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The Contender
Con (against)
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Resolved: The benefits of domestic surveillance by the NSA outweigh the harms.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/19/2013 Category: Miscellaneous
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,209 times Debate No: 40858
Debate Rounds (4)
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Votes (1)




"I would much rather be here today debating this point than trying to explain how we failed to prevent another 9/11," said Gen. Keith Alexander, NSA director. I agree with mr. Alexander which is why I stand affirmative in today's debate. Resolved: the benefits of domestic surveillance by the NSA outweigh the harms. 1. Imporving the national security. 2. Congress and the United States citizen's knowledge. Lastly 3. National security is the most important thing to the United States.

1. Improving the National Security.
We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, and ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense..." There it is, in the preamble of the constitution, the document our founding fathers fought for, lived for, and died for, a perfect illustration of why Domestic Surveillance is necessary and why the benefits, fulfilling the principles stated, and protecting American lives, clearly outweighs the harms. The first sentence of this document states that our government has the responsibilities of providing for our defense and ensuring domestic tranquility. With constant terrorist attacks, and the lack of information leading to them, meaning no NSA, the government is no where near fulfilling the needs of the Constitution causing harm to our nation. Domestic surveillance by the NSA is just one of many aspects the government has put in place to follow through with the principals created by our founding fathers. According to the NSA, their primary role is to collect information through various legal procedures, including PRISIM which was authorized by FISA In section 702 in 2008 of FISA an act passed by Congress in 1978 to establish procedures for requesting judicial authorization for foreign intelligence surveillance and to create the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court; intended to increase United States counterintelligence; separate from ordinary law enforcement surveillance, according to Dr. James Jay Carafano. Procedures are in place so that FISA warrants grant them to acquire information in both legal and Constitutional abiding means. Let me explain there is no harm in what NSA is doing. Simply collecting and scanning over data has not impacted human lives. Those american who are not associated with terrorists should not fret, it doesn't impact them. A direct quote from President Obama, "Our intelligence professionals must be able to find out who the terrorists are talking to, what they are saying, and what they're planning," "The lives of countless Americans depend on our ability to monitor these communications." This is saying the benefit is on us to look on communications and legally intercept and prevent terrorist attacks. The benefits of the legal surveillance, prevent potential terrorist attacks, save countless lives, provide for the common defense and ensure domestic tranquility. So as you can see, the completely legal domestic surveillance, not spying, by the NSA, provides very little, if any at all harm to Americans, but provides numerous benefits of saved lives, increase in national security, and peace of mind for citizens in a completely lawful, safe way that has virtually no harm to American lives, ideals, or principles in any way, shape or form.

Contention 2. Congress and US citizen"s knowledge.

A.Congress not only authorized surveillance- they created it: Mike Rogers a UNITED STATES representative said June 16th, 2013 stated "All 535 members of Congress have had access to classified briefings describing the specific uses of these two programs, though not all members have chosen to attend these breifings." Washington post on july 30th, 2013 wrote "On may, 26, 2011, the house passed the 2011 patriot act sunset extension act, which reauthorized section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, the provision that underlies the National Security Agency"s telephone metadata program. the house approved the bill by a 97-vote margin, with 196 republicans voting in favor."

B.Americans expect it for safety: A editor in Florida stated July 18, 2013 "there are also double standards in the debate over Snowden. Many of Snowden"s most vocal supporters in his attacks on the surveillance capabilities of the NSA would be among the most vocal critics of the agency if there were another major terror attack on US soil. Many of his supporters were also no doubt in awe of the technology, including signals intelligence, was harnessed to track down the Boston bombers within days of their attack in April. Where was their criticism of the so-called "Surveillance state" then? And when Snowden's supporters take their families on planes overseas, would they really prefer that agencies such as the NSA were severely weakened, or do they take comfort in knowing that today"s NSA may have detected a terrorist before they boarded that plane?

Contention 3: National Security is the most important thing to the united states.

A. NSA: Could have prevented 9/11: If the DOMESTIC SURVEILLANCE program had been in place before 2001, 9/11 could have been prevented. Shaun Waterman writer for Washington Times said on October 3, 2013 "A number of senators made it clear at the hearing that they supported the domestic data gathering. Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, baldly stated that the metadata program would have thwarted the september 11 plot because at least one of the 19 hijackers was in telephone contact with a known terrorist facility in the Middle East. the program is designed so that US calls to or from foreign numbers associated with terrorist suspects can be found after the fact- and their contacts with other US telephone numbers before and since can be logged. "I am here to tell the American people" the senator claimed, that if the metadata program had been in place, "The 19 hijackers who were here in the country, most of them in illegal status, talking to people abroad, we would have known what they were up to."
Ken Dilanian writes "Under growing pressure over recently disclosed surveillance programs, the head of the NSA told lawmakers Tuesday that gathering telephone data and monitoring internet use has helped to disrupt more than 50 "Potential terrorist events" since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Gen. Keith Alexander and other officials, testifying before a largely sympathetic House Intelligence Committee, identified two new cases - and alleged plot to blow up the New York Stock Exchange and a U.S. resident who helped finance a terrorist group in Somalia - that they said proved the worth of the surveillance programs disclosed this month by former Marylander Edward Snowden."


