The Instigator
Abunai
Pro (for)
Winning
5 Points
The Contender
MyDinosaurHands
Con (against)
Losing
0 Points

Novice Tournament Finals: NSA Spying is Beneficial to the US.

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 2 votes the winner is...
Abunai
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/9/2014 Category: Politics
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,549 times Debate No: 48737
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (0)
Votes (2)

 

Abunai

Pro

Hello. This will be the third and final round of TUF's Novice Tournament, long awaited.


Full Resolve: NSA Spying is, on a balance, a benefit to the United States.


I will be arguing in favor of this resolution, while my opponent, MyDinosaurHands, will attempt to negate it. The burden of proof will be shared in this debate.


The following definitons will be used:

NSA - The United States National Security Agency

Spying - The NSA's metadata collection effort, consisting of domestic surveillence of phone and internet records.

Any other terms that my opponent would like to define may be defined in his Round 1.


The format will carry out as follows:

Round 1 - Acceptance/Definitions/Clarifications

Round 2 - Opening Constructives

Round 3 - Rebuttals/Constructives

Round 4 - Closing Statements


Thank you, and I look forward to a fun and educational debate.
MyDinosaurHands

Con

Thanks for setting this up Abunai.

I'd like to add a clarification of my own.

Beneficial to the US should mean beneficial to all the people of the US, not just the government institutions.
Debate Round No. 1
Abunai

Pro

Many thanks to MyDinosaurHands.


Resolved: NSA Spying is Beneficial to the US.

The NSA's surveillance effort is limited in its scope.


Allow me to begin this debate by clarifying what the NSA actually does. Primarily, the NSA is tasked with analyzing foreign data transfers to prevent and mitigate national security threats, and to protect US government electronic infrastructure (1). When investigating domestic data transfers, such as phone calls and internet records, the NSA is legally bound to, as per the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, obtain a warrant for any data collection. The surveillance request must be presented to a United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA), where an independent panel of judges analyzes the requests on a case by case basis and offers warrants in situations where there exists a national security threat (2). Additionally, the NSA has access to the systems of Google, Facebook, Apple and other US internet giants in accordance with Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. 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." Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Apple have also released statements confirming that they only release user information pursuant to that required by law according to due process. (3).

Moreover, the data that is actually collected in NSA wiretaps and surveillance efforts is minimal, to say the least. Despite the common misconception, the NSA does not actually have access to phone records or conversations without a warrant (4). Instead, what the NSA views is metadata, or "data about data." This metadata records information such as call length, relative location of the callers, and the numbers involved, while not actually saving the content of the call. Only when a red flag has been raised and the case is approved by a FISA court can actual human interaction be observed.


In 2008, the National Security Agency released a 52 page framework outlining Constitutional basis for their operations. Since then, a plethora of state and federal judges have ruled the program legal, and lawsuits against the NSA from groups such as the ACLU have been dropped (5). Journalist Hendrick Hertzberg argues: "The threat that the NSA poses to civil liberties is abstract, conjectural, unspecified. In the 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." As Hetzberg explains, the program operates strictly within the confines of the law, and as of right now, there is absolutely zero verifiable evidence that any laws are being broken or power is being abused.


The NSA's surveillance effort protects national security.

Legal, warranted monitoring of phone records is a vital tool in the fight against terror. In the words of the former NSA Director Keith Alexander, "Since 9/11, these programs, together with other intelligence, have protected the U.S. and our allies from terrorist threats across the globe to include helping prevent potential terrorist events over 50 times." He goes on to say that “Those 50 cases right now have been looked at by the FBI, CIA and other partners within the community, and the National Counterterrorism Center is validating all the points so that you know that what we've put in there is exactly right... while there are reasons to be concerned about secrecy... but there are also reasons to remain calm." (6).

These figures show that the NSA programs are a key component of our counterterrorism efforts, helping develop intelligence about terrorists operating within their borders. One specific example of this occurred with the terrorist group known as “Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,” or AQAP. In May 2012, a suicide-bomber plot against an airliner headed for the U.S., believed to be orchestrated by AQAP, was foiled when U.S. authorities obtained the planned explosive device. The stopping of the plot was cited as being due to US intelligence agencies such as the NSA (4).


