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NSA Surveillance

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/18/2013 Category: Politics
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 18,901 times Debate No: 38883
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (12)
Votes (1)





While I'm normally an avid LDer, occasionally I'll get interested in a PF topic, and this one is one of those topics. The topic is: The benefits of domestic surveillance by the NSA outweigh the harms. The rounds will be structured as follows:

Round One: Cases (no rebuttals in round one please)
Round Two: Rebuttals
Round Three: Rebuttals
Round Five: Final Focus

BOP is shared. No plans, "kritiks," or solvency arguments. Everything else is fair game. Please format your initial case as a typical PF speech. I thank my opponent in advance for accepting and I anticipate a great debate!


Liberty and security go hand-in-hand; one cannot exist without the other. Domestic surveillance, while a behavior that ought to be closely monitored, is nevertheless vital to maintaining a secure domestic environment. Because of this, I steadfastly AFFIRM that the benefits of domestic surveillance by the NSA outweigh the harms.

I will now briefly take time to define some key terms from the resolution in order to bring clarity to the round. All DEFINITIONS are from Merriam-Webster dictionary.

"Domestic" means "of or relating to one's own country." "Surveillance" denotes "the act of carefully watching someone or something especially in order to prevent or detect a crime." Thus the resolution is not asking us to examine surveillance as a general activity or to explore the NSA's actions as a whole. Rather, the resolution requires us to focus on a very narrow aspect of what goes on at the NSA--domestic surveillance.

"Outweigh" means "greater than in value or importance." Furthermore, "benefit" is a "good result," whereas a "harm" is "something that causes someone or something to be hurt, broken, made less valuable or successful." Because the resolution is asking us to directly compare benefits and harms, we should evaluate this topic from a cost-benefit perspective. Whichever path is most beneficial is the one we should prefer.

Therefore, it is my THESIS that domestic surveillance has net benefit when compared to its potential harms.

CONTENTION ONE: Surveillance is useful in combating domestic terror.

Fernando Reinares, a Professor of Sociology and Politics, writes, "Given the clandestine and unpredictable nature of terrorism...resources may not be effective unless they are accompanied by mechanisms for detecting and preventing future threats. Reliable intelligence is an essential tool. Experience shows that, as long as the other components function as they should, success in the state's counter-terrorism campaign is directly proportional to the emphasis placed on the gathering and analyzing of reliable information...when intelligence is insufficient or inadequate, the terrorist group...will not hesitate to exploit this advantage by escalating its campaign of insurgent violence. In 1976...the Italian Government decided to dismantle the special anti-terrorist units it had created only a few years earlier...Terrorist attacks, which until then had been diminishing in frequency, immediately began to pick up and did not ease again until the early 1980s."

John Carafano of the Heritage foundation adds, "At least 60 Islamist-inspired terrorist plots have been aimed at the U.S. since the 9/11 attacks. The overwhelming majority have been thwarted thanks to timely, operational intelligence about the threats. Congress should not go back to a pre-9/11 set of rules just to appeal to populist sentiment. Congress and the White House have an obligation to protect our liberties and to safeguard our security--in equal measure." Domestic surveillance therefore has real impacts on preventing terrorist attacks within a nation like the U.S.

CONTENTION TWO: The threat to privacy posed by domestic surveillance is incredibly small.

The U.K.'s Daily Mail reports, "the Internet carries 1,826 Petabytes of information per day. In its foreign intelligence mission, NSA touches about 1.6% of that"However, of the 1.6% of the data, only 0.025% is actually selected for review. The net effect is that NSA analysts look at 0.00004% of the world's traffic in conducting their mission--that's less than one part in a million. Put another way, if a standard basketball court represented the global communications environment, NSA's total collection would be represented by an area smaller than a dime on that basketball court." As Security expert Sir David Osmund notes, what the U.S. and other states need "is the possibility of accessing the communications of the terrorists...But those communications are all mixed up with everyone else's communications...So you have to have a powerful capability to find the small amount that you are looking for. But it doesn't mean that the state is reading everyone's emails, nor would that conceivably be feasible."

Furthermore, there is oversight of the NSA designed to prevent egregious oversteps of authority. The Las Vegas Sun newspaper states, the NSA "is subject to oversight by both Congress and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. If the effort were being operated without due regard for privacy, the other branches of government could push back. For the most part, they apparently have approved of what's gone on." U.S. Deputy Attorney-General James Cole testified that domestic surveillance is not "a program that has been hidden away or off the books. In fact, all three branches of government play a significant role in the oversight...the judiciary, through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court plays a role...The executive branch conducts extensive internal reviews to ensure compliance. And Congress passes the laws, oversees our implementation of those laws, and determines whether or not the current laws should be reauthorized and in what form."

Thus, because the benefits of the NSA's domestic surveillance outweigh the harms, I strongly affirm.


1. Carafano: (Vice President for Defense and Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation think-tank) 2013.
2. Cole:; (U.S. Deputy Attorney-General) 2013.
3. Daily Mail: 2013.
4. Las Vegas Sun: 2013.
5. Osmund: (Former Head of GCHQ, Britain"s Equivalent of NSA.) 2013.
6. Reinares: (Senior Analyst on International Terrorism, Elcano Royal Institute, and Professor of Political Science, King Juan Carlos University, Madrid) 2004.


