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Resolved: A just government ought to prioritize civil liberties over national security.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: Select Winner
Started: 5/3/2017 Category: Politics
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 1,664 times Debate No: 102379
Debate Rounds (4)
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Welcome! This is a debate in the first round of the Official DDO tournament! Myself and Warren42 have been pitted against each other in this intellectual clash. We've established a couple rules, and I hope we have an informative and civil debate. I will be taking the con side of this debate and warren42 will be pro.

Warren will start us out in the first round (first round is not acceptance) and forgo his last round to even it out. Pro can offer starting definitions as the one who's starting this debate, but I can contest them in my constructive if I feel I need to. My first round may include a short rebuttal after my constructive argument. You know. Standard debate rules basically. We've both done formal debate so I don't see any real problems happening between us.

I don't think there's anything else to say. Good luck!


Thank you to JonBonBon for instigating the debate and Solon for hosting the tournament. Though this topic is an LD resolution, we have agreed not to do value structure or anything like that. Hopefully this'll be a good debate!

Obs 1: Though this definition does not pertain exclusively to the United States, the debate will likely focus on the United States, as post-9/11 America is a great example of a nation struggling to find the right balance between the two.
Obs 2: The affirmative (me) has to prove that a government should prioritize civil liberties. The negative (Jonbonbon) must prove that the government should *not* prioritize civil liberties. This means that Con can either advocate the two being completely balanced or that national defense should take priority. However, it is important to recognize that in order to win, Con must prove that the sacrifice is not made in vein.

Hopefully these definitions are fair to both parties, and ideally we won’t get hung up on definitional debate.

Just: “Right; in accordance with law and justice.” [1] When this word modifies government, therefore, it implies that such a government is doing what is right in accordance with justice.

Ought: “This word, though generally directory only, will be taken as mandatory if the context requires it.” [2] In this case, it will be directory, since the outcome of this debate will not mandate anything.

Priority: “A preferential rating; especially: one that allocates rights to goods and services usually in limited supply.” [3] Prioritize is to make a priority, i.e. to *give* a preferential rating.

Civil liberties and national defense I believe we can use common sense.

In morally just interactions between two parties that are capable of consent, consent must be given. Neither participant should be forced into doing what they do not wish to. A just government exists with the consent of the governed to protect the rights of the governed. To achieve this goal, the government must identify rights that deserve protection, as well as certain rights to be held above all else. These rights should not be infringed upon no matter the circumstances, or the government ceases to be just. Therefore, if these rights are sacrificed at the altar of national security, the resolution is inherently negated. The contract is broken, and the government ceases to be just. Surely, there are exceptions to this, such as when a criminal has violated the law, and police have legally acquired evidence compelling enough to be given a warrant. However, what is happening today is far different. I’ll begin by analyzing what governments (primarily that of the United States) has done in the past, and work my way to our modern tribulations.

Throughout history, various governments have used the guise of national defense to violate civil liberties, whether it be to consolidate power and silence opposition, a legitimate attempt to protect the nation, or a combination thereof.
One example of this is the American internment of Japanese residents, when citizens and foreign nationals residing in the United States were gathered up and placed in internment camps following the attack on Pearl Harbor. The actions of the United States government clearly violated the right to freedom of existence by detaining citizens who had done nothing wrong. This was justified by stating that these people of Japanese descent posed a threat to national security. Eminent domain was used to seize the land of some of those detained, stripping them of their private and/or personal property rights as well. [4]

This clearly shows that in the example of Japanese internment, the United States’ government prioritized national security over civil liberties. However, this is *not* an example of what a *just* government would do. This was made obvious decades later, when the United States paid out reparations to the living survivors of internment.
Another example is the Red Scare, during which America attempted to purge communism from its ranks. Once again, the reasoning behind it was national security. The threat of communism was a dark and mysterious force that the government didn’t know how to deal with. It decided the best way to do so was to silence all proponents or suspected proponents of communism.

“FBI director J. Edgar Hoover was quick to equate any kind of protest with communist subversion, including the civil rights demonstrations led by Martin Luther King Jr. Hoover labeled King a communist and covertly worked to intimidate and discredit the civil rights leader.” [5]

This assault on free speech left us without any real benefits in increased security, and discouraged individuals from thinking critically about forms of government, whether America was in the right, and many other issues that should be called into question regularly. The government was again using the guise of national defense to do nothing more than consolidate power and weaken peaceful dissent, an important tool in any democracy.