There is consensus that, prior to the Pearl Harbor attacks, as well September 11th, 2001, there were significant deficits as far as intelligence capacity and analysis within the federal government. According to the Washington Post, “If surveillance programs had been in place before the Sept. 11 attacks, the United States would probably have known that hijacker Khalid Muhammad Abdallah al-Mihdhar was in San Diego and communicating with a known al Qaeda safehouse in Yemen.” (6,7). The fact of the matter is, we live in a world where there are armed groups of individuals who seek to kill as many innocent Americans as possible. September 11th was a tragic example of this. But, with the proper checks, some of which are already in place, the National Security Agency can be an effective means of mitigating terrorism and saving American lives.


Thank you, and I look forward to reading my opponent’s arguments.



Sources

[2]http://www.pbs.org...

[4]http://online.wsj.com...

[5]http://www.newyorker.com...

[7]http://www.washingtonspectator.org...

MyDinosaurHands

Con

The Problem With Big Data
As we all know, the NSA's objective with its data mining program is to collect as much metadata as possible. They want to see who you've been calling, how long, what websites you've been visiting, etc. The justification for this massive collection is that having massive amounts of data will allow the NSA to find correlations in the data that are related to activities that are harmful to the US.

This however, is not a very effective method of investigation. According to respected data analyst Meta Brown, "The unspoken assumption here is that possessing massive quantities of data guarantees that the government will be able to find criminals, and find them quickly, by tracing their electronic tracks. That assumption is unrealistic. Massive quantities of data add cost and complexity to every kind of analysis, often with no meaningful improvement in the results. Indeed, data quality problems and slow data processing are almost certain to arise, actually hindering the work of data analysts. It is far more productive to invest resources into thoughtful analysis of modest quantities of good quality, relevant data."[1]

Think about it. If the NSA was actually able to effectively pan through all the data they were collecting, shouldn't the Tsarnaev brothers have shown up on their radar? Intelligence agencies were alerted of the potential danger of the Tsarnaev brothers[2]. If the NSA's main concern was quality examination of relevant data, they would've been checking out the Tsarnaev brothers, who used the internet to get bomb-building instructions[3]. It's logical to conclude that a quality data oriented NSA would've been closely monitoring their actions on the web, and seen that they were looking for bomb-building instructions.

Also consider the case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab[2]. His father warned the CIA that he was a threat, but he was not placed on a no-fly list. Passengers on a plane ended up subduing him when he tried to set his bombs off. While this incident is more representative of a failure of the CIA, it reflects poorly on the rest of the intelligence community as well. Perhaps if the NSA was more focused on quality data, more focused on targeting actual suspects, additional investigating by the NSA would have been done on this man, and perhaps the incident could've been avoided.

But enough of the individual cases, let's look at the big picture. I can spend all day highlighting some major failures, but it won't matter if they're the minority of outcomes.

Since 9/11, 225 terrorism cases have been prosecuted. Of this 225, only 4 trace their roots back to Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which is what the NSA justifies their data mining with[4]. So that's roughly 1.8% of cases that this program has actually had a part in. On top of these miniscule contributions, an expert panel called by the White House has gone on record to say that this Section 215 was "not essential to preventing attacks"[2]. This would suggest that the 1.8% could've been accomplished without the massive data mining, but rather with traditional investigative methods. Further supporting this idea, is a report from the non-partisan group called New America Foundation which states "The widespread use of informants suggests that if there was an NSA role in these cases, it was limited and insufficient to generate evidence of criminal wrongdoing without the use of traditional investigative tools."[5] Essentially, the NSA's unconventional mass data mining is not what gets things done in the intelligence community.


The Slippery Slope
Effectiveness or lack thereof aside, we are on a slippery slope. This slippery slope is one in which we the people of America slowly lose our rights. As we lose our rights, so too we lose our power. The power will accumulate at the top, concentrated in a very small ruling minority.

