The Instigator
Danielle
Con (against)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
YYW
Pro (for)
Winning
39 Points

NSA Surveillance

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 9 votes the winner is...
YYW
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/14/2013 Category: Politics
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 22,488 times Debate No: 34767
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (10)
Votes (9)

 

Danielle

Con

I dislike instigating debates from the Con position, but I wasn't entirely sure how to frame the resolution. My opponent, should he accept, has agreed to debate this issue from either side. I will be standing in opposition to the extent of NSA Surveillance.


A brief overview: The NSA has the capability to collect massive amounts of data on traffic over switched phone networks and the internet. Recently they gained the ability to capture and store data en masse, and retain it indefinitely. In addition to internet monitoring, the NSA has call data records on the time and length of calls, the phone numbers involved, when the call was made, and location data for mobile devices among other things.


We will not be debating whether or not the government legally has the authority to implement this extent of surveillance, as the government can essentially give itself the power to do anything. Instead we will be discussing whether or not the NSA should have this legal capability.


Regarding the scope of the debate, I imagine two issues may come up that blur the intent of the resolution: what extent of surveillance the NSA should have (if any), and to what extent could the NSA dive further into a slippery slope to complete totalitarianism. For this debate, I contend that my opponent and I may touch upon those topics if facilitating the discussion, however, the current framework of NSA technology as outlined above will be the standard of opposition. In other words, I can't argue that the U.S. will undoubtedly become a completely authoritarian regime, and my opponent does not only have to defend minor or minimal surveillance, but at the very least the surveillance that is currently in place.


Many thanks in advance to YYW for accepting this debate.

I will start the discussion by posting an opening argument in R2. If Pro wishes to present the first argument, then he should forfeit R4 so that we both get 3 rounds of formal debate.
YYW

Pro

Many thanks to Danielle for instigating this resolution. I'll reserve introductory arguments for the second round.
Debate Round No. 1
Danielle

Con

Thanks, Pro. I'll get right to it...

Our nation was founded upon the principle that people are most free if they concede only minimal of their natural rights to government. As such, the Constitution provided a clause in the 4th Amendment which guards against unreasonable searches and seizures, along with requiring any warrant to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause before a search is conducted. This allows the people of the United States to carry on their daily lives without fear of the government interfering or spying on them unnecessarily and unjustly. The Supreme Court acknowledges that collecting and storing data on individuals qualifies as a "search," considering information is being retrieved from the digital space that may potentially be used against them.

Americans should not have to forego this protection or the reasonable expectation of privacy under the guise of it being for our "safety."

By using the excuse that the potential for harm is a reason to expand the Big Brother Police / Surveillance State, we have essentially neutered the 4th Amendment; it no longer carries any real significance. The potential for harm is not a legitimate reason to override the rights of individuals. For instance, I MIGHT light my neighbor's house on fire, but that is not a legitimate reason for the government to prohibit me from buying matches or from spying on me incessantly to ensure that I don't.

The president and his administration now have total power that supersedes all other authority "to secretly gather, store, and analyze an infinite amount of information gathered from the private communications of millions of law-abiding citizens." The fact that we have perhaps unintentionally granted the government this authority indicates one of the many dangers of the so-called Intelligence Industrial Complex: that the public and even our elected officials have been kept largely in the dark about the extent and scope government spying programs, thus inhibiting almost all aspects of their accountability.

"A court ruling in 2011 determined that the U.S. government had engaged in unconstitutional behavior in its surveillance program, but the Department of Justice is trying to block Americans from seeing this court ruling and understanding what happened. We"re supposed to trust this oversight. We know they"ve broken the law once, but we don"t know what they did, what's stopping it from happening again, what harm was caused, and whether there was any sort of punishment or discipline" [C].

In addition to that incredibly alarming lack of accountability to the public, let's not forget that the people largely in control of our information as well as the process of looking at/ utilizing it are in fact those in organizations like the CIA, Federal Reserve, Homeland Security, Department of Defense, and of course the NSA, etc. - none of whom are elected officials. They are appointed or hired as private contractors, further inhibiting accountability to the public. They know everything about us, but we know little to nothing about them.

"In practice, much of the decision-making appears to lie with NSA analysts, rather than the Fisa court or senior officials... Once armed with these general orders, the NSA is empowered to compel telephone and internet companies to turn over to it the communications of any individual identified by the NSA. The Fisa court plays no role in the selection of those individuals, nor does it monitor who is selected by the NSA" [A]. In other words, a lot of the surveillance that is going on happens behind closed doors by people who could easily misuse or abuse their alleged and at times self-appointed authority.

