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"You can't deny that CALEA, PATRIOT, FAA, the NDAA, CIA's black site and gitmo programs, drone warfare, drone warfare against US citizens overseas, etc. weren't steps back."

I can't? Most of those things don't affect US citizens. Drone warfare arguably saves lives (you'd rather that we send soliders to do the same things?). The other things present vague, hypothetical risks (when they present risks at all), and tangible, quantifiable benefits.

Look, I'm not saying that I agree with everything that's in the Patriot Act, or that I think that the US government should have a blank check to bomb citizens via remote-controlled helicopter. But when you look at the actual risks to citizens, you find that they're pretty theoretical. The people who are objecting the loudest usually have the least reason to object (which is, ironically, part of the problem -- organizations like the ACLU have traditionally had a very tough time proving harms to citizens, and as a result, their lawsuits keep getting tossed).

But if you're going to push me to be the devil's advocate, I can quite comfortably go to the argument I made before: we don't have cars blowing up (or people walking into cafes with bombs strapped to their chests) in our cities on a regular basis, and we manage to achieve that level of safety without needing the intrusiveness of the security state of even a "reasonable", western democracy like Israel. Empirically, then, we're doing OK. A lot of the teeth-gnashing going on here is breathless exaggeration from people who have such peaceful lives that they have literally nothing better to worry about.

When did we ever have cars blowing up on a regular basis. I get your point about general life in America being OK, but that is only because many people turn a blind eye to the evils that our government is doing in our name that work against us in the longer view.

There are short-term benefits that you're talking about, but long-term costs that you seem to be ignoring as well.

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