Sure, right now, they're just asking to see who you've called, and where from. Sure, right now, they just want to know where you've been on the internet. But this will change. Perhaps our current generation won't stand for it, we'll say that the next changes would be going too far, but what about our children or grandchildren? If they grow up used to the NSA's current level of intrusiveness, the NSA can swing upping the intrusiveness a bit. Next they'll be censoring certain parts of the web, and actually listening in on the content of phone calls, all in the interest of 'national security'. If you think I'm crazy you should study more history. Man has proven over and over again that power corrupts. If you think that NSA will stop where they are now and just be satisfied, you have that lesson to learn yet. If we don't take a stand somewhere, we eventually won't have any rights left, and all the power will reside with the government.

Perhaps some of you are thinking, 'ok, so they'll keep coming for my rights, if it makes us safer, so what?' Well, aside from the fact that I've already shown the NSA doesn't really make you safer, also consider what has happened in societies where the masses have few rights, and all the power resides with the government. How about Nazi Germany as an example? Hitler had absolute control over his people, and they were so brainwashed that they fought his war for him without a second thought (for the most part). When power resides with a minority, it will eventually corrupt them and can lead to a disaster like World War 2, in which 50-70 million people died[6]. It can lead to a people without any freedom or individuality being manipulated in ways that are harmful to the whole of humanity.

It doesn't have to be a world war either, the kind of slippery slope we're on can eventually lead to an oppressive regime like North Korea[5]. The North Korean government is in full control of its people, and if you follow the link, you see that things are pretty dismal for the people. While it may seem crazy to talk about America becoming this way, it really isn't. Obviously such a change wouldn't occur overnight, but rather over a very long period of time during which our rights slowly recede, one by one. The NSA's data mining is one of the instances in which we continue this trend of losing and rights and losing control.

Or this trend could lead us to a point where the people of America wake up and see where our country is headed, and armed revolution begins. Again, may sound crazy, but the trend we are on, if uninterrupted, could bring us to this point. Such a revolution would obviously involve lots of death, much more than the NSA is preventing right now.

Recap
So consider the atrocities committed thanks to Nazi Germany, think on the human rights violations that take place daily in NK, and think of recent civil conflicts, such as those in Syria, and then think about the measly capabilities the NSA's data mining brings to the table. Is the trade even remotely worth it? I think we can all agree that we owe it to future generations to put an end to the trend of loss of rights and governmental consolidation of power, and put an end to the NSA's unacceptably intrusive data mining.

Thanks for reading.

Sources:
[1] http://www.forbes.com...
[2] http://www.forbes.com...
[3] http://usnews.nbcnews.com...
[4] http://patriotpost.us...
[5] http://northkoreanoppression.wordpress.com...
[6] http://www.howmanypeopledied.net...
Debate Round No. 2
Abunai

Pro

Thank you.


Rebuttals

My opponent begins by committing a straw man argument. He claims that "As we all know, the NSA's objective with its data mining program is to collect as much metadata as possible." This is simply false. As I attempted to establish in my opening constructive, the NSA's objective is not just to spy on innocent Americans and listen in on their conversations. Rather, the NSA's objective is to collect data that correlates with direct national security threats [1]. The NSA operates under a very strict set of legal and regulatory guidelines to ensure that this remains the case.

Journalist Hendrick Hertzberg, referenced in my Round 2, elaborates on this. He contends that "this 'metadata' is digitally stored. But none of its individual components are ever seen by human eyes except in the comparatively tiny number of instances in which a computer algorithm flags one for further examination, in which case a warrant is required for further action." He goes on to say that "The primary (and legitimate) goal of the programs, which is kept in check by the FISA courts, is to find and identify unknown, unsuspected terrorists, either after or, preferably, in advance of an actual attack." [1]. Thus, my opponent's claim that the NSA's "massive data collection" is harming the effectiveness of counter-terror operations is baseless and erroneous.