Over the past few months it has come to the public's attention that the NSA has been gathering as much information as it can possibly get from US citizens by means that are controversial and that are tiptoeing on the edges of what is legal. In that context I will provide proof that the current US domestic surveillance is a tool that is inefficient, bloated and detrimental for the long term well being of the US democracy. To do that I will use opinions and analysis that are not my own, but are those of the security expert Bruce Schneier.

One way to view the effectiveness of surveillance is to glean what the systems have done for the prevention of terrorist attacks against the US. The way to do something with the enormous amounts of data that has been collected is to use it to prevent actual attack plots in action. But that is not possible because of too much information available to sift through. The 'connect the dots' [1] metaphor is used by mister Schneier to show that when a terrorist attack has already happened the events in the database of security reports can easily be correlated. That is not so easy before the actual attack because there are so many behaviors and situations that could solicit attention that the investigators cannot decide which one is going to require actual investigators going in the field to look further into it. This has actually happened in the 9/11 attacks and other similar attacks where the investigators went back and found out that they had been tracking the attackers. Too many dots and none are numbered.

The way to actually be successful in catching terrorists is to have investigators that are very well trained for the job using the existing legal framework[2]. In the crazy aftermath of the 9/11 attacks airline security has been hugely increased in ways that are not necessarily effective. The same can be said about NSA's insistence on having domestic surveillance. But police has been particularly effective in stopping terrorist plots by using regular investigative means. There is a need to keep doing the same type of work that was in place before 9/11 better supported by the political leaders by more funding and doing less of something new and shiny. All else, including domestic unconstrained surveillance, is security theater that makes people only feel secure without any added actual security[3].

To understand why the US constitution and legal system is such that government has restricted power we have to go back to basics. The Founding Fathers of the United Stated recognized the problems of the autocratic governments from Europe that drove them across an ocean in the first place. The same kind of bad behavior can be seen in the US in the present with government and corporations helping each other to betray people that are US citizens and customers[4]. Those same restrictions that were in place from the beginning are working to restrict some of that insatiable wish of the two parties to not act in a moral and ethical way. That is true even for the laws passed through Congress in the wake of 9/11. The definition of terrorism in those laws has been used to convict of terrorism a 82 years old nun participating at an antinuclear protes, where the worst thing she has done was cutting a barbed wire and spraying messages on a wall[5].

The use of private corporation data by government is bad enough. The attempt by NSA and others to make the surveillance requirement paramount will have effects on day to day living[6]. The need to make surveillance possible will create a situation where all technology needs to provides trackability. That has not gone well in the case of the Great Firewall of China with security problems in the actual tracking software. To quote mister Schneier himself: 'It's bad civic hygiene to build technologies that could someday be used to facilitate a police state'.

[3] 19:11 to end
[4] 24:40 to 26.25
Debate Round No. 1


I will take this opportunity to thank Con for joining in this debate. I will use this speech to rebut Con's case, point-by-point.


Point One: Con asserts that there is simply too much information out there to sift through effectively. Yet, only about .00004% of the internet's content is reviewed by the NSA--this is less than one part per million. [1] Essentially what the NSA is doing is putting the information through a sieve; it does not retain most of the information it views, but it has to analyze a lot of raw data to find those nuggets of information that could be useful. In fact, the connect-the-dots metaphor that Con is using is not actually the best metaphor to use. The NSA's intelligence network, which does do some connecting dots, also analyzes traffic between known terrorists and individuals in the U.S. In this case, connecting-the-dots is not necessary, because the traffic is known to be directly linked to terrorists, and therefore, can prove invaluable to security experts. Finally, the example of 9/11 is inapt for the claim Con is making. 9/11 was a inter-agency failing, not an INTRA-agency failing. In the case of 9/11, many disparate agencies from the DIA to the NSA all had information, but, because they failed to share their information, they were unable to connect-the-dots. [2, 3] If the information were focused more within a specific agency, the data-sharing problems would not arise, and so it would be easier to connect-the-dots. In this way, Con's own analysis fails.

Point Two: Con essentially offers a plan that training and hiring better investigators would solve the problem better than NSA domestic surveillance. To quote Con's own source: "we cannot neglect the feeling of security, because it's how we collectively overcome the psychological damage that terrorism causes. It's not security theater we need, it's direct appeals to our feelings." [4] What Schneier is arguing in this piece is that "spying" laws fail, because they operate behind the scenes. In fact, what is needed, according to Schneier, is a more visible security effort. It would seem, that under this analysis, that the additional hassles at the airport are actually good, despite Con's protestations. I would counter that it is not more visible security precautions that we need, but more effective behind-the-scenes efforts. Visibility makes it easy for terrorists to scrutinize our security efforts, whereas, if things are less then visible, it becomes harder for terrorists to adapt and react to our security strategies. Moreover, traditional investigators often rely on research conducted by intelligence-gathering organizations, and even then, they do not have the resources that the NSA does. Ultimately, having the NSA working to promote safety will bring experts and materiel to bear on the issue that otherwise would not be available, and thus, NSA surveillance is beneficial.

