The trial of an Army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people during a shooting rampage in Fort Hood, Texas, could become a soapbox for Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan's twisted rationale that his actions were intended to protect the Taliban.

Thus far, the military judge in the case has set the stage for restraint, denying a defense strategy based on this notion.

Nevertheless, the trial almost assuredly will paint a picture of a homegrown radical.

And in the process, the case against Hasan will underscore the diversity of threats this country faces and the need for equally sophisticated and targeted methods of defense.

The closure of some 20 U.S. embassies and consulates in Muslim countries this week provides additional evidence that terrorism remains a real concern nearly a dozen years after 9/11.

Both underscore the need for a delicate balance of vigilance and judgment when it comes to national security.

Unfortunately, these elements seemed to have been missing in Hasan's case. He was giving off warning signs long before he shouted "Allahu Akbar" (God is great) and opened fire on fellow soldiers who were preparing to deploy to Afghanistan.

His inflammatory opposition to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — in addition to his known communications with Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical cleric later killed by the CIA — should have raised more concern than they did.


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Shortly after the shootings, even though FBI and Joint Terrorism Task Force investigators knew about the exchanges with al-Awlaki, it does not appear that they shared that information with the Department of Defense.

Of course, we're not privy to the exact nature of the concerns that led to the unusual closing of nearly two dozen diplomatic posts this week and the issuing of a worldwide travel alert. But it has been reported that an alarming threat came to light after intelligence analysts intercepted communications between al-Qaeda leaders.

Some have been tempted to use this episode to justify National Security Agency spying programs that scoop up broad swaths of domestic phone records.

"If we did not have these programs, then we simply would not be able to listen in on the bad guys," said U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, the ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

But we must note that the interception of overseas communications between al-Qaeda members is far different than the indiscriminate vacuuming up of domestic phone records created by those suspected of little more than using their phones.

Fighting terrorism remains a necessary and complicated task, but one that cannot devolve into a one-size-fits-all approach.

The embassy alerts and the Hasan trial are recent, cogent examples of the varied ways in which this nation still is threatened and the need for smart and targeted responses.