Next, my opponent provides two instances in which the NSA's data collection actually failed, and terrorists successfully attacked US soil. One such quote from my opponent is "If the NSA was actually able to effectively pan through all the data they were collecting, shouldn't the Tsarnaev brothers have shown up on their radar?" I have already established that the NSA doesn't just mass collect all of the data from everybody's phone and internet, nor do they even have access to this data in most circumstances. Instead, the NSA investigates data that they raise red flags on for potentially being a national security threat. So, to suggest that somehow "too much" data is actually hurting NSA's investigations is an unfounded claim. Also, my opponent's presents the notion that "the NSA should be focused on more quality data" as opposed to more data. Well, I ask that my opponent elaborate on what he means by "quality data." It is a false dichotomy to suggest that we can have either a little bit of important data, or a lot of irrelevant data. The current NSA data mining program receives a significant amount of data, but still has a myriad of resources available for analysis [2].

And yes, I agree with my opponent that providing a few anecdotal instances in which the NSA failed does not disqualify the program as a whole. Just as my opponent presented two successful terrorist attacks, I provided a whopping 50 that were directly prevented by intelligence organizations such as the NSA. My opponent also offers up a study which claims that only 4 of 225 terrorist attacks since 9/11 trace back to the NSA. However, my opponent grossly mischaracterizes this study. First of all, contrary to what my opponent says, there have actually been over 580 prosecuted terror cases since 9/11, plus over 200 more in which charges have been dropped - yet this study only looked at 225 of them [3]. Secondly, my opponent neglects to mention that another 27.5% of the terrorism cases mentioned in the study were actually attributed to "unclear methods.," or multiple methods. Thus, while 4 of the 225 prosecutions were directly due to NSA spying, another 62 of them likely had intelligence organizations playing a role [4].

However, even if the number of terrorist attacks that has been prevented by the NSA is miniscule, (its not), we still must examine what we're getting here. Even if we can prevent ONE terrorist attack from happening, then the NSA has accomplished its goal. If we can stop ONE commercial airliner from being hijacked by jihadists, and killing hundreds of people, then we have won. Because the fact of the matter is, we're dealing with real human lives. Not just statistics, or numbers in a study, but fathers, mothers, grandparents, and children. Even if the NSA has only prevented 4 terrorist attacks - and make no mistake, it has prevented many more than that - then this program is worth it.

WIth regards to the "slippery slope" argument, I fail to see any convincing facts or historical evidence that validates this claim. Sure, my opponent brings up North Korea as an example of totalitarianism, but how exactly is this relevant? When my opponent argues that “Next they'll be censoring certain parts of the web, and actually listening in on the content of phone calls, all in the interest of 'national security,” where exactly is this assumption coming from? Once again, the NSA operates under strict legal guidelines to ensure that everything happening is within the scope of the Constitution. Quite blatantly, the objective of the NSA is not to eviscerate peoples’ rights just for the sake of doing so. I would also argue that the NSA’s policies are not really a slippery slope because, as of right now, “no citizen’s freedom of speech, expression, or association has been abridged by them in any identifiable way,” as we heard from the Washington Post [5]. The moment that the NSA actually starts spying on people without a warrant, or the moment the NSA actually infringes upon somebody’s rights, is the moment that we can begin to scrutinize it more thoroughly.

Unfortunately, my opponent asserts that some event must inevitably follow from another without any argument for the inevitability of the event in question. When the Constitution or human rights are actually violated in any identifiable way, then we can begin to have a conversation about setting a bad precedent.


Conclusion

The NSA’s surveillance methods are a vital tool in preventing terrorist attacks both on American soil and around the globe. These programs have played a role in a significant number of terrorist convictions since 9/11, saving thousands American lives and helping to restore justice. Furthermore, there exist ample legal protections, ensuring that the extent of spying is minimal and that the Constitution is protected. Thank you, and I urge a Pro vote.

Sources

[1]http://www.newyorker.com...

[2]http://www.dni.gov...

[3]http://www.lawandsecurity.org...

[4]http://patriotpost.us...

[5]http://www.washingtonpost.com...

MyDinosaurHands

Con

Rebuttals first, counter-rebuttals after that.