I will utilize this round to present my case. I will rebut Pro next round. Thank you in advance for an enjoyable debate.


The writer Marvin Cooley once said “that the only true security is liberty.” The goal of the NSA’s domestic surveillance programs are ostensibly to keep us safe, yet what safety is it when our privacy is being infringed and due process is being skirted? We are only ever safe when our rights are being upheld; yet, the NSA has flagrantly ignored this idea, preferring instead to pursue a pathway towards the Orwellian State, where Big Brother watches our every move, and the thought-police are a constant threat. In short, because I believe that the NSA’s actions endanger our rights, I Negate that the benefits of the NSA’s domestic surveillance program outweigh the harms.

I will present some definitions from Oxford American Dictionary, and then offer four contentions in support of my position:

A “benefit” means an “advantage or profit gained by something,” and a “harm” is an adverse effect. “Domestic” is “existing or occurring within a country,” and “surveillance” means “close observation, especially of a suspect spy or criminal.” Ultimately, because the topic demands a comparison of harms and benefits, the resolution must be analyzed from a cost-benefit standpoint.

My Thesis is that the danger posed to both governmental legitimacy and to citizens’ rights outweighs potential benefits of the NSA’s intrusive domestic surveillance program.

Contention One: The NSA’s domestic surveillance program is huge, broad, and invasive.

According to I.T. analyst Sean Gallagher, “Regardless how much data flows through the NSA's tap points, all of it is getting checked. While the NSA may ‘touch’ only 29.21 petabytes of data a day, it runs its digital fingers through everything that flows through the tap points to do so.” Additionally, the amount of information the NSA not only views, but interacts with, is huge. Gallagher writes, “That's 7.47 terabytes a day of connection metadata…Of course, that doesn't cover the fact that the NSA is, in effect, collecting 10.411 exabytes of short-term searchable content.” [5] Ultimately, this means that the NSA is processing 50% more information per day than Google. Reuters adds, “The National Security Agency's surveillance network has the capacity to reach around 75 percent of all U.S. Internet communications…the system's broad reach makes it more likely that purely domestic communications will be incidentally intercepted.” [8]

Contention Two: The NSA’s program is totalitarian and illegal.

Domestic surveillance is unjustified, as Professors Macht, Grey, and Citron, “by ‘making available at a relatively low cost such a substantial quantum of intimate information about any person whom the Government, in its unfettered discretion, chooses to track,’ programs of broad and indiscriminate surveillance will ‘chill associational and expressive freedoms,’ and ‘alter the relationship between citizen and government in a way that is inimical to a democratic society.’” [3] Moreover, the Christian Science Monitor reports, “these programs may be illegal. The government admits it obtains Americans' telephone records in bulk, but claims officials do not examine them unless there is reason to suspect a terrorist link. Section 215 of the Patriot Act, however, requires the government to establish a record's investigative relevance before obtaining it—not after. The PRISM program…tolerates extensive ‘inadvertent and ‘incidental’ collection of Americans' information--including information the government needs a warrant to obtain under the Fourth Amendment.” [4]

Contention Three: Oversight fails.

The Portland Press Herald writes, “Some National Security Agency analysts deliberately ignored restrictions on their authority to spy on Americans multiple times in the past decade, contradicting…officials' and lawmakers' statements that no willful violations occurred…The incidents, chronicled in a new report by the NSA's inspector general, provide more evidence that U.S. agencies…have violated legal and administrative restrictions on domestic spying.” [7] Additionally, an administration has the power to collude with the NSA to ignore regulations. As the BBC reports: “the Bush administration secretly gave the NSA permission to bypass the court and carry out warrantless surveillance of al-Qaeda suspects among others.” [1] In a separate report from last month, the BBC adds, “accountability is not strong enough, especially when access to metadata about communications and interactions only requires internal authorization within an intelligence agency—and not the warrant that is required to intercept the actual content of communications.” [2]

Contention Four: Surveillance does not prevent terrorism.

Professors Bergen and Hoffman write, “that few…[terror] plots involved attacks within the United States, because traditional law enforcement methods have overwhelmingly played the most significant role in foiling terrorist attacks…jihadist extremists based in the United States have mounted 47 plots to conduct attacks within the United States since 2001. Of those plots, nine involved an actual terrorist act that was not prevented by any type of government action…Of the remaining 38 plots, the public record shows that at least 33 were uncovered by using standard policing practices such as informants, undercover officers, and tips to law enforcement.” [3]


It seems, in light of the aforesaid analysis, that not only is the NSA's current program of domestic surveillance unnecessary and illegal, but it violates our right to privacy. So, we are weighing no tangible benefits against a clear harm, and from this we can conclude that the NSA's domestic surveillance program is certainly not worth it. Therefore, a Con ballot is in order. Thank you!