Point Three: Con makes some Constitutionality arguments here. Firstly, this debate is one of cost-benefit-analysis, and therefore this debate should not be weighed under a legality calculus, but a benefit calculus. Moreover, I would cross-apply my second contention here which speaks directly to the constitutional oversight mechanisms in place that help to keep the NSA in check. And, until the laws governing the NSA are nullified by the Supreme Court, the NSA is acting constitutionally. In addendum, we are not debating how to define terrorism, we are debating whether surveillance is useful in combatting it. The nun example is, consequently, not topical to the debate. I can agree that the definition of terror should be more stringent, while still believing the NSA's actions to be justifiable. Lastly, as to Cons assertion that "'it's bad civic hygiene to build technologies that could someday be used to facilitate a police state'," there are many such technologies or advancements already in existence. For example, WMDs, NBCs, CCTV, and more. All of these technologies have the potential to be disastrous for liberty, but as long as they are vigorously regulated, they can be employed constructively. It is not the technologies themselves that should be at issue, rather it is the method of oversight.

Final Notes: Con relies entirely on one source to makes his case, whereas I pull from a variety of experts with concurring opinions to build my arguments. Additionally, much of my case can be cross-applied to Con's. For example, my C1 addresses Con's points about the efficacy of the NSA, and my C2 counters the assertions that there is a lack of checks levied on the NSA's power.

With that, I look forward to Con's next speech.


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Mister Fernando Reinares's opinions are that there is a need of gathering intelligence on terrorist organizations to be effective in combating them and that for that purpose there is a need to have specialized branches of law enforcement. There is no distinction in bsh1's use of that opinion between sources of the information needed to be gathered or special powers that need to be given to anti-terror units to circumvent normal privacy provisions in the law. Therefore the use of complaints from citizens as starting points for intelligence gathering as opposed to complete recording of all conversations are useful for what mister Reinares had in mind. Having highly trained law enforcement branches to act on that classically gathered information is also quite enough for mister Reinares's analysis. No need to swim in an ocean of information that is useless because of inefficiency and give branches of law enforcement special powers to circumvent privacy laws to reach the security end point that mister Reinared had in mind.

Mister John Carafano is the vice president of the conservative think tank organization named The Heritage Foundation[1]. In the Wikipedia page about the foundation we find out that it provided many ideas from which Ronald Reagan drew to form his policy during his presidency. We also find out that the same think tank has been accused by Sen. Orrin Hatch to be wrong about urging legislators not to vote for the Senate budget compromise. The conclusion is that The Heritage Foundation is an entity involved in politics and not objective research as even a fellow republican senator as mister Hatch finds it to be.

Regarding U.K.'s Daily Mail, I find that it has just reprinted an NSA press release instead of finding the press release to be a series of thrust worthy facts. Furthermore there is a minimal amount of capability for the NSA employees to do investigation on the material that NSA has gathered. The NSA's admission that it only sifts through small percentages of the intelligence that it captures shows that the captured information can be too much of a good thing. Therefore we see the dots collecting and gathering dust in the NSA cloud waiting to be connected by analysts that have too much info on their hands as it stands. That is not even counting the same analysts interest in sifting through special matters like their spouse's whereabouts and communications[3]. That is When they are not doing something more[4].

I find it odd to use mister David Osmond's commentary on the matter since he is the former director of the British equivalent of the NSA. Therefore he is politically involved in the debate that has ensued in the press. And we find a second opposing opinion in that same BBC article that quotes mister Osmond that has the same general philosophy of what mister Schneier's opinions have been in the matter over the many blog posts that I have read over time. No need to give law enforcement special powers to defeat terrorist plots they are not efficient against in the first place.

Finally we go to the type of oversight that the US presidency and the Congress claim is in place to protect the human rights of the citizens. To see what this is all about I would go to an interview of mister Bruce Schneier that appeared on a security related website and pick the following quote: 'We hear about secret rulings made by secret judges in secret courts. Just this past week we heard about a ruling by a secret judge that was so secret that she couldn"t tell the other secret judges about the secret ruling. These things feel fundamentally un-American.' Which is in the same vein with the secret definition of common words that the NSA has used to present to the public what it does[6]. So no public oversight of what is claimed to be a court of law and no visibility in how the people appointed to be judges got there or perform in their duties in their post. A far cry from the way the usual judicial system works with the Supreme Court as the final and public applicant of justice.

[4] see the quote 'who else might have stolen secrets before Snowden'
Debate Round No. 2


I will use this round to defend my own case.


Extend my argument that this debate focuses solely on one, limited aspect of what goes on at the NSA. Everything outside of that is not topical to this debate. This point was dropped by Con.

Extend my argument that this debate MUST be evaluated from a cost-benefit standpoint. This also goes unchallenged by Con.


Firstly, Con never contests Reinares's opinion that intelligence-gathering is vital for internal security. Extend this point. Con's only complaint here is that the NSA goes about this crucial mission in an inappropriate and ineffective way. Yet, local authorities do not have the resources, manpower, or raw materiel that the NSA does. They are often unable, on their own, to do the investigative work that the NSA can, and so they NEED the NSA to play a supporting role. This requires some domestic surveillance on the part of the NSA. Moreover, by collecting data that may be invaluable to law enforcement, when investigators do need leads, there is a repository of information available that they can cross-reference with their own findings in order to supplement and build on their existing evidence.

Additionally, Con drops the example Reinares's provided of Italy. Italy already has traditional investigators, yet, when it curtailed its domestic counterterrorism surveillance, it actually saw an uptick in terroristic violence. This goes to show that traditional investigation alone is insufficient, particularly in the context of terrorism. Terrorists may have contacts in the U.S., making it not just an issue for U.S. authorities, but an issue for a more globally competent authority. That authority is the NSA, as it can surveil not just the terrorists abroad, but the contacts at home.

