Years ago (many years ago), when the San Francisco Board of Supervisors was discussing legislation to ban random drug tests on employees of local companies (one of the few good things Bill Maher ever did as a supervisor), a Chamber of Commerce type stood up and said that the ability to find out which workers were on drugs could be critical to a business.
Maher's response: Sure, and if we set up a checkpoint on Market Street and randomly searched every human being who passed by, we'd find some drugs, some illegal weapons, some other contraband. We might get some guns off the street.
But would anyone really think that was a good idea -- or worth the price we would pay in the loss of civil liberties?
So yes: It appears that by spying on all Americans, you can find an occasional terrorist plot. We don't know if this was the ONLY way to uncover that particular plot, but we know: If you monitor everyone's phones and email, you can stop crime.
You can. It's that simple.
But is that a price we really want to pay -- and isn't that the question we should be asking?