The Instigator
Pro (for)
0 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
5 Points

Do we need this government surveillance? Yes or no?

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Post Voting Period
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after 1 vote the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 9/18/2015 Category: Politics
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,102 times Debate No: 79864
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (5)
Votes (1)




Government Surveillance

Would you rather have another 9/11, or the government watching over us? Do you think that the government surveillance is a good thing, or a bad thing? Although most say no, I have to go with what I believe, and what I believe is that it is a good thing, because it started the December after 9/11.
People say that it is a bad thing because it is invading our privacy and that they have no right to do that. But really no one cared before "Edward Snowden" said something about it; Why care if you don"t have anything to hide? Unless you do.
We think that we can survive without anyone to help us, but truthfully no we can"t we do need it, because without the government spying some of us would be dead. Think of all the murders and terrorist have been caught, without this spying all of those criminals would be still running around. We complain about everything, we complain that the government doesn"t keep us safe, but they really do we just can wake up and realize it because we don"t know it. When we find out about how they are keeping us safe, what are we doing "complaining".
Some say it is unconstitutional, or it is an overkill, it isn"t helping anyone.

don't bring the constitution in this because it can't protect the dead, which over half the people in the world would be without the surveillance.


I thank my opponent for an interesting and relevant topic.

Since Pro began arguments in round 1, I'll do the same. Note that my opponent has the burden of prove in this debate. However, this burden's definition is somewhat vague, centered around the word "need". This term could mean something as innocuous as "I need a drink". However, Pro later states:

"don't bring the constitution in this because it can't protect the dead, which over half the people in the world would be without the surveillance"

So it's clear that "need" here is something much stronger than an alcoholic beverage. Pro states that more than 3.5 billion people would have died since 9/1/2001 without government surveillance. Therefore Pro has quite a burden of proof to show.

Note that I assume Pro is primarily referring to United States federal government surveillance since Edward Snowden's name is mentioned and the U.S. is the primary driver of these efforts.

Let's look first at how many potential terrorist plots the U.S. government itself claims to have thwarted by these programs, by reviewing a breaking news story from October, 2013:

"The head of the National Security Agency (NSA) admitted before a congressional committee this week that he lied back in June when he claimed the agency’s phone surveillance program had thwarted 54 terrorist “plots or events.”

NSA Director Keith Alexander gave out the erroneous number while the Obama administration was defending its domestic spying operations exposed by whistleblower Edward Snowden. He said surveillance data collected that led to 53 of those 54 plots had provided the initial tips to “unravel the threat stream.”

Alexander admitted that only 13 of the 54 cases were connected to the United States. He also told the committee that only one or two suspected plots were identified as a result of bulk phone record collection." (1)

Bottom line: one or two plots were thwarted from phone surveillance. Since the government has shown a tendency to exaggerate in it's favor on this matter, one can assume that the number of lives saved by these "one or two plots" is quite low, if not zero.

What of the costs of this program, including the various data centers, software, and NSA personal. Unfortunately, the government doesn't feel the need to tell us this, but it is estimated at $10 billion a year (2). However, that is just the tip of the ice berg. The problem is that this program has had far-reaching negative consequences to American businesses, primarily due to a break down in trust. The open technology institute released a report in 2014 detailing these impacts:

"Costs to the Cloud Computing and Web Hosting Industries
Cost to Overseas Tech Sales
Cost to Public Trust in American Companies
Mandatory Data Localization and the Costs of a Bordered Internet
Data Protection Proposals and the Cost to European Trade Relations
Combined Costs of Data Localization and Data Protection
Costs to the Internet Freedom Agenda and U.S. Credibility in Internet Governance
Costs to Internet Freedom Beyond Governance
Broader Foreign Policy Costs" (3)

These costs add up to tens of billions of dollars a year.

Pro states "Why care if you don"t have anything to hide?". Let's consider that in more detail. An article from has the following to say about this:

"As former director of the NSA and CIA Michael Hayden recently admitted: “We kill people based on metadata.” And former NSA General Counsel Stu Baker said: “metadata absolutely tells you everything about somebody’s life. If you have enough metadata, you don’t really need content.” (4)

And also:

"We already have evidence of abuses of power. We know that NSA analysts were using their surveillance powers to track their ex-wives and husbands, and other love interests. They even had a name for it, LOVEINT. The FISA court has also cited the NSA for violating or ignoring court orders for years at a time. And those are just self-reported abuses – the only oversight that occurs is that the NSA investigates itself" (4)

After reading that, I'm not sure I feel quite as comortable about this as Pro.