R1, Metadata
My opponent opens his arguments trying to show the NSA to be less threatening and invasive than they are often perceived as. The main way he does this is by showing that the NSA does not actually see the content of your actions, but rather the data about your actions, metadata. The NSA keeps track of where you are on the internet, not your specific actions on different sites. They keep track of who you call, how long you make the call, and from where you are making the call, but not the actual substance of the call. Even though the NSA is not seeing actual content, there is still plenty of information granted. Who you call and where you call from can give a lot away, and it can grant lots of power to be abused. Consider the Patriot Act. It allows intelligence agencies to forgo traditional due processes if an American citizen is deemed to be a suspected terrorist[1]. According to my opponent, the NSA needs a warrant to obtain the content of your call (they actually don't, more on that later), but it is still possible for an intelligence agency to call you a suspected terrorist based on who you are calling, and then forgo the necessary process to acquire a warrant. This can lead to massive abuses of power. All the NSA needs to do is make a few loose connections to 'possible terrorist activity', and, for example, a person who is extremely critical of the government could be deemed a suspected terrorist and then taken away in the 'interests of national security'. Metadata can still be used for abuses of power.

The NSA doesn't need warrants to spy on people who aren't American citizens[2]. Using a system called XKeyScore, they can access any electronic content, without a warrant. As far as laws go, the theory generally is that the citizens of a country will dictate what the laws are based on where they throw their support. Therefore, we in America are more accountable for what the NSA does than foreigners are. For foreigners, America is a country whose law making process they have no say in, and yet its laws allow for them to be spied on. It is not the place of America to decide what the civil liberties of citizens of other countries are.

R2, Constitutionality, Legality, and Warrants
In his first round, my opponent claims that the NSA must obtain a warrant for data collection. His link does not provide this information. His link takes you to an article that gives a quick summary about the FISA court reauthorizing the NSA's data mining program as a whole. This has to be done every 90 days in order for the program to be active legally. In actuality, the NSA can query data on Americans that their analysts think could be involved in terrorist activities[3]. This is important to note because our civil liberties are not being protected by a neutral judge, they are in the hands of members of the NSA. This continues the theme of the possibility for the abuse of power.

While many judges have ruled in favor of the data mining's constitutionality, there are a few things to keep in mind.
1) Should a search of private information be able to take place without the approval of a judge? I get metadata, but observing actual content is much more invasive, and under the current system, it's up to a NSA analyst whether or not to access the data.
2) Just because something is unanimously declared to be ok under the constitution, doesn't mean it actually is, nor does it mean it's automatically ok. Just look at slavery. For a while it was thought to be ok.
3) Refer to my slippery slope argument (which I will get to defending later). It may be considered ok right now, and perhaps everyone is refraining from abusing the power granted by the program, but corruption spreads the older a program/constitution becomes.
4) Plenty of respected people outside Washington disagree[7][8].

Lastly, a prominent law is being violated. Section 215 of the Patriot Act. Section 215 does not authorize widespread metadata collection, it authorizes the FBI to acquire warrants to force a person or company to produce tangible things that have relevance to an investigation[9].

R3, Effectiveness
My opponent claims that over 50 terrorist events have been put to a stop thanks to the NSA. This sounds like a nice solid number, but let's take a look at what the number represents. In actuality the number is just a claim that the NSA has made, they have not deigned to give us details about most of these events. Instead, they have released a measly 4 events that they claim were stopped due to the NSA's data mining program. Of the four events that the NSA thinks are the best examples of their capabilities, only one appears to have needed the NSA's data mining[4]. The rest show other foreign powers doing the work for us, or a situation that could've been solved without the warrantless power the NSA holds.

My opponent also echoes the argued expressed by many government and court officials, that if the NSA's data mining program was in place, 9/11 could've been avoided. The fact is though, that intelligence officials already knew of the hijacker and the fact that he could be a problem[5], but simply failed to act. In that situation, widespread metadata collection wouldn't have gained them any more information than what they started with.

"There were plenty of opportunities without having to rely on this metadata system for the FBI and intelligence agencies to have located Mihdhar," said former Senator Bob Graham[5].