Post-9/11, there has been a dramatic change in our daily lives. Technology has evolved, and governments have too. Due in large parts to fear of terrorism, there has been a drastic increase in the government’s interaction with its citizens’ daily lives.

A. Ineffectiveness
As I said before, it’s Con’s BoP to show that when civil liberties are compromised in the name of national defense, it actually works. However, I’m going to start by proving that it is not the case. The new era of the civil liberties/national security debate started after 9/11, with the passing of the Patriot Act. A very simple description is that the Patriot Act gave extensive and controversial powers to the federal government to combat terrorism. Many of these powers involve collection of metadata, including information about emails, phone calls, texts, etc. More detail on the Patriot Act is provided here [6]. The NSA is one of the most frequent users of such programs, and when Edward Snowden revealed the existence of the extent to which these programs went, it stirred mixed emotions among Americans. However, in 2013, it was revealed that NSA programs, which routinely violated civil liberties (most frequently the 4th Amendment) had done absolutely nothing to promote national security. [7] Therefore, when analyzing the resolution in a cost-benefit analysis, we are sacrificing civil liberties (a harm) and receiving no benefit. However, it doesn’t stop there.

B. Abuses
What happens when these extensive powers to circumvent the 4th Amendment are given to humans, who are fallible by nature? Abuse of power. In the most prominent example, known as LOVEINT (Love Intelligence), twelve NSA employees used the technology they had at their fingertips to spy on current or former love interests. I’ll get into the harms momentarily, but first we need to look at what happened once these employees were disciplined. Five of the twelve stayed with the NSA, and received punishments as insignificant as a written warning. [8] Now for the harms. Cyberstalking comes with all the harms of physical stalking, but also exacerbates the harms and adds others.

“While both groups of victims reacted to harassment and threats with fear and self-protective measures, a larger proportion of cyberstalking victims took time off from work, quit their jobs, dropped out of school or avoided family and friends. The changes didn't come cheap. Costs, including legal fees, child care costs and moving expenses averaged $1,200 for a cyberstalking victim, compared with $500 for traditional stalking victims. Over time, people who have been stalked in their own environs returned to their normal living patterns, but cyberstalking victims continued to add self-protective measures. The researchers suggested that a stalking episode may provoke an immediate reaction for many victims, while the cyberstalking condition tends to build and become more severe over time.” [9]

Another example is Operation MUSCULAR. In this operation, NSA employees broke into Yahoo and Google servers by creating a backdoor and exporting sensitive data to NSA servers . [10] Now on top of the clear violation of the 4th Amendment and the chance of internal abuse, the backdoor the NSA created would be open to hackers as well. This means that all personal data users give to Google and Yahoo could have been accessed by hackers and led to more instances of cyberstalking, blackmail, and the like. Once again, the NSA is creating clear, impactful harms, while giving no benefits.


The tradeoff between civil liberties and national security is effectively nonexistent. When civil liberties are sacrificed, national security does not improve. Thank you and now over to JonBonBon!




[3] (second definition)








Debate Round No. 1


Thank you for that first round. I'm going to start by providing a constructive then offer a short rebuttal to my opponent's case.


I do have an amendment to offer to my opponent's analysis. My opponent's job is to prove that all civil liberties should be prioritized to national security, which I believe his case agrees with.

As such I must only prove that some civil liberties can be bypassed for the sake of national security. After all, it would be ridiculous for me to argue that the nation should slaughter civilians during a food shortage to preserve a more viable population. I believe my opponent will find that agreeable, but I want to make that clear so the debate can have focus.


I agree with the definitions my opponent did provide; however, I'd like to contest the ones he didn't provide. For a proper understanding of the debate, we cannot simply rely on common sense to guide us through this discussion.

When we're talking about civil liberties do we mean fundamental rights, basic human rights, or rights that we feel we should have? Is the living wage a civil liberty? Is the freedom of expression through the clothing we wear a civil liberty? Your answer may differ. I'd like to provide a fairly lengthy definition. I suggest my opponent reads it.

This is an abbreviated version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights issued by the UN, which I believe provides a good list of basic civil liberties:'s not too long and not too short.

I would also like to define national security and how it is to be understood in this debate:

National security is a concept that a government, along with its parliaments, should protect the state and its citizens against all kind of "national" crises through a variety of power projections, such as political power, diplomacy, economic power, military might, and so on [2].