As for Carafano, his evidence is corroborated by Gen. Alexander, who "told a House committee Tuesday that more than 50 terror threats throughout the world have been disrupted with the assistance of two secret surveillance programs that were recently disclosed by former defense contractor Edward Snowden." [1] Taken alone, these reports each might be dubious at best. But one is an outside evaluation based on available evidence conducted independently of the NSA, and one is the NSA's own internal analysis. The fact that the numbers are so close reinforces the validity of both findings. Two separate reports reached similar conclusions. Additionally, Dr. Carafano is a highly qualified expert, just because he has opinions does not obviate this fact. Experts, like Schneier and Carafano, can have biases, one against and one for the motion, but still have important arguments to bring to the table. More generally though, Con did admit that intelligence-gathering was still key to domestic security, so regardless of how many attacks the NSA prevents, we can still acknowledge that having intelligence is a worthwhile pursuit, even if we disagree on how to acquire that information.


As for the Daily Mail evidence, it is corroborated by analysis done by Ars Technica. Also, I have 3 responses to Con's assertion that connecting-the-dots is "too much of a good thing." Firstly, I would rather have too much of a good thing, than too little. Secondly, the Carafano evidence attests to the fact that clearly some of this evidence is being put to good use. Thirdly, the connecting the dots analogy is imprecise, and does not really apply here. The NSA isn't randomly going out a pulling data from random people, it's pulling information for those individuals and groups that it has a reasonable suspicion might be involved in terrorist activities. So, it's less about making connections, because the connections have already been found. Rather, its about learning from those connections already in place. This is evidenced by the following: "the government may not eavesdrop on anyone's phone calls or record anything participants say. All it can do is collect phone numbers making and receiving certain calls, as well as the date, time, and duration of each call--the so called 'metadata.'...'the Government is prohibited...from indiscriminately sifting through the data. The database may only be queried for intelligence purposes by NSA analysts where there is a reasonable, articulable suspicion, based on specific facts.' If the government wants to take a closer look, any data gleaned must be associated with people or phone numbers already identified and approved by...the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. In 2012...the court approved fewer than 300 'query terms'." [2]

As for Con's assertions that NSA analysts flagrantly abuse their powers, this can be easily disproved by Con's own sources. Only about one person a year violates these types of protocols, according to Con's source. And, what is more, the individuals are often caught by the agency's own mandatory polygraphs, which shows that the NSA is effectively policing its own employees. [3] In sum, such violations are exceedingly rare, and swiftly dealt with.

Yes, Sir David Osmond is the former director of GCHQ, but I would argue that makes him an ideal expert witness. Few people have the type of insight to the system that he has. Furthermore, he is no longer an employee of GCHQ, and so he is free to voice his own opinions. Con further asserts that law enforcement doesn't need special powers to combat terrorism, but yet he FAILS to warrant this assertion.

Con argues, citing Schneier, that the FISA court is too secret to be legitimate. Con writes that this is "a far cry from the way the usual judicial system works." Yet, this is NOT USUAL. FISA is dealing with highly classified and sensitive information that has wide-ranging repercussions on this nation's national security and defense capabilities. These are much higher stakes than the "usual," mundane criminal trial. Therefore, it is logical that some degree of secrecy be employed to prevent greater harms to that nation. But, by the same token, secrecy does not imply a lack of accountability. Simply because the average Joe is unaware of what's going on, does not mean that the courts and the legislators are not checking executive overreach behind the scenes. And, insofar as a lack oversight is Con's only objection to my point here, Con misses the crux of my argument: all branches are included, the executive is not unconstrained.

Lastly, Con chastises me for using conservatives, but yet he uses the liberal Slate [4, 5] and the HuffPost, which have anti-surveillance biases.


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Regarding pro's first rebuttal round. I thought we were debating the way the US intelligence agencies started operating after 9/11 when fear of terrorist attacks spiked. I have no problem with an agency monitoring potential terrorist threats on US soil. Just that hauling all the communications of all the people would be inefficient to achieve that. Bad consequences for civil liberties in tow. And pressure to restrict other forms of law enforcement when we have the big database in place. See another one of Schneier's blog posts about the US intelligence on the syrian chemical attack that lead to no preventive action and some further analysis including the quote: 'The NSA missed the Boston Marathon bombers, even though the suspects left a really sloppy Internet trail and the older brother was on the terrorist watch list'. And that was after 9/11 sparked reorganization.

Point 2 of bsh1's first rebuttal concludes that people need not know the details of NSA surveillance because that would make it inefficient to adapting terrorists. Apart from most terrorist threats having been derailed with classical methods as in [1], we give a branch of law enforcement the power to neglect civil liberties.

Point 3 of the first rebuttal starts by driving civil liberties restrictions out of the cost side of a cost-benefit analysis, which I find odd, concluding that I haven't touched the point. But when we come to the definition of terrorism and the nun accused of terrorism we find that not only 9/11 laws have created the possibility of civil liberties being restricted, but that such a situation is actually pursued by the people in positions of power. Security failings at the nuclear plant transferred to protesters by broadly using the laws targeting terrorists. And that costs society in general.