CR1, Too Much Data
It would seem that since computer algorithms go through all the data and flag certain things, my opponent has reached the conclusion that there is no problem interpreting all the metadata. Consider two things. First, my earlier quote from a respected business analyst. Too much data can slow processes down. That could effect the 'flagging' system the NSA has in place. Second, regardless of whether or not the system can flag what it's supposed to flag easily or not, algorithms are still incapable of using intuition to find relevant data. Instead they just use lists of key-words to flag people[6].

CR2, Effectiveness
In regards to the 27.5%, it should be noted that even if the NSA contributed something to those investigations, it does not mean that the NSA was necessary to those investigations. Given all my other sources and examples which show that the NSA's widespread capabilities could be done away with, this is not unlikely.

CR3, Slippery Slope
"The moment that the NSA actually starts spying on people without a warrant, or the moment the NSA actually infringes upon somebody"s rights, is the moment that we can begin to scrutinize it more thoroughly."
The NSA is already spying on people without a warrant[2][3]. The fact that they can do so infringes on a person's rights.

Just because the NSA isn't abusing their power right now, does not mean they won't ever. The longer people are used to the NSA's spying, the more easy it'll be for the NSA to push their data mining further. The same concept can apply to the courts who are supposed to keep them in check.

Sources:
[1] http://www.theguardian.com...
[2] http://www.tomsguide.com...
[3] http://www.huffingtonpost.com...
[4] http://www.juancole.com...
[5] http://www.propublica.org...
[6] http://www.businessinsider.com...
[7] https://www.cdt.org...
[8] http://justsecurity.org...
[9] http://www.forbes.com...
Debate Round No. 3
Abunai

Pro

Extent of Surveillence

My opponent concedes in his opening paragraph that the "NSA is not seeing actual content" of phone conversations or internet activity. Instead, he agrees, NSA agents have access to civilian metadata, or length of calls, numbers invlolved, and relative locations of the callers. However, my opponent fails to address my source from the New Yorker, which indicates that NSA agents rarely even see the details of this metadata, as the information only appears when a caller is flagged as potentially posing a national security threat [1]. My opponent then argues that the NSA's access to metadata can actually harm civil liberties. In support of this, he references an article about the National Defence Authorization Act, a bill which has absolutely nothing to do with intelligence gathering or the NSA. His source doesn't even mention the NSA once.

Furthermore, my opponent's own source agrees that the NSA's access to metadata is legally restricted. According to my opponent's source, "When NSA analysts have reasonable and articulable suspicion that a particular phone number is associated with a person involved in terrorist activity, they can "query" the database to determine what phone numbers the suspect phone number has been in touch with. This is the only purpose for which the NSA may access metadata... There are rigorous safeguards in place both internally through the NSA's Office of General Counsel and externally pursuant to oversight by the Department of Justice, the congressional intelligence committees, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to ensure that no one accesses the database for any other purpose." [2]

So, in short, my opponent is intentionally being misleading when he contends that judges aren't even a part of the surveillence proccess, and that NSA's access to metadata is "unchecked." Occasionally, when red flags have been raised, NSA analysts can view metadata about phone numbers and the length of their conversations. And, even then, a FISA Court must authorize a warrant if NSA analysts wish to listen to the content of these phone conversations, in all circumstances. That much is fact [3][4].

Once again, the slippery slope argument that my opponent presents his flawed. He continues to assert that some event must inevitably follow from another, without any argument for the inevitability of the event in question. Also, it has been established that the NSA needs a warrant to listen to the records of domestic phone coversations. My opponent's claims that the NSA does not need warrants are in direct contradiction with what he has said previously. And, with regards to the argument about unwarranted foriegn spying through XKeyScore, I specifically stated in the Round 1 rules of this debate that we would be debating the NSA's domestic surviellence program, not its foriegn one. My opponent agreed to these rules by accepting the debate. Therefore I will not address this particular argument.


Effectiveness

My opponent attempts to dispute the validity of the 54 terrorist attacks that the NSA has been involved in thwarting, despite the fact that the FBI, CIA, and the National Counterterrorism Center have all confirmed their validity [5]. Then, he argues that the four cases that the NSA has publicly released details on, did not actually require NSA involvement. Well, allow me to go through the four cases individually.

