What if government officials have written laws that apply only to us and not to them? What if we gave them the power to protect our freedoms and our safety and they used that power to trick and trap some of us? What if government officials broke the laws we hired them to enforce? What if they prosecuted others for breaking the same laws they broke?
What if the government enacted a law making it a crime to provide material assistance to terrorist organizations? What if that law was intended to stop people from giving cash and weapons to organizations that bomb and maim and kill? What if the government looked at that law and claimed it applied to a dentist or a shopkeeper who sold services or goods to a terrorist organization, and not just to financiers and bomb makers?
What if an organization that killed also owned a hospital or a school and the law made it a crime to contribute to the hospital or the school? What if the Supreme Court ruled that the law is so broad that it covers backslapping, advocacy and free speech? What if the court ruled that the law makes it a crime to encourage any terrorist organization to do anything -- fix teeth, educate children, save lives or kill people? What if the law makes it a crime to talk to any person known to be a terrorist? What if the law is so broad that it punishes ideas and the free expression of those ideas, even if no one is harmed thereby?
What if FBI agents pretended to be members of these terrorist organizations and set out to find people in America who were willing to join? What if the people they found really did want to join a real terrorist organization, but the organizations were located in the Middle East? What if the FBI offered plane tickets and cash to the people they found who said they were interested in joining these groups?
What if FBI agents actually encouraged these people to fly to the Middle East and take up arms in a violent civil war? What if the FBI arrested the people it found and encouraged just as they were about to leave the U.S. and then charged them with providing material assistance to terrorist organizations? What if the president boasted that in his mind these duped dopes were really terrorists and their arrests kept us all safer? What if no material assistance had in fact ever been supplied by those dopes to any terrorist organization?
What if the very members of Congress who voted for this law that prohibits providing material assistance to terrorists by deed or word went and visited people in the Middle East who were fighting a violent civil war? What if these members of Congress concluded that the warriors they visited were good because their adversaries were evil? What if, during a visit, one senator was actually photographed with two Al Qaeda-affiliated leaders? What if that was confirmed on national television by the Bush administration ambassador to the United Nations? What if that senator was furious at the former ambassador and insisted that he had not met with Al Qaeda?
What if that senator encouraged whoever he met with to wage a war of terror on the government of the country they were trying to control? What if that senator insisted that the warriors with whom he met were good warriors because the government they were fighting was evil?
What if the government prosecuted the dopes whom the FBI duped just because it wanted to boast that it caught them? What if the FBI agents who tricked and trapped these dopes encouraged them to join terrorist groups? What if the FBI agents who tricked and trapped these dopes encouraged them to provide material assistance to terrorist-affiliated organizations in the Middle East? What if the senator that the former ambassador exposed offered to get the U.S. government to provide material assistance to terrorist-affiliated organizations? What if he did the same in Libya a few years ago and that brought anarchy to our former ally? What if our own ambassador to Libya was killed by a terrorist group because there was no effective government there to protect him?
What if it is a crime to backslap terror fighters and to encourage their terrorist-affiliated organizations to fight, except if the backslapper is an FBI agent or a senator? What if these terror-fought wars are simply not in the best interests of the American people? What if the backslappers love war because it makes the government stronger? What if the backslappers love war because it is easier to raise taxes, regulate behavior and acquire power for the government when wars are being fought? What if the backslappers are worried that the military might atrophy if it goes a long time without fighting?
What if offensive wars are illegal and morally wrong? What if killing is evil when not done in self-defense? What if those who kill not in self-defense are prosecuted and punished, except when they do so in large numbers and to the sounds of trumpets blaring? What do we do about a government that breaks the laws we have hired it to enforce?
Andrew P. Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, is the senior judicial analyst at Fox News Channel.