On top of these issues, it's becoming clear that the balance of power in Washington, D.C. is tilting heavily in the direction of the NSA. Neither congress or the Dept. Of Defense has been able to get information about what the NSA is up to:

"Congress has an incredibly hard time getting information about NSA spying. And it’s not just Congress. We learned a few months ago that the Department of Defense's deputy Inspector General, in charge of Intelligence and Special Program Assessments, was not aware of the call detail collection program." (4)

"What’s more, the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) is completely incomparable to an ordinary adversarial court. It makes decisions in a vacuum, and it doesn’t always have complete information, much less a second adversarial voice or technical help. Its chief judge has said that it’s not equipped to conduct oversight." (4)

In summary, the NSA surveillance has been a complete an utter failure. We all want to feel save and be able to sleep at night, so I understand Pro's plight. However, we must ask ourselves: do we want to pay billions of dollars, along with the potential for the loss of our freedom, for what amounts to nothing more than warm, fuzzy thoughts for those who put their trust in the NSA? I think not.

Debate Round No. 1


Some say it is unconstitutional, because it is evading the fourth amendment, or that it is invading our privacy, it"s illegal, and that they have no right. Some people just don"t want others in their business, because it doesn"t include them. It"s slowly taking away our rights, America is supposed to be a free state. Obama may say that it hasn"t helped stop anyone but really what does he know, nothing he wasn"t the one who ordered it, President
Honestly I think they are scared of what they don"t know, they don"t even know how many criminals they have stopped with the surveillance or how many more they could. The people of the United States are divided between what they think the government should do, as long as they are going along with what they feel and not what their friends or family say or think, then let make their choice. But honestly it doesn"t bother me. It isn"t hurting anyone, it is saving them instead. We are the United States people, we live here, our families live here. They are protecting the people that live within the States, and all the people are doing is fighting against the government, and each other over the surveillance that is keeping everyone safe. How are we going to help ourselves and others if we get rid of it, over our privacy, how can we be so selfish and careless.
Obama may say that it hasn"t helped stop anyone but really what does he know, nothing he wasn"t the one who ordered it, President Bush did. In order for that to be put in action the congress and the senate had to agree with it, otherwise it would not have been able to happen, it is almost like passing a bill. So how could Obama know unless he got the court's approval to look at the records.
And if he did all of this without their permission and a signed contract for his evidence, then he could be taken out of office.


While it is true that President Bush began the NSA surveillance programs, it would be silly to think President Obama does not know what's going on. After all, he signed legislation this year to continue the program. (1). The director of the NSA reports to the director of National Intelligence who reports to President Obama.

Pro continues to make arguments that NSA spying is saving lives, however as I documented in round 1, those claims are highly dubious. Please consider that the source of my information is the head of the NSA itself. My opponent has not countered my arguments, but rather has simply tried to justify the "saved lives" argument by fiat.

The reason that the Patriot act was signed into existence was essentially the same reason that over 100,000 Japanese Americans were placed in internment camps during world war II. There tends to be an emotional reaction to events such as the bombing of Pearl Harbor and 9/11. Emotion clouds thinking and leads to poor outcomes.

Regarding my opponents last few sentences in round 2, it appears to show a lack of understanding regarding how our government works. It isn't "almost like a bill". The patriot act started as a bill, H.R. 3162, which then passed the House and Senate and was signed by the President. This is all public information, so I'm not sure what records Pro refers to that Obama would need permission to see from the "court".

I'll refrain from introducing new arguments since none of my arguments from round 1 were addressed.

Debate Round No. 2


sorry, but I am only 16 and I am saying good stuff. and it has stop 58 terrorist attacks


When your estimate of the number of terrorist plots prevented by NSA surveillance is much higher than the admission of the director of the NSA (who, if anything, is likely to over-estimate this number), I think it's time to rethink your position.

While my opponent may only be 16, there is no better time to learn that power between governments and people must be balanced. A quote from Thomas Jefferson:

"Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves are its only safe depositories" (1)


Debate Round No. 3
5 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Posted by selena16 2 years ago
But the thing is without the tax money I wouldn't be able to go to college because I was in foster care. But still as long as it stops the attacks I say it is good because it is saving lives including my nephews who matter most to me.
Posted by ax123man 2 years ago
look at the dates on my round 1 arguments. That was before the head of the NSA admitted it was all lies.

The NSA spying program may get shut down before the next election. There's already talk in that direction. My guess is that it's all about timing and politics related to the election cycle. Why give Obama credit when it can be used for election fodder. Also, the government hates killing jobs, even when they are a complete waste of tax money.
Posted by selena16 2 years ago
In 2012, Heritage reported that at least 50 publicly known, Islamist-inspired terrorist plots against the homeland had been thwarted since September 11, 2001.
Posted by DATXDUDE 2 years ago
Up to a point.
Posted by lannan13 2 years ago
Pick me.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by asi14 2 years ago
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Total points awarded:05 
Reasons for voting decision: Both sides: I felt the discussion of domestic surveillance was limited. While Snowden is a major part of the domestic surveillance debate, there is a darker side. Try googling "COINTELPRO". As for arguments: Pro, you had a serious lack of line-by-line. You need to go and answer each of the arguments going down the con's arguments, as well as provide evidence. Extending is not enough. Con: I generally liked your arguments, although I suggest you organize your arguments into 'contentions', to make it easier for voters and the opponent to understand. Ultimately, I vote con due to the multiple concessions of the pro's arguments. Post comments if you have questions and/or objections.