1) David Coleman Headley, an American, was sentenced to 35 years in prison for his role in terrorist plots that killed 168 people in Mumbai, and for being invlolved with other attacks around the globe. At the time of his arrest, he had been planning to bomb a Danish store. According to journalist Sebastian Rotella, "Officials involved with the investigation said that information lawfully gathered under the Foriegn Intelligence Surviellence Act was integral to disrupting the attempted attacks." [6]
2) Basaaly Moalin was the San Diego man convicted of financially supporting Al Shabab, the terrorist group responsible for the attack on a Kenyan mall last month. Officials have stated that the NSA's gathering of metadata and flagging of potential national security threats was "crucial" in determining that a U.S. phone was in contact with a Shabab, which in turn led them to Moalin. [7]
3) Najibullah Zazi was a Pakistani man who, in 2009, plotted to bomb the New York subway system. An email intercepted by the NSA to an account of a known Al Qaeda figure in Pakistan allowed authorities to identify and ultimately capture Zazi. The National Counterterrorism Center evaluated the case and determined it was through the metadata program that authorities identified Zazi as being in contact with an al-Qaeda affliate, and ultimately arrested him. [8]
4) Three Americans, including Khalid Ouazzani, were charged in 2010 with conspiracy to provide material support to Al Qaeda. According to the FBI report, NSA surveillance allowed officials “to detect a nascent plotting to bomb the New York Stock Exchange.”

So clearly, NSA surviellence and metadata collection has played a significant role in preventing terrorist attacks and saving American lives. The other 50 plots prevented by the NSA have been declared classified, but once again, have been confirmed.

And yes, law enforcement officials did know that 9/11 hijacker Khalid Muhammad Abdallah al-Mihdhar was living in San Francisco, and he was listed as a potential threat. However, pre-9/11 intelligence capabilities did not show that Mihdhar was in contact with a known al-Qaeda safehouse in Yemen [9]. If intelligence capabilities had been what they are now, metadata about phone numbers and their relative locations would have been indicitive of this fact, and a red-flag probably would have been raised. At this point, the NSA would have been able to obtain a warrant from a FISA court, and understand Mihdhar's plans before he was able to kill 2,700 innocent Americans.

With regard to the "too much data issue," I fail to see any merit to my opponent's argument. According to my opponent's own source, only 288 phone numbers were actually quieried for further review in 2012, and that number has been even lower in previous years [2]. Is my opponent arguing that the metadata of 288 individuals is "too much" for analysts to review in a year? Certainly, there is an adequate amount of analysis capability and "human intuition" to evaluate 288 phone numbers, and considering 54 of these led directly to the prevention of terror attacks, I think that the NSA's methods are pretty effective.


Summation

In the words of president Barack Obama, "The lives of countless Americans depend on our ability to monitor these communications through the NSA and other intelligence agencies." These programs have played a role in a significant number of terrorist convictions since 9/11, saving thousands American lives and protecting our security. Furthermore, these programs have been operated in a legal manner with ample oversight to ensure preservation of the Constitution. NSA spying is a benefit to the US. Thank you.


Sources

[1]http://www.newyorker.com...
[2]http://www.huffingtonpost.com...
[3]http://epic.org...
[4]https://www.fas.org...
[5]http://www.washingtonpost.com...
[6]http://www.fbi.gov...
[7]http://www.fbi.gov...
[8]http://www.fbi.gov...
[9]http://www.washingtonspectator.org...

MyDinosaurHands

Con

MyDinosaurHands forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
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whiteflame
AbunaiMyDinosaurHandsTied
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Total points awarded:40 
Reasons for voting decision: A forfeit in a tournament debate? That's pretty much an automatic loss for Con on both conduct and arguments, though I also feel that Pro is winning on the latter (perhaps due to having one round more to post, but I think he's winning prior to that). If a thorough RFD is requested, I will look back through the debate and provide.
Vote Placed by bsh1 3 years ago
bsh1
AbunaiMyDinosaurHandsTied
Agreed with before the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
Agreed with after the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
Who had better conduct:Vote Checkmark--1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:--Vote Checkmark3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:10 
Reasons for voting decision: ff = conduct to Pro