Surveillance for the Sake of National Security` As 2012 drew to a close, the biggest news stories of the year were about Hurricane Sandy buffeting the Eastern Seaboard, the end of the presidential elections, and the Sandy Hook School shootings. However, as 2013 began, a new story came to light after a man named Edward Snowden decided to leave his job as a defence contractor for the NSA, and fly to Hong Kong to divulge classified NSA documents that he had obtained. After the publication of the leaked documents on the Washington Post, the story exploded. Before the publication came out, I like most other Americans had no interest in what the NSA was or what it did. After the Snowden leaks, I became very interested in government mass surveillance but never had the time to research what the topic was about. I had already assumed that the government had been collecting the personal records of hundreds of millions of U.S. citizens and people abroad without warrant or probable cause. I knew that they did this via the insertion of “backdoors” in millions of devices. I also knew that the government justified this information collection as being a necessity for thwarting the next 9/11. Furthermore, I also assumed that such surveillance was a massive invasion of our rights. Although I don’t know very much about the topic, I wonder if the U.S. government is justified in conducting mass surveillance on private citizens for the sake of national security?As the 21st century progresses, the amount of information collected by the government has gradually grown through the justification of preventing terrorism. Not only did the U.S. government collect data on the citizens of foreign powers, but it also collects the data of American citizens who had their rights and privacy stripped away for the sake of national security. However, the U.S. government cannot justify the need for mass surveillance when it comes at the sacrifice of the privacy of the very people that such invasive policies claim to protect. The U.S. government employed ineffective methods of mass surveillance collecting huge amounts of data, making the search for actual terrorists implausible. Furthermore, the government employed ineffective surveillance programs, sacrificing privacy for national security. In addition, the laws and acts that allow mass surveillance are based on very shaky legal standpoint, violating the 4th Amendment. Additionally, the methods that government agencies use to collect data leave vulnerabilities in commercial encryption systems which could be easily used by malicious factors to undermine and collect data for nefarious purposes. As the U.S. government continues their policy of mass surveillance, they continue to risk the massive consequences of their risky endeavors. To help gain a perspective on the issue of mass surveillance at the cost of privacy, one must look at the gargantuan amounts of data that agencies like the NSA collect on American citizens under the false justification of national security. In 2006 alone, the NSA collected over two trillion telephone calls without informing the users that their data was even being collected (Kuhn 124). Such vast amounts of data actually make the job of conducting surveillance on actual terrorists very hard to do as the agency is drowned by the data of millions of innocent people. Even when actual terrorist threats have been identified, only about 1% of the 500 terrorists charged with international terrorism offenses after 9/11 were considered serious threats (Boehm). With the fact that so few actual terrorists had been found by such methods, one can conclude that the price we pay is too high, safeguarding the lives of a couple thousand victims at the cost of our principles and morals. Furthermore, the collection of these huge amounts of data have not been able to stop actual terrorist plots like the Boston Marathon in 2013 or the Paris Shootings in 2015 even though they had all the data to identify and stop the perpetrators of such attacks (Whittaker). Even with all of that data, security agencies that were entirely devoted to protecting and stopping such acts of terrorism were not able to identify and single out actual threats due in large part to the huge amounts of data that make finding such threats like finding a needle in a haystack. Agencies like the NSA and FBI have not been able to stop any of these serious terrorist attacks from the Orlando Club shootings, Charlottesville killings, Sutherland shootings while still claiming that we need to keep our current system. Thus, the collection of trillions of phone calls and other data records is ineffective when considering the fact that they make the search for actual threats harder, all coming at the cost of the privacy of the people that were being protected. The programs that agencies like the NSA and FBI implemented after 9/11 were completely ineffective, sacrificing the data and privacy of millions for the sake of national security. In the aftermath of 9/11, the Bush administration began funding any program that sought to conserve national security while effectively sacrificing the privacy of the individual. One of these programs, Operation TIPS, insisted that workers like truckers, utility employees and ship captains become informants on all terrorist activity (Kuhn 118). What Operation TIPS asked people to do was an equivalent to the many policies of Hitler’s Third Reich while also being eerily reminiscent of policies from George Orwell’s, 1984. Operation TIPS asked these public employees to report anything suspicious which would have inevitably lead to huge amounts of false positives. This program had no specifics to identify terrorists and also asked people with no experience related to national security or law enforcement to do such a job. Another example can be seen with the Fusion Center Program. The Fusion Center strategy at the Colorado Fusion Center asked citizens to report benign behaviors like photography, note-taking, drawing, and collecting money for charity as all being indications of terrorist activity (Boehm). These nebulous indicators were completely ludicrous and dangerous because they would lead to false, unfounded accusations and convictions. Not only did they ask individuals to become spies and informants on their own neighbors but they also asked them to look for normal actions as being “terrorist” activity. Like with Operation TIPS, they also asked people with no prior experience in law enforcement to identify terrorists and violate the privacy of everyone they came in contact with. Thus, the government sought to sacrifice the privacy of the individual for the sake of national security through ineffective and useless surveillance programs.   