Here's a helpful chart.
Let's look at the numbers and perform some simple calculations. You're more likely to die due to smoking than in a terrorist incident by a factor of 1290 to 1.
You're more likely to die due to "poor diet and physical inactivity" than terrorism by a factor of 1240 to 1.
Auto accidents vs. terror? How about 85 to 1.
Incident involving firearms? More likely than a terror death by a 94 to 1.
So let's ask a simple question. Would you be willing to allow the government to engage in torture and warrantless surveillance/searches in order to end deaths which relate to abuse of firearms? How about deaths in auto-accidents?
Obviously not. The very idea is ridiculous. Can you imagine shipping Ford executives off to Syria for water-boarding? How about monitoring your telephone and emails to make sure you don't die due to a poor diet? We can send in the goons each time someone orders a hamburger instead of the salad. And what about alcohol deaths? You're more likely to die during an alcohol related fatality than terrorism by a factor of 274 to 1. So why don't we monitor the phones of bar owners without warrants. We might find out when the next shipment of beer is coming in, intercept it, and save some poor College Republican's life.
Here's another helpful chart.
At the very top, we learn that about 2.5 million people die in the US every year. (To be exact, 2,443,387 people died in 2002.) In other words, your chance of dying of any other cause, vs your chances of dying by terrorism are 7881 to 1.
That's right, your chances of not dying in a terrorist attack are about 7900 to 1.
And let's get real. We're all going to die. No matter how many people we spy on without a warrant, no matter how many people we water-board, you're going to die. Even if the government spends billions of dollars and breaks every clause in the Constitution just to save you, you will still die of something. So will your children.
Get over it.
But you're not going to die in a terror attack. In fact, you're more likely to die by overdosing on non-perscription pain relievers like Advil or Motrin than in a terror attack by a factor of 24 to 1. (We had 7,600 deaths due to "Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs Such As Aspirin" in 2000.)
So why are we allowing the government to run rough-shod over our civil rights? We could have a twenty-fold increase in terror deaths and we'd still be in more danger from Motrin!!
Granted, there's the possibility that terror attacks will increase, and we should be on our guard against this. But before we give up our civil liberties and our standing in the world community as a defender of freedom, it behooves us to ask how much danger we're truly in, and what the alternatives are. Can we infilterate the terrorist groups? Give the FBI and CIA a bigger budget? Work on the social and political causes of Arab terrorism? Lean on the Saudis, who are the main financers of terrorism?
So when someone says "We've got to give up the rule of law altogether so we can be protected," I'm very sure that the person saying so is afraid beyond all rationality. And that's what the cowardly, terrorized, right-wingers are saying. They want to take all the legal restraints off the executive in the belief that this will make them safer. They want to allow warrantless searches, an end to habeas corpus, and torture to keep them from a fate that's less likely than overdosing on Motrin by a factor of more than 20 to 1.
I'm not afraid of being killed in a terrorist attack. A rational look at statistics tells me that dying of terrorism is far less likely than any other form of death that doesn't start with the word "other." Once you do the math, the risks vs. rewards of allowing unfettered executive power becomes obvious - the risk is much, much higher than the reward. Before we allow our government to engage in warrantless monitoring of US citizens, when FISA rules already allow a 72 hour retroactive warrant I'd like to have the risk of death by terror be worse than the risk of ODing on non-prescription pain medication. I think that's a fair standard.
I firmly believe in American civil liberties, and I'm willing to allow some risk to myself, my wife, and my children in order to preserve those liberties. (IMHO, taking a risk for liberties is what being American is about.) And forcing our intelligence agencies to obey a law which gives them 72 hours to file for a warrant after they begin surveillance simply isn't a big risk, not when I'm 13 times more likely to die of a peptic ulcer (4079 deaths in 2002) than get blown up by a jihadist.
So where does this leave us? Once you look at the numbers, there's no justification at all for giving up a single form of liberty, and my reponse to those who would take my liberties away is as it's always been - throw the bastards out!