As for the final note on failing to use more than one source I would go to the following comment on Plato by Alfred North Whitehead: 'European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato'. One source greater than all the other. Mister Schneier is a scientist that has started his career as a security researcher analysing IT systems and their use. The broad security analysis that he has made consists of an outgrowth to that. And there are no incentives for him to have a political opinion other than what would constitute a benefit for the entire society.

Regarding pro's second rebuttal round. We find civil liberties restrictions claimed to not be costs of NSA surveillance once again. I also state once again that mister Reinares's opinion was based on classical intelligence gathering and not extreme hauling of all the information.

I repeat to say I thought we were debating post 9/11 mass surveillance only. Where leads for combating crimes come from individually warranted surveillance started by reports from affected citizens. There is nothing wrong with centralising local police records created from classical information gathering where surveillance of potential criminals of terrorists comes with supervision of the judicial system. I also do not know of any mass surveillance done in Italy that would parallel what it has recently transpired in the media that NSA has been doing on US citizens for some time after 9/11.

Mister Carafano and mister Alexander are one most interested and a one very interested person in the outcome of the media debate about mass surveillance. I have learned from Wikipedia that mister Carafano has been a high ranking member of the US Army[3]. Therefore he has risen to The Heritage Foundation director position from being an insider of the government. I find his publicly expressed positions on contentious matters between the government and the public not objective. Also in [4] he has not made a great stand for surveillance when confronted with the NSA lies in Congress. [4] is also found a source for why general warrants were unwanted by th US Founding Fathers drafting the constitution. In the same [4] source we find two congressmen to be clashing on weather the 50 foiled terrorist plots were real or not. So much for bsh1's sources.

Regarding the second contention. I was not attacking the numbers from NSA's own analysis. It was just not painting a fair picture of the amount of surveillance and the amount of data that being stored. This is in my mind similar to a non denial denial. Put out low sounding figures to create the impression that surveillance is small to someone not paying attention.

I have just contended that resources are thrown at an inefficient mass information gathering activity. It will also put pressure on the othe terrorist investigation activities because of the perception that there is money well spent to do intelligence gathering. So what are the fixed dots to start a reasonable connect the dots activity?

The british troops doing searches by using general warrants in [4] were mandated by law to do so. Therefore no need to claim that what is happening with the NSA mass surveillance is any different because of changed landscape between now and then. Redcoats stealing and doing other bad stuff is just as wrong as spying on spouses or even worse things that have not transpired.

Repeat after me: Sir David Osmond being politically involved in the matter is a closed case or vote against me.

Regarding FISA dealing with special secret info and having good oversight. The situation in [4] applies here as well. Nothing unlawful about the way redcoats were executing most search warrant mandated activities. And the NSA has long had a problem overclassifying information[5]. Therefore many issues levied as being problems of national security may be problems of national emberasement in fact. No facing the facts when you define things as secret.

There is nothing wrong in general with consevatives. The liberals may be as bad. What I was saying is that The Heritage Foundation is not independent. I used to show that it is very politically involved in a matter that is quite different. I also used the liberal Slate magazine to show how NSA's public communication is misinforming. I my mind NSA using special definitions of common words to twist the thruth is fact and not opinion. Facts are not dependent on the political bias of the publication. Look at Schneier for same tactics by private companies[6]: 'Google and Facebook insist that the NSA has no "direct access" to their servers. Of course not; the smart way for the NSA to get all the data is through sniffers. Apple says it's never heard of PRISM. Of course not; that's the internal name of the NSA database.' The NSA is just using misinformation on a grander scale.

[4] 4:46 to 7:10
Debate Round No. 3


I thank Con for what has so far proven to be a vigorous and enjoyable debate. I will now rebut Con's case, and then defend my own.


Point 1: Con makes a big concession here, stating, "I have no problem with an agency monitoring potential terrorist threats on US soil." Therefore, we can take it that Con does not contest the NSA's legal right to conduct domestic anti-terrorism surveillance. Con drops the evidence I offered that the NSA reviews only .00004% of all internet activity. It retains even less. Therefore, we're talking about a relatively selective amount of data, which it is not that hard/inefficient to sift through. Moreover, Con DROPS that the connect-the-dots metaphor is a bad one, because much of the traffic that the NSA is viewing is already linked to terrorists--so, many dots actually need to be connected. Con also DROPS that 9/11 was an interagency failing, not an intra-agency failing, and therefore, by putting one agency in charge of the majority of the surveillance activity, we can avoid the problems associated with 9/11. The NSA can then share information other agencies may need. The use of the NSA as the primary tool does not mean that cooperation with other law enforcement groups will cease. Finally, Con offers this example of the Boston Marathon, but this is only one example. The NSA is human, it will fail every now and then. That does not mean that it is not generating NET benefit. Ultimately, it is the terrorist attacks that we never here of because they never come to fruition that justify the NSA's actions.

Point 2: Con DROPS that secrecy is needed to prevent terrorists from adapting to our security strategies. Con only argues that traditional investigators are more effective. This ignores several arguments I gave earlier: (1) traditional investigators often rely on intel from the NSA, (2) the NSA has more resources, and (3) traditional forces are confined to U.S. borders. Moreover, if terrorists are planning an attack outside of the country, traditional investigators won't have access to the witnesses and evidence because they cannot go abroad to look. The NSA has the resources and the power to do what they cannot. All of these points go UNADDRESSED. As for Con's unwarranted comment about a loss of liberties, I will show that the NSA has effective oversight, which protects the liberties of citizens.

