The Instigator
Con (against)
0 Points
The Contender
Pro (for)
7 Points

The Benefits of Domestic Surveillance by the National Security Agency Outweigh the Harms

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Voting Style: Open Point System: Select Winner
Started: 3/31/2016 Category: Miscellaneous
Updated: 6 months ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 274 times Debate No: 89042
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (2)
Votes (1)




I am going to do my argument like a formal debate, with contentions. I wish that you will reply quickly, as I do not have a high amount of patience. Anyway, LET THE DEBATE BEGIN!!!!!

Contention One- Misused Money. There are only 2 concrete examples of terrorist attacks that have been stopped by the NSA. That is not enough of a reason to insure one that it is worth it for anyone to be giving away all of my personal life to the government: phone calls, emails, and all other online transactions. If the issue is saving lives than why doesn't the government take action with the main killer of Americans per year, alcohol . You are 4,007 more times likely to be killed by alcohol than by a terrorist and yet America spends millions of dollars on the war on terror.

Contention 2- Totalitarianism. Domestic surveillance by the NSA promotes totalitarianism. If the goal is prevention from crime, then the NSA has no right to violate our privacy. It is a crime as well. It doesn't matter if you're not doing anything bad. The point is, many people have the fear of being watched, and no one wants to be filmed everywhere they go.

Contention 3- Abuses. The three billion phone calls made in the U.S. each day are snatched up by the NSA, which stores each call's metadata (phone numbers of the parties, date and time, length of call, etc.) for five years. This means that every year, they listen to about ONE TRILLION NINETY-FIVE BILLION phone calls ALONE.

Contention 4- Tools The NSA has very powerful tools that they are abusing. They put the programs under code names to make them sound like the programs are not harming anyone, but the truth is that these tools are abuses of the NSA"s power. The NSA has over 45 programs that are sugar-coated to make it sound as if they are doing good, but these tools are more dangerous to Americans" privacy than the supposed terrorists.

Thank You for Debating! Remember to attack all contentions and state your own.


Thank you to JonathanDebator999 for making this topic.

Contending CON'S points


The point of spending money on counter-terrorism is to counteract terrorism. Therefore a low number of casualties caused by terrorist attacks since this program was put in place does not necessitate a poor cost-effectiveness. If anything it would be horribly cost-ineffective if they were spending all this money and there were still a lot of deaths.

After all the mass deaths