Make no mistake about it: there are incentives for people and the government to exploit their power. In terms of the government, consider the fact that just about every American is probably a criminal. If you have broken the speed limit, pirated a song, smoked a joint, or even jay walked then you have broken the law. The Prison Industrial Complex - a term used to attribute the rapid expansion of the US inmate population to the political influence of private prison companies, and businesses that supply goods and services to government prison agencies - is just one example of how the government and those in the business of expanding the Police State profit from incarcerating or otherwise monetarily penalizing people for minor crimes. As Noam Chomsky pointed out, "Governments are not representative. They have their own power, serving segments of the population that are dominant and rich."

There are other reasons and incentives for people to abuse this system. Consider how Richard Nixon was impeached for spying on his political opponents via Watergate. Now the government (politicians) can legally spy on their political opponents in every possible way. Furthermore, the spying program can be a way to specifically target political activists or opponents of the current administration. It is not unlikely that said people will be unfairly targeted or discriminated against; proof is in the recent IRS scandal where certain activist groups were targeted because of their political affiliation. This is hardly different from racial profiling which is illegal and problematic to civil rights.

The so-called War on Terror that is used to justify excessive state surveillance is little more than propaganda based on blatant fear mongering. A war on "terror" is a war that can never be won; it is a war without a clear enemy and one that will be perpetual so long as there is the potential for human conflict to occur. In other words... for as long as there are humans. Scaring people into thinking that they need the government to spy on every aspect of their human interaction in order to protect themselves is psychologically abusive. Consider the fact that you are 8x more likely to be killed by a cop than a terrorist [D]. Studies in neuroscience confirm that people can be manipulated to exaggerate irrational (statistically speaking) fears [E]. By convincing people that they ought to be afraid, it makes it easier for them to voluntarily concede some of their liberties.

The expectation of privacy for American citizens is reasonable. Most of us utilize curtains, do not share our bank statements with strangers, and do not readily divulge our personal information to others without a legitimate reason. A lack of privacy can lead to social control. The "I-have-nothing-to-hide argument myopically views privacy as a form of secrecy, rather than conceding the implications of data mining.

When you have a group of people - especially people who are not easy to hold accountable - monitoring every call, watching and retaining every e-mail, and spying on every human interaction, it means the already problematic and frequently abusive government is completely compromised. It means legal and/or easier insider trading which is detrimental to the economy and exploits the average consumer/ investor [B]. It means total manipulation of the markets, of the Congress and of the courts. It means being able to predict human behavior and use real time techniques to manipulate that behavior. This is all excessive amounts of power in the hands of a few in authority and it's happening. It should not, and we should not have to rely on whistle blowers to protect us - especially given the anti-whistle blower climate.

Back to Pro.

[A] http://www.rawstory.com...
[B] http://www.businessinsider.com...
[C] http://reason.com...
[D] http://www.cato.org...
[E] http://scienceblogs.com...
YYW

Pro

Many thanks to Danielle, again.

To begin, I am going to clarify what the actual scope and nature of NSA surveillance is, and then I'll explain why -good or bad- it's necessary. As a disclaimer, I don't personally know quite where I stand on NSA surveillance. But for the purposes of this debate it is my responsibility to argue on the NSA's behalf -whether it should have the legal capacity to monitor data to the extent that it currently does. Because to determine whether the NSA should have the legal capacity to monitor data as it currently does, we must first know the scope of the NSA's reach, I'll begin there.

The NSA and the Scope of its Reach

The National Security Agency is an agency within the US Department of Defense which collects and analyzes foreign communication and data transfers and protects and monitors the US Government's electronic infrastructure. (1) The NSA is legally limited to gathering only foreign communications and must avoid domestic surveillance where possible. Edward Snowden, a whistleblower who was employed as an NSA contractor, fled to Hong Kong after disclosing the details of NSA surveillance programs to The Guardian and The Washington Post.

PRISM is alleged to enable the NSA to obtain "direct access to the systems of Google, Facebook, Apple and other US internet giants," which enables data collection "directly from the servers of major US [internet] service providers" pursuant to section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. (2) However, the NSA is legally barred from "unilaterally obtaining information from the servers of [domestic] electronic communication service providers" or monitoring the substance of US citizens' communications without a warrant. (3,4) Moreover, Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Apple have all released statements confirming that they only release user information pursuant to that required by law according to due process. (5) (6)

James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, criticized reports in The Guardian and The Washington Post for their "numerous inaccuracies." Information collected by programs pursuant to FISA Sec. 702 are "designed to facilitate the acquisition of foreign intelligence information concerning non-U.S. persons located outside the United States. It cannot be used to intentionally target any U.S. citizen, any other U.S. person, or anyone located within the United States."(3) Moreover, NSA surveillance programs are the subject of extensive congressional and FISA court oversight, as Clapper confirmed (3). Extensive checks approved by FISA courts are in place "to ensure that only non-U.S. persons outside the U.S. are targeted, and that minimize the acquisition, retention and dissemination of incidentally acquired information about U.S. persons." Clapper described the information collected under this program as "among the most important and valuable foreign intelligence information we collect, and is used to protect our nation from a wide variety of threats." (3)

So, despite the fears that Americans privacy is being surveyed, that liberty and due process are being sacrificed in the name of security and that American's protection from unlawful search and seizure is being ignored there is simply no verifiable evidence whatsoever to suggest that any of the above are the case. Perhaps in time future evidence may surface, but at present there is no reason to think that Americans' rights to privacy or protection from unreasonable search and seizure are being undermined by NSA surveillance programs.