Point 3: Con misconstrues my argument here. Losses of liberties are costs--though the NSA is heavily overseen. My argument was that the legality and constitutionality of the NSA's actions is irrelevant. Whether the NSA is acting constitutionally has no relevance on whether the NSA is generating net benefits. Besides, something can be unconstitutional without violating specific rights. Therefore, my point can be extended. Additionally, Con basically concedes that domestic surveillance is not inherently illegal, and Con DROPS my assertion that "until the laws governing the NSA are nullified by the Supreme Court, the NSA is acting constitutionally." Con also DROPS that the nun example is a non-unique piece of offense. I ALSO want a stricter definition of terrorism, but that does not preclude me from saying that the benefits of domestic surveillance outweigh the harms. Finally, Con DROPS that there are already many technologies that could infringe liberty, like CCTV in the UK, which videorecords thousands of regular people every day. But, with proper regulation, this technology has become useful to society. Therefore, simply because something has the potential to be invasive or costly does not necessarily mean that it cannot be safely used. With proper oversight, domestic surveillance by the NSA can be--and is--incredibly beneficial.

Sources: Con acknowledges most of his arguments are based on one source. This is risky because if Schneier has a personal bias, has conducted faulty research, or is somehow providing inaccurate evidence, there is little evidence offered by Con to corroborate Schneier's positions.


Definitions: All of these were extend earlier. They are the framework for this round.

Contention One: Remember that earlier in this debate Con DROPPED the following: that "intelligence-gathering is vital for internet security." In this last round, Con DROPS that NSA surveillance creates, "a repository of information order to supplement and build on [traditional investigators'] existing evidence." Con also DROPS that " terrorists may have contacts in the U.S., making it not just an issue for U.S. authorities, but an issue for a more globally competent authority. That authority is the NSA." Con's only attack here is a new argument that Reinares is not up-to-date with modern NSA activities; yet, this is why I have other evidence and analysis to corroborate my points. Even so, the evidence is still logical, and makes sense in today's environment as it did 9 years ago, which was not all that far off.

We are debating post-9/11 surveillance. The Reinares evidence is from 2004, and so is valid. The Italy example is there to illustrate that an intelligence agency surveilling both domestic and foreign targets is a necessary supplement to traditional methods, without which, traditional investigators would be unable to cope. Con NEVER rebuts these extrapolations I draw from Italy; extend them.

Being a member of the army does not mean one is a government pawn. Servicemen have their own opinions of the government just as we do. Con also solely focuses on Carafano, barely mentioning Alexander, the person in the best position to give information on this topic. Con also drops that these independent analyses are mutually reinforcing. Finally, his source No. 4 is a libertarian columnist [1] who is against any increase in government power. Con's own source is biased.

Contention Two: Con agrees that my numbers are correct. The "fixed dots" are the known terrorists that the NSA is monitoring. Extend the DROPPED CS Monitor evidence--surveillance is not indiscriminate or unreasonable. Con DROPS that employee misconduct is exceedingly rare. Con DROPS the Osmond is now free to say what he wants, and that he is highly qualified to speak on this issue.

Con says that the NSA overclassifies, but the secrecy of FISA is necessary because there are MANY genuine instances where secrecy is required. Moreover, Con DROPS that secrecy necessarily precludes oversight. Therefore, by keeping proceedings secret, we prevent potential revelations of critical national security intel without preventing effective oversight. It's a win-win. Con also DROPS that when dealing with classified information, we're not dealing with the "usual judicial system." Con DROPS my Cole evidence, which also attests to the presence of oversights and checks on the NSA's power.

Con's HuffPost and Slate sources oppose the NSA's actions. Con tries to obfuscate this, but it doesn't change that fact.



1 -


I will start some point by point analysis of bsh1's latest argument, using points I have already made.

Regarding monitoring terrorist threats, I think it is wrong and inefficient to do so by mass surveillance. So no concession here.

Regarding .00004% of data being sifted through. Redcoats with general warants weren't going through many houses themselves. So mabe US should reverse the Constitution to allow general warrants as well.

Regarding connect the dots. I believe bsh1 is in misunderstanding of basic capabilities of what the computer systems in place at NSA are capable of doing. They store communications based on keywords like 'bomb'. And later they search for names like 'Abdul' when there is a suspicion on Abdul. Similar to storing all the Google results for 'Nintendo' and then looking for 'Peach'. But articles on Peach may not have Nintendo in them and Peach may also be the nickname of a real person on twitter. So you have false positives, false negatives and all manner of other problems. Mister Schneier has an understanding of IT by education and research. So do I. And so does the NSA that built the system and then expects it to be viewed as flawless. When judging the connect the dots metaphor pro's latest statements make me think that he does not have a basic understanding of what that metaphor describes.

Regarding no sharing vs sharing of information. My round 3 [4] source shows that the congressmen themselves are in disagreement about how the newly reformed agencies are able to use mass surveillance to counter terrorist threats.

Regarding bsh1's point2: I was under the impression that this debate is about mass surveillance on US soil and not abroad. I was not debating foreign mass surveillance, imoral but mandated by law.

Regarding benefits of NSA surveillance: I urge bsh1 to study carefully the connect the dots metaphor in mister Schneier's blog posts to gain insight in how mass surveillance is inefficient.

Regarding concession on my part that mass NSA surveillance on US soil is legal: if comparing the matter to the redcoats general warrants suggests legality.

