I do not understand why a terrorist exploding a bomb which kills (say) 50 people is considered so much worse of a crime than (say) a serial killer murdering 50 random people for non-terrorist reasons. The objection people have to terrorism is, after all, the killing rather than the motive. If Al Qaeda pursued non-violent means to their ends instead of violent ones, they would not be nearly the enemy of the US that they are (in fact, their requests might even be taken seriously if they could persuade the US government to listen to them without violence).
I guess the point of taking terrorist crimes more seriously is prevention. Serial killers generally work alone, so once you have arrested one the stops. But if you arrest one terrorist (or he dies in the explosion he causes) there is always another to take his place. So in order to put an end to terrorism, the US government is attempting to eliminate all the people who could become terrorists, even if they have done nothing wrong. The trouble with that plan is that you have to turn this wonderful free country into a police state to do so. It is not enough just to arrest people who attempt to create or buy explosives or who contribute financially to terrorist causes, you also have to arrest people for the books they read, the photos they take, the websites they visit, the people they talk to and the things they say. You have to spy on everyone to find out if they have any sympathies for terrorist organizations. You have to completely gut the concepts of free speech and privacy which are some of the most important principles upon which the country is based. Already such rights are being eroded, and terrorism is showing no signs of disappearing. And instead of abandoning these dangerous and ineffective policies, the US government is trying to expand these anti-terrorist activities and erode more rights in the process. I think most people would (if they thought enough about it) rather take the freedoms we have along with a small chance of being killed in a terrorist attack than live in the world of 1984 but be safe from terrorists. As with all law enforcement it is a question of balance. I for one am more afraid of being arrested on suspicion of terrorism charges than I am of getting killed by a terrorist, which means that the balance has swung too far to the side of fascism. In fact I was in two minds whether to post this lest it be interpreted as supporting terrorism.
Here is what I think the government should do instead: treat terrorists as the criminals they are. There is no need to implement any special policies like deporting people to countries where they will be tortured, or imprisoning people indefinitely without trial, or removing judicial oversight from surveillance operations, or requiring libraries and bookshops to hand over their records. None of these things were needed in the past when it was just normal criminals that were being dealt with, so they should not be needed now. All that is needed is a sensible set of laws and the ability to enforce these laws. If we need laws against things like "possession of explosives with intent to murder" or "financially aiding a criminal organization" then so be it but no laws should be made limiting free speech or evading the checks and balances that have evolved to keep the system fair and just.
At the same time, the US government should be more open to considering the points of view of any political group who feels they have a legitmate gripe, even terrorist ones such as Al Qaeda (there is no point excluding the terrorist ones because any such organization will just split into two groups - a "political" one which does not officially endorse terrorism, but which secretly funds it, and a "military" one which blows things up). The idea is that if a group is given the same amount of attention whether or not they commit terrorism, there will be no incentive to commit terrorism. And there is still a definite incentive not to commit terrorism - namely that if you do so, your followers are liable to get arrested. Also, no-one should ever be left feeling that terrorism is the only option they have to get their point across.
And once you have your enemy sitting at the same table as you and prepared to talk, the war is half over.