Why the NSA Should Have the Legal Capacity to Monitor Data as it Currently Does

According to NSA Gen. Keith Alexander, NSA surveillance efforts have "contributed to the 'understanding and, in many cases, disruptions' of 50 terrorist plots, obviously implying that the unauthorized disclosures will hinder the future understandings and disruptions." (6) While "there are reasons to be concerned about intelligence-agency overreach, excessive secrecy, and lack of transparency... there are also reasons to remain calm." (7)

Hendrick Hertzberg argues: "The threat that [NSA surveillance measures] pose to civil liberties... is abstract, conjectural, unspecified. In the roughly seven years the programs have been in place in roughly their present form, no citizen’s freedom of speech, expression, or association has been abridged by them in any identifiable way... They have not put the lives of tens of millions of Americans under “surveillance” as that word is commonly understood." (7)

While critics of the NSA and its activities have traded on American's fear of observation, they have consistently failed to demonstrate that any individual citizen has been harmed, their rights unconstitutionally violated or suffered as a result of NSA operations. (8) As such, while it is perfectly reasonable to be suspicious of any such program, "intelligence agencies are not designed to interact with the citizenry, nor do they have or want prosecutorial power" meaning that the NSA "would probably break down bureaucratically if it attempted to shift gears from foreign observation to domestic surveillance in any threatening way," because "snooping on Americans isn’t what the NSA has been built to do." (9)

As Reuel Marc Gerecht, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former case officer in the CIA’s clandestine service contended "We may be on the cusp of a new wondrous counterterrorist tool; or we may be seeing American officials, once again, looking for a technical solution to a problem that actually requires intensive human labor, some of it morally challenging and bloody. Given the volatile state of Islamic militancy, the imminent nuclearization of the Islamic Republic, whose ruling elite has terrorism in its DNA, and the likely coming defeat of the United States in Afghanistan, which will probably supercharge jihadism, a big attack inside the United States in the coming years wouldn’t be surprising. We should want to assess PRISM’s capacities thoroughly and critically. It may be a great technology—or it may be an overpriced dream whose promise was just too appealing. What we shouldn’t do is throw it away over unwarranted fears of snooping." (9)

In consequence, Americans expectation of privacy cannot (at least yet) be described as the opportunity cost of NSA efforts to protect US national security. There is no excessive overreach as those who trade on fear of the unknown would lead you to believe, and there are very good reasons to maintain NSA infrastructure as it exists now. Perhaps greater oversight is indeed something worth taking into consideration, but that is a separate issue because as it stands, no American citizen within US borders can be monitored by the NSA (or any other government agency) without that agency first obtaining a warrant to do so and respecting that individual's due process rights.

(1) http://www.washingtonpost.com...
(2) http://www.guardian.co.uk...
(3) http://www.dni.gov...
(4)http://www.dni.gov...
(5) http://techcrunch.com...
(6) http://blogs.reuters.com...
(7) http://www.newyorker.com...
(8) http://www.ca6.uscourts.gov...
(9) http://www.weeklystandard.com...

Debate Round No. 2
Danielle

Con

Danielle forfeited this round.
YYW

Pro

I'll wait for Danielle to post her next round before I put forward any more arguments.
Debate Round No. 3
Danielle

Con

Danielle forfeited this round.
YYW

Pro

It ends.

Peace and Love,

YYW
Debate Round No. 4
10 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Danielle 3 years ago
Danielle
gordon, I'm against NSA snooping. I'll debate it with you in addition to YYW.
Posted by gordonjames 3 years ago
gordonjames
Looking for some discussion here.

We often mistake liberty for privacy.
If I walk (my action) down a public street (a public place) and people watch me, I have liberty but I have given up privacy by doing my action in view of the public.

If I own 500 acres of my own land (private space) and walk in the woods (my action) I have a reasonable expectation that people will not watch me.

The dilemma we have with Internet and phone service is that we want privacy but there is no standard to says if we are in a private or public venue.
We want it to be private for ourselves, but we also want protection from others using this privacy for purposes we consider bad.

We cannot have it both ways.
Each country needs to define if their Internet is protected by privacy laws, or is open to law enforcement snooping.
Checks and balances need to be in place to protect individual and business interests from corruption and undue influence from Government.