When considering the empire of surveillance we live in today, one must consider whether these acts are permitted under current laws and whether they actually allow such sacrifices of privacy for national security. Enacted during the Cold War, “FISA was initially enacted in 1978 and sets out procedures for physical and electronic surveillance and collection of foreign intelligence information” (“The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act”).  This court was established to serve as a gatekeeper to the information of foreign agents and the citizens of the U.S. However, it was never updated to the rise of the digital age and the changes it brought. Although the court was antiquated, it served its purpose curtailing the efforts of agencies like the NSA in obtaining and conducting mass surveillance. However, after 9/11, the Bush administration loosened FISA, with the passing of the Patriot Act:FISA was significantly loosened by the Patriot Act (which, for example, allowed it to be used for some criminal investigations), and parts of it now stand in clear violation of the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment in the view of the ACLU and many others. (NSA Spying)The Patriot Act served to allow agencies like the NSA to bypass and nullify the regulations that had stopped them for so long. The biggest of these violations came from the fact that the NSA did not require court approval or warrant for the collection of huge amounts of data. This was a huge violation of the fourth amendment which clearly prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. This meant that both the FISA Court decisions and Patriot Acts were completely unconstitutional, meaning that the mass surveillance conducted by agencies like the NSA were outright illegal. This is further enforced by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who has said that even the  Supreme Court is ill-suited to the digital age: “As Justice Sonia Sotomayor has written, the court’s approach is ill-suited to the digital age in which people reveal a great deal of information about themselves to their parties in the course of carrying out mundane tasks” (A 21st Century Right to Privacy). This further enforces the fact that these courts are dysfunctional and allow for the continuance of illegal laws and practices that all tend to sacrifice personal privacy for national security.The mass surveillance techniques employed by agencies like the NSA are also very dangerous as the data collected by such agencies are also vulnerable to being leaked and discovered. In order to collect information on the massive scales that the NSA does, these agencies spend large amounts of money, up to $250 million dollars on inserting vulnerabilities into commercial encryption systems and lobbying for further vulnerabilities to be put in place (Kroll). Thus, the NSA basically paid companies to insert vulnerabilities or “backdoors” into the software and hardware of commercial systems. This is incredibly dangerous because anyone or any organization with the money and time could find those same vulnerabilities and exploit them for malicious and illegal purposes. This would be the equivalent to hacks on the magnitude of what happened recently with Equifax or the Yahoo resulting in huge amounts of personal data being released to malicious factors like hackers and governments. An example of this kind of vulnerability insertion can be seen with the recent San Bernardino Shootings. The FBI wanted to unlock the iPhone of the perpetrator of the shooting and thus, and contacted Apple to try and get them to unlock it for them. However, Apple refused to do so, citing the fact that it was a clear violation of the privacy of their users and that it would clearly be abused in the future (Lichtblau and Benner). If Apple had consented to the FBI’s request, they would have made a tool that could easily circumvent the password system used by millions of devices in the U.S. alone. The circumventing of such systems that were designed to protect our privacy meant that the FBI and other organizations had huge access to information that they should not have. These exploits and vulnerabilities leave domestic systems vulnerable and exploitable to malicious countries like Russia and China who can use their intelligence and cyber capabilities to enter the same networks as the NSA and collect information on their citizens as well as those of Americans. Thus, the tactics employed by the US government serve to risk a possibility of malicious factors using the same “backdoors” to find and receive the information of Americans and their own citizens for downright illegal purposes. After the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centers, the U.S. government decided to sacrifice the privacy and security of the individual for the sake of national security. In the days and months following the attacks, the administration at the time set a precedent for passing huge amounts of laws expanding the surveillance state like never before. However, the laws passed during this time were rushed and did not take into account what might or might not be excessive. When thinking with logic and common sense, these acts clearly are ineffective, illegal, and dangerous to the security of private individuals. When considering the U.S. surveillance state that is in place today, one must be careful in not handing too much data and power to the government as they too are not infallible and can make mistakes, leading to the endangerment of the very people that they claim to serve and protect. After having researched the the positives and negatives of the U.S. surveillance program, I have come to a negative opinion on what many in the government have said is a necessary evil.   The assumptions that I made within the first paragraph were mainly correct. I assumed that the U.S. government had been collecting the personal records of hundreds of millions of U.S. citizens and people abroad without warrant and through my research, I was proven right by the passing of the Patriot Act which nulled all previous acts protecting our privacy, allowing for the collection of everyone’s data. I also assumed that such surveillance was a massive invasion of our privacy laws and the Constitution which was also correct as such acts were a massive invasion of the 4th Amendment and a weakened FISA. Throughout my research, I learned that the library databases were put in place to help me. I found lots of great information and also learned that the hardest part of writing a paper was in organizing my thoughts into a clear and coherent essay.

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