Regarding legality of CCTV's in UK. Domestic NSA surveillance came to public attention from a whistleblower.

Regarding bias: bsh1's sources are biased or misused. And bsh1 gives no details of why mister Schneier should be biased.

Let us go to pro's case in bsh1's last argument.

Regarding intelligence gathering being vital for internet security. Mass surveillance is not the only means to gather intelligence so there was no point to drop there.

Regarding the repository of information and terrorists contacts in the US. Going through the repository of mass surveillance information connect the dots style I have contended to be inefficient and that is the tool bsh1 would have US use to track foreign terrorists on US soil, infringing on US citizens rights in the process.

Regarding mister Reinares. I fail to see how his european born expertise was built on mass surveillance and how benefits of classical intelligence gathering that he preached could be constructed to support mass surveillance.

Regarding bias of misters Alexander and Carafano. Mister Alexander is politically involved or vote against me version 2.0. And I was clear in showing that The Heritage Foundation is more or less radical in it's conservative political views.

Regarding some numbers on an NSA released paper. bsh1 fails to convince me that the analysis of that numbers was done outside of NSA and/or with an objective point of view. Therefore not combating the numbers on my part is harmless.

Regarding my round 3 source [4]. bsh1 fails to see how I have not used the show host's opinions in my contention. Mister Carafano's words, bsh1's own source, and another person's words that in his own words was an constitutional expert is what I have used from that video as opinions.

Regarding secrets that cannot be revealed. Redcoats rummaging about colonial homes were free to have a secret way of choosing the houses they were going to search.

Regarding HuffingtonPost and Slate from which I used facts and not opinions. Using facts from people with opinions apparently means embroidering the facts with the opinions.
Debate Round No. 4


I thank Gandalf_123 for a great debate! In this round I will provide a line-by-line rebuttal of round 4 going from Con's Case to Pro's Case. Then, I shall present voting issues.


Point 1: Con's core argument here is that the NSA's actions are inefficient, but yet Con concedes that the NSA is only reviewing .00004% of data, and is retaining even LESS. This data is highly selective and not that hard for an agency with such resources as the NSA to manage. Therefore, it is not inefficient. Con DROPS this arguments. His only rebuttal to this was an argument about Redcoats, which has nothing to do with disputing the efficiency of the system. The small amount of information retained means that it is relatively easy to deal with. Extend my argument as it has gone entirely un-rebutted. Don't let Con make new arguments here, or this round, as I will have no chance to respond.

Regarding the connecting-the-dots analogy, Cons new argument is a gross oversimplification of the point. There are ways to conduct advanced searches and to narrow information down by criteria. Moreover, the NSA, according to info leaked by Snowden, constructs profiles of terrorists and their associates that act as the "fixed dots" that can be used to ease the intelligence-analysis process. Thus, as I said last round, much of the intel the "NSA is viewing is already linked to terrorists--so, many dots actually need to be connected." This is one reason to reject Con's objection. The next reason to reject Con's objection is that this is a new argument. He had completely dropped this point earlier in the debate, and I extended it. As his point is new, it shouldn't be evaluated.

Con DROPS that it is better to centralize intelligence-gathering efforts into one agency in order to avoid repeats of 9/11. This avoids any issues that might arise from a lack of information-sharing. Con also DROPS the Boston Marathon example I rebutted. Don't let Con make new arguments against these points either.

Point 2: In his last speech, Con never even attempts to rebut the fact that traditional police and investigative forces FAIL. The following points are all DROPPED: "(1) traditional investigators often rely on intel from the NSA, (2) the NSA has more resources, and (3) traditional forces are confined to U.S. borders." Don't allow Con to make illicit, new arguments against these points. Con's only argument here is that the topic is about "domestic surveillance," but my argument is that terrorists operate across borders, so it is important to cross-reference domestic intel with foreign intel to effectively analyze terrorist groups. Only the NSA has this type of cross-border reach. This argument was TOTALLY UNREBUTTED by Con.

Point 3: Con has DROPPED my many arguments about the legality of the NSA's actions. At this point, therefore, Con can no longer contest the constitutionality or legality of the NSA's actions. Con DROPPED that the nun example was non-unique offense. Con cannot offer any new arguments to rebut these points at this time. Regarding CCTV, Con mentions that the NSA's program was exposed by a whistleblower. This misses the point of my example, which was that, if regulated, invasive programs can be used safely and with NET benefit. Moreover, FISA and Congress were reasonably aware of PRISM, even if the general populace was not. So, there was still oversight before PRISM's exposure. Secrecy does not imply a lack of checks.

Sources: Con NEVER REBUTS my point that using one source "is risky because if Schneier...has conducted faulty research, or is somehow providing inaccurate evidence, there is little evidence offered by Con to corroborate Schneier's positions." Don't permit him to make new arguments here. Ultimately, no academic or student could present a research paper with only one source because this is a very flimsy evidentiary foundation. Con desperately need, and lacks, supporting sources in his case to verify his, and Schneier's assertions. Prefer my diverse evidence to his narrow, liberally-biased sources.


C1: We agree that intel must be gathered, we differ in how best to gather it. Con conceded the legality of the NSA's actions through dropping my arguments; moreover, this is a debate about the NSA's actions, not the laws governing those actions. Therefore, if Con is concerned about rights violations, he should quarrel with the laws, but the actions themselves maximize benefits and are legal. Finally, he gives us no way to weigh these nebulous rights violations against the benefits I will show.