If Canada (my home) made all Internet within their borders PRIVATE (no government snooping) we would have many businesses move operations here because the want privacy.

If we require law enforcement to have a legal warrant before snooping we will lose some business and gain some law enforcement options.

If we enable unlimited snooping we give people in government and law enforcement huge access to private information and power.

I would love a debate / discussion or where the line should be drawn and what policies should be used by government in making these decisions.
Posted by Danielle 3 years ago
Danielle
Can we just re-do this already? It's not that serious. I don't care if I win or lose. I'll probably wind up forfeiting 2/3 rounds anyway lol. I don't take DDO that seriously. I just think it would be a cool discussion. We can c/p these rounds exactly as-is and proceed from there.
Posted by bladerunner060 3 years ago
bladerunner060
Quite nearly a full forfeit, but not quite one, so I'm hesitant for the full seven.

Con did present an argument in a round, but arguments to Pro for presenting his case fully and coherently, addressing all of his opponent's arguments. I disagree with his position (in part, though, based on some details that I'm not sure we're all certain about), but he certainly did a strong job defending it.

Con's biggest unfaced hurdle was Pro's clarification of the exact known scope. Con might have taken issue with that, if Con had continued to participate (again, there are some conflicting stories out there, so there is dispute on "facts") but as Con did not, Con did not. I think that was what was most catastrophic to her case; I wish the debate had continued, so that she could have dealt with it one way or another, but c'est la vie.

Spelling and Grammar seemed fine. There was a real round there, and it was fine.

Conduct, obviously, for the two forfeits that ground the debate to a screeching halt. Also, though, for Pro's graciousness after the first one; there was probably more meat to pick of the argument carcass, but he waited for Con to (hopefully) get back up before starting the fight again, like a Pro wrestler pacing the ring while the ref counts out.

I'm also awarding sources, for Pro's greater reliability in describing the nature of the NSA case. It was close, because it's not like neither used sources or Con used http://www.timecube.com.... But Pro presented more arguments for why the initial gut-check reaction to the NSA story relies on assumptions not currently accepted as definite facts, which made his case much easier to defend, since he was defending a milder version of the situation than one might have initially assumed if one only ever watched Fox News (which is not to cast such an aspersion on Pro, who I have more faith in than to engage in such behavior).
Posted by Eitan_Zohar 3 years ago
Eitan_Zohar
No no no. This was an awesome debate.
Posted by YvonneV 3 years ago
YvonneV
I would be less upset about the NSA data securing if the used it to attack Wall Street insider trading.
Posted by YYW 3 years ago
YYW
So, yeah... basically typed that up over the past few hours.
Posted by JohnSmith1 3 years ago
JohnSmith1
"Those who sacrifice a little liberty for a little safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."
-Benjamin Franklin
Posted by AlbinoBunny 3 years ago
AlbinoBunny
Vive la R"volution!
Posted by YYW 3 years ago
YYW
I'm slammed this weekend, but I can accept it on monday.
9 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 9 records.
Vote Placed by 1dustpelt 3 years ago
1dustpelt
DanielleYYWTied
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Reasons for voting decision: ff
Vote Placed by gordonjames 3 years ago
gordonjames
DanielleYYWTied
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Reasons for voting decision: FF is bad conduct / Tie on S&G /CON did not give adequate reasons and nor response to PRO's arguments
Vote Placed by TheHitchslap 3 years ago
TheHitchslap
DanielleYYWTied
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Reasons for voting decision: FF
Vote Placed by QT 3 years ago
QT
DanielleYYWTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Despite having a convincing opening case, Con forfeited the debate.
Vote Placed by 1Devilsadvocate 3 years ago
1Devilsadvocate
DanielleYYWTied
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Reasons for voting decision: So much for an all out awesome high profile debate. At least YYW's ELO will approach what it should be at to properly reflect his debating skills.
Vote Placed by Guy_D 3 years ago
Guy_D
DanielleYYWTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Odd that the instigator gave up on this debate. Con must have got too busy to finish.
Vote Placed by bladerunner060 3 years ago
bladerunner060
DanielleYYWTied
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Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments.
Vote Placed by Ragnar 3 years ago
Ragnar
DanielleYYWTied
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Reasons for voting decision: FF. I wish I could give conduct twice, for pro not taking advantage when it was just a missed round.
Vote Placed by Enji 3 years ago
Enji
DanielleYYWTied
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Reasons for voting decision: YYW argued that the NSA does not have power beyond what is constitutionally permitted. He argues that this power has allowed the NSA to stop terrorist plots without harming American citizens or infringing upon their rights, and consequently Danielle's fears are unfounded. Since Danielle forfeited the debate after round 2, she never responded to YYW's arguments; arguments and conduct to YYW.