It could, of course, just be a coincidence that an FBI sting against a New York terrorist suspect has come to fruition just weeks ahead of the US presidential election. Certainly Barack Obama can only benefit from the perception that, under his administration, law enforcement authorities are operating effectively to protect the homeland.
In fact, since 9/11 the US has seen about 300 arrests connected with terrorist plots, around 15 per cent of them involving entrapment by federal officers. In this latest example, the suspect is alleged to have arrived from Bangladesh bent on doing serious mischief. But in other cases, undercover officers are accused of incitement, showing their targets photographs of civilians abused in Iraq, say, to provoke them.
Such distinctions may not register amid the dog-whistle politics of last-ditch electioneering. But they should.