Friday night on "The Rachel Maddow Show," host Rachel Maddow questioned whether or not the U.S. is ready to shift away from the state of permanent war that was begun during the Bush administration.

She began the segment by discussing the color-coded "terror alert" system imposed in 2002 by Homeland Security director Tom Ridge.  The Obama administration quietly did away with the system last year, as well as the secret CIA prison in Romania that was opened under the Bush administration.

"We are a country with 2 million people in jail on any given day," Maddow said, "with thousands of prisons and jails right here at home, but we decided to open up a little sump'n in Romania, too, in secret.  Also in Poland and in a bunch of other places, we had secret overseas prisons.  We don't do that anymore, either."

The media is now allowed access to the flag-draped coffins of service men and women as they return to Dover Air Force Base.  Torture is no longer an accepted means of extracting information from detainees.

Things are far from perfect, of course.  There are still "two years left on the clock" in Afghanistan.  There is the U.S. government's troubling use of drones.

"Things that constituted previously unimaginable behavior by the United States of America," said Maddow, have come about as part of our nation's declaration in the wake of the terror attacks of September 2001 that we were "at war" with terror.

So, when does the "war footing" end?

"This is not a philosophical question, this is an empirical question," she said.  The problem with the "war on terror" is that it doesn't end.  It was never intended to end.

However, "Today for the first time," she said, "a government official started talking about how this ends."

Jeh Johnson, an attorney for the Department of Defense, said at Oxford University in U.K., that it’s time for the U.S. government to begin its de-escalation.  Terrorist organizations don’t sign treaties, they don’t lay down their weapons as a group.

The end of the war on terror will come, said Maddow, echoing Johnson, when the pursuit of terrorists goes back from being a military operation to a counter-intelligence program.

Watch the clip, embedded via MSNBC, below:

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