1 - BBC 1:
2 - BBC 2:
3 - Bergen and Hoffman:
4 - CS Monitor:
5 - Gallagher:
6 - Macht, Citron, and Grey: Danielle Keats Citron, Lois K. Macht Research Professor of Law, University of Maryland School of Law; Affiliate Scholar, Stanford Center on Internet and Society; Affiliate Fellow, Yale Information Society Project., David Gray, Associate Professor of Law, University of Maryland School of Law. The Harvard Law Review Symposium on Privacy, “ADDRESSING THE HARM OF TOTAL SURVEILLANCE: A REPLY TO PROFESSOR NEIL RICHARDS,” May, p. 268-9
7 - Portland Press Herald/Bloomberg:
8 - Reuters:

Please VOTE CON! Thanks!
Debate Round No. 1


First I would like to attack my opponents case and then rebuild my own.
My Opponent stated in their case that "Surveillance does not prevent terrorism" and goes on to talk about terrorist plots. I have evidence that a recent plot that had been foiled by the NSA, a man in Yemen was contacting a Kansas City man, helping him execute a domestic terrorist attack in New York. The Kansas City man had been caught. With the surveillance of the NSA on calls made to and from other countries to the United States the NSA was able to stop this from happening. The Kansas City man had planned to bomb the New York Stock Exchange, that would more than likely disable the country and affect the economy. Thanks to the NSA we are still going now. (Evidence: ). To further go into detail with the NSA surveillance and terrorist plots I would like to bring up the advancement in technology. "Advancing technology also makes it easier for terrorists to kill large numbers of people in single attacks, even absent potential attacks with nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons. The new attacks, changing communications technologies, and the possibility of more advanced weapons meant that the government had to step-up its game in order to reduce the risk of another terror attack. The post 9/11 surveillance measures are designed to take these changes into account." ( Would my opponent not agree that to prevent more attack that what the NSA is doing and have been doing since the PATRIOT Act has been in place is working as best as they can with the laws that they have?
What the NSA is doing is watching those with contact to known terrorists/ terrorist states. This being if you are not in contact with either than you have nothing to worry about. The government is trying to detect crimes before they happen, would it not be safer to do it this way? The NSA is not breaking the fourth amendment if they think you are going to commit a crime.
Lets think of it this way, a few civil rights, if being broken, are better to give up than your life. The NSA is trying to do their job to protect us. The truth being debating over this and putting the NSA on the news is only hurting ourselves. The NSA can not answer questions when they are trying to keep us safe. If you have an issue with the NSA looking over your calls, texts, tweets, or status updates then they have reason to believe you are trying to hide something.
National security is essential, always has been always will be.
The resolved talks about current surveillance measures and that if there is another significant terror attack that the NSA can stop then what they are going will outweigh the harms it may be causing.

My opponent brings up the possibility of over-sight failing. First I would like to bring up that 22 NSA workers are authorized to go and look through information collected. If and only if they have a warrant.
The NSA's program is totalitarian. I disagree, If the NSA is anything it is utilitarianism, it is bringing the country together to protect itself.

As I brought up in my first speech, what the NSA is doing is completely constitutional, The NSA has rules to abide by. With PRISM and the PATRIOT Act nothing has been broken law wise and never will be. Washington post on July 30th, 2013 wrote "On May 26,2011, the House passed the 2011 Patriot Sunset Extension Act , which reauthorized section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, the provision that underlies the NSA's telephone metadata program. The house approved the bill by a 97-vote margin, with 196 republicans voting in favor." So not only did Congress know about the NSA program they created it, to keep us safe and to keep everyone at peace.

Please vote PRO


I will rebut Pro's Case, and the turn to defending my own.


Contention One: National Security

There are four quick points to be made here:

1) Much of Pro's evidence comes from the Obama administration, which is obviously biased. It permitted the NSA to perpetrate its actions and it doesn't want to look bad. Both of these are motives for the government to release information that casts the NSA's actions in a good light. Also, Carafano is head of the right-wing Heritage foundation, and has pronounced neocon bias towards the NSA's actions.

2) Pro gives absolutely no statistics to back up his claim that the "NSA prevents terrorism." How many plots has it stopped--Pro never says. Because I am the only one to offer statistics on this, you have to prefer my concrete data to Pro's vague claims. See my contention four for more analysis.

3) Cross-apply my contention three here--it directly addresses the issue of oversight.

4) Cross-apply my contention two here--it directly addresses the legality arguments.

