeda, we are probably stuck with secret policing for as long as we have recognizably discrete nation-states, and maybe longer.  Second, America was lucky to have J. Edgar Hoover around for so long, whatever regrettable abuses he committed at times, notably when his powers of judgment declined during his old age.  And third, had the FBI not been comprehensively demoralized in the quarter-century after Hoover’s death—not only by nurturing the poisonous likes of Robert Hanssen—the catastrophe of September 11 either would not have occurred at all or would have been far less appalling in its...

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