Regarding Reinares, his analysis was not just of European programs but also of the post-9/11 U.S. I quote his example of Italy, but that is hardly the only area of his vast security expertise. Con also NEVER REBUTS that, as shown in Italy, " an intelligence agency surveilling both domestic and foreign targets is a necessary supplement to traditional methods, without which, traditional investigators would be unable to cope." Don't let him make new arguments against this.

Regarding Carafano and Alexander, Con DROPS that their independent analyses are mutually reinforcing. Nevertheless, Con offers no competing evidence regarding how many plots the NSA foiled. Thus, as I am the only one presenting evidence about this, you should default to my sources.

C2: Con agreed to the numbers, and is now contesting them--that's unfair. As Con said in round three "I was not attacking the numbers" for that analysis. Therefore, KEEP my numbers, because Con originally accepted them. Con DROPPED my CS Monitor evidence showing that surveillance is not "indiscriminate or unreasonable," which beats back Con's arguments about potential rights violations by the NSA. Con also DROPPED the rarity of employee misconduct. This is untouchable Pro offense.

As for the need for secrecy with FISA, Con makes a non-argument here. There are legitimate security concerns, an issues Con never disputes, that necessitate secrecy. Moreover, secrecy does not mean a lack of internal and inter-branch oversight. Con DROPPED this, extend it. The Cole evidence was NEVER REBUTTED too.


1 - Traditional Investigators/Police fail. They lack the resources of the NSA, they rely on intel from the NSA, and they lack the ability to cross-reference international information like the NSA. Additionally, the Italy example demonstrates a need for a domestic intelligence agency to supplement normal police forces. Thus, the NSA is NEEDED b/c there is no viable alternative.

2 - It is best to condense intel-gathering into one agency as I showed earlier.

3 - The NSA isn't abusing power. the UNREBUTTED Cole evidence, as well as the utility of the FISA courts, show that oversight is occurring. The CS Monitor's UNCONTESTED evidence shows that the NSA is not acting arbitrarily. Con also concedes the legality of the NSA's actions.

For these reasons, the benefits of domestic surveillance surely outweigh the harms. Please VOTE PRO! Thanks!


I believe I have made a good case proving the inefficiency and great cost to society from the mass surveillance by intelligence agencies on US soil. Having a huge amount of resources blocked in data collection and data mining that does not bring comparative results is wrong. So is the gross limitation of civil liberties practiced on a grand scale, sometimes in ways that are not even apparent to the general public.

We also have bsh1's contentions based on analysis that is misused or sources that are biased by having a political involvement. Not to mention a non specific feeling of mistrust that he would like voters to have of my principal source, mister Schneier, who is actually an expert in security matters and therefore has the ability to understand the issues at hand when dealing with IT systems, people involved in secret information handling and so on.

Therefore I would like voters that have read the arguments in this debate to vote for con's case in the matter.

Thank you and may the more sensible arguments win!
Debate Round No. 5
12 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Gandalf_123 4 years ago
So few votes, vote people!
Posted by bsh1 4 years ago
@King - thanks for your interest and for your comment!
Posted by KingDebater369 4 years ago
I just discovered this website recently, and you guys seem yo both be debating well! I just decided to comment so you know there is someone that is actually enjoying your debate!
Posted by Gandalf_123 4 years ago
Oops I was off by one hour.
Posted by bsh1 4 years ago
Oh! Sorry for the oversight--round 4 should consist of more rebuttals.
Posted by Gandalf_123 4 years ago
You went round 1,2,3,5. Where is 4? Mabe you wanted 4 rounds but you put 5?
Posted by bsh1 4 years ago
I hope this was helpful. I look forward to seeing your case!
Posted by bsh1 4 years ago
Round four is a summation of the arguments to focus the round. You should explain why you have won. Don't provide any new arguments or any new evidence at this point.
Posted by bsh1 4 years ago
A kritk is attacking the topic itself. For example, the argument that the NSA does not conduct domestic surveillance is an attack upon a core premise of the resolution, and therefore is a kritik.

A plan is probably not likely in this debate, but it's when you suggest a specific plan to solve a problem. For example, we can solve the problem of domestic surveillance by boosting e-security, would be a plan.
Posted by Gandalf_123 4 years ago
Also what is going on with round 4?
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by LtCmdrData 4 years ago
Agreed with before the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Agreed with after the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: Yo dudes! Okay, full disclosure before I vote--I am voting on this debate b/c I was asked to do so by bsh1 in exchange for him voting on my debate. However, I will not vote for bsh1 unless I am like positive that he actually won. So, my actually RFD (I bet you were wondering how long it would take to get to it) is as follows: 1. Con makes several important drops which harm his plan text; namely, that traditional investigators fail without surveillance help. 2. bsh1's 2nd voter also shows the need for one agency to be doing all this. Taken in tandem, these points show that 1. surveillance is needed, and 2. one agency must do it. The only agency that can meet this job is, Pro argues, the NSA. So, at this point I'm basically left voting Pro. Nice--but frankly way too long--debate. I felt both sides had many issues with their sources, and I ended up not trusting any of 'em. Con needed a more in-depth 5th round. Anywho: args to Pro, s/g tied, sources tied, conduct tied. That's all folks...