THE recent, and embarrassing, admission by the US Department of Homeland Security that it had bungled a security warning listing Australia as a possible "terrorism venue" should not be seized upon as a political football.
It is, in fact, further evidence of just how hard the task facing the agencies and individuals charged with protecting the public from terrorism both here and overseas really is.
The intelligence community, and those advised by it, frequently face "damned if you do, damned if you don't" scenarios.
Take for example the recent instance where, on the one hand, the government was under siege for not having paid greater heed to pre-Bali threat warnings and, on the other, criticised for accepting intelligence reports indicating Iraq had a nuclear weapons program.
Some tough calls have to be made when potentially literally thousands of lives are at stake.
Bali and September 11 have shown that we live in uncertain and dangerous times - and that it is better to be safe than sorry.
Terrorism, by its very nature, is a devious and underhanded activity carried out by people trained in the arts of misdirection, misinformation and intrigue.
Much of the information on which assessments, such as the one so recently the subject of such intense debate are made, would fall into the grey - as opposed to the black and white - category.
The real message to be taken from this week's event is that al Qaeda is still an active force for evil in the world, and that the need for vigilance by the authorities is as great as ever.
While it is easy to be wise with the benefit of hindsight, the task of preventing future atrocities is an unenviable one.