Contention 2: Knowledge

A) Even if Congressmen are briefed, that does not mean they are told many of the details of the NSA's operations. Clearly, some programs will not be revealed to the Congressmen in enough detail for them to make truly informed calls about the NSA's power. Moreover, the NSA should not just be accountable to legislators, it should be accountable to the people. If there isn't more transparency, it's hard for people to make decision re: the NSA when they go to vote for elected officials who will be making policies impacting the agency. By excluding the public, the NSA is making it harder for them to be effectively scrutinized.

B) Again, Pro fails to show how useful the NSA actually is in beating back terrorism. My numbers indicate that the NSA has a very small, almost negligible role. Pro offers no numbers of his own, so we must default to mine.

Contention Three: Impact on U.S.

A) 9/11 was not preventable by any one agency. 9/11 occurred because many agencies failed to share information [1]. This failure to coordinate led to the travesty that was the World Trade Center attack. [2] The fact was, that we already had the information to stop 9/11, we just need to share it. Therefore, the NSA did not need to engage in domestic surveillance (PRISM), all it needed to do was reach out to fellow agencies like the CIA and DIA.

B) Again, Keith Alexander is a biased source--he personally has be championing the cause of greater surveillance. Of course he will defend his brainchild. And what exactly does "disrupt" mean? And could these attacks have been prevented through other means--i.e. is this offense inherent to your case?

Finally, lets look at the Social Contract. National Security does not trump the Constitution, or the rights that derive therefrom. The Constitution functions as the limits that bind our government, and the government must operate within these limits, not outside them. This includes as respect for the rights of citizens.


Contention One: Scope of PRISM

This point goes UNREBUTTED; it's clear Con offense now. The NSA's program is MASSIVE and touches hundreds of pieces of information daily--more than Google even. This means that there is a greater likelihood that one's privacy will be invaded. The NSA's mission here is not a narrow won, but rather a broad license to infringe citizen's rights.

Contention Two: Illegality

Pro has asserted multiple times that PRISM is not illicit. However, all he has done is offer evidence that Congress has passed the Patriot Act. I agree: Congress has passed it. But what Pro NEVER did was countermand either of the following:

1) That PRISM is actually in violation of the Patriot Act; or
2) That the Patriot Act is unconstitutional

The first point was evidenced by a source in my case that was DROPPED by Pro. Extend this argument; it becomes untouchable Con offense. The second point, that the Patriot Act is unconstitutional, is a logical extrapolation from the notion that it violates expectations of privacy (14th Amendment), and the right against unreasonable search or seizure. It's fairly unreasonable to search someone without telling them you're doing it. It's like a cop breaking into your house while your away and rummaging through your things. The NSA is breaking into you conversations and scouring them for data. It's downright illegal.

Contention Three: Oversight

I would like to see a source for Pro's assertion re: the 22 NSA workers. Moreover, the information shouldn't be collected in the first place without a warrant. That's like a cop going into your home, picking up a suitcase of yours, walking out, and then promising not to look in the suitcase without a warrant. The fact is, he shouldn't have even collected the suitcase without the warrant. That's just an ex post facto justification for a crime. This is exactly what my source was saying earlier: "accountability is not strong enough, especially when access to metadata about communications and interactions only requires internal authorization within an intelligence agency—and not the warrant that is required to intercept the actual content of communications." [3]

Moreover, Con's arguments have nothing to do with the administration's ability to order the NSA to bypass the laws or with the NSA's ability to simply ignore regulations, which was what my contention was about. So, he's not actually clashing here. Extend my contention--it's UNREBUTTED and is now solid Con offense.

Contention Four: NSA doesn't prevent terror

Pro cites biased evidence to try to refute this point. He cites one very specific example of the would-be Kansas bomb, but that's cherry-picking. Most importantly though, Pro utterly and completely FAILS TO RESPOND to the idea that "Of the remaining 38 plots, the public record shows that at least 33 were uncovered by using standard policing practices such as informants, undercover officers, and tips to law enforcement.” [4]

If regular law enforcement are doing such an amazing job, why do we need the NSA--which just violates people's privacy rights--to join in? We don't--there's no gain to the NSA's actions because we can solve the problem through other, less harmfully intrusive means.

Thank you! Please, VOTE CON!


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Debate Round No. 2


Ellielovesthedoctor forfeited this round.


Please extend my points.

I hope my opponent rejoins the debate.

Debate Round No. 3


Ellielovesthedoctor forfeited this round.


As the only one to have clear, unrebutted extensions of my arguments, I ask for your vote. Thank you.
Debate Round No. 4
No comments have been posted on this debate.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Sargon 2 years ago
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: Con's unrefuted source demonstrates that the NSA is not effective in stopping terrorist attacks. Con's arguments were unaddressed for two rounds. Arguments Con.