Now onto my case:

Civil Liberties that we can Temporarily Forgo:

Civil liberties are great. I love that we can have a debating site like this. However, there are many civil liberties to consider, and some of them are only practical during a peaceful state and are not unreasonable to temporarily retract during a state of emergency.

Among these rights is article 13 - right to free movement in and out of the country. Imagine a food crises or a severe national drought in a smaller country. It may be practical to set up a travel ban in order to have a set population with which you're trying to work.

Though the Trump travel ban was controversial, we weren't facing any such crisis. Imagine a food shortage so severe that a state of emergency must be declared. It would be reasonable that you would want a population to help the crisis, and you may want to restrict immigrants to not add to the problems you already have with feeding people.

Now let's address article 22 - the right to social security. This is not the US social security program, but rather the right to develop ones own personality [3]. In what situations might this be restricted?

In World War II, fabric and clothing material was rationed for the war effort. It made sense because there were a lotime soldiers on the ground and a lot of need for clothing for our military and the people. So clothing that used excessive fabric like zoot suits were technically under a ban and considered unpatriotic [4].

While the zoot suit riots are nothing to be proud of, the concept makes sense. If we need to restrict some fabric usage for the sake of aiding national security, that's reasonable right?

You may be thinking this seems like a ridiculous thing to be part of the debate as a civil liberty. But if the government suddenly declared that wearing certain clothing was completely illegal, there would be some concern. Freedom of expression is part of freedom of speech, which is our first amendment to the Constitution of the United States [5].

Another example is the freedom of the press. During a state of emergency, it may be particularly harmful for the press to consistently criticize the government's attempts to remedy the crisis. Mandating perhaps that the media at least report from a more positive standpoint until a state of emergency is over may aide in speeding up the process, which ties to the right to assembly.

To use the World War II example. During that time, women were required to get into the work force because most of the men were fighting overseas. What if the media had been overly critical, and the women had decided to start protesting instead of working? The country's industry would've fallen, and it could've significantly hurt the ability of the country to produce basic living supplies and military equipment. We wouldn't have gained anything by protesting, but consistently marching would've hurt us considerably.

My final example will be the right to vacation time. It makes sense that people need a break every once in a while to spend time with their family. But often times during a state of emergency, that would be unreasonable. We wouldn't see our country significantly benefited by people taking their sick time and vacation time to wait out the economic or food or war crisis that's happening. That would only further the problem.

Again, these rights can be found in the link I posted for my definition and source [3] has the actual declaration in full written form. I contest that these civil liberties may be abridged without significant harm to justice or liberty during a state of emergency or for the sake of national security.


My opponent moves from addressing how countries have used national security as a guise to saying that this was done for the sake of national security. I am not required to argue for situations in which national security is not the main consideration in abridging civil liberties it does not fall under my burden.

On Effectiveness in the Digital Age:

The NSA has become rather controversial but controversy doesn't imply something is bad, and the feelings we have about things also do not determine things like justice. For example, it may seem like a serious breach of privacy for the government to monitor phone calls, but take into account the following considerations:

1) The government only cares who you are if you say things that sound like a threat to national security. They don't have the time to care about hundreds of millions of people for making jokes or sexual phone calls or other private conversations.

They're not actually listening to you. The incident my opponent cites is unfortunate, but it does not affirm the resolution on its own. Especially since the action did not have to do with national security.

2) The NSA is very effective. To this day, the NSA in 2013 stopped 54 terrorist efforts through their methods. They even cite that because they originally did not monitor calls in the US they were unable to find Khalid al-Mihdhar before he flew a plane into the World Trade Center. They knew where he was up until he made it to a safe house in the US [6].


My opponent does provide a convincing analysis, but at a second glance it doesn't necessarily hold up to the resolution. Upon further analysis of Civil Liberties, it may not seem unjust to abridge some of them in severe cases.


[6.1] (for the people without a WJS subscription)

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Debate Round No. 4
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by TheShadeM 1 year ago
So what happens now? Is it a walkover?
Posted by Jonbonbon 1 year ago
Fear me.
Posted by Jonbonbon 1 year ago
I usually choose that too. I don't know why I forgot.
Posted by warren42 1 year ago
Can we do select winner? I like that better, but don't have a *strong* preference so if you really like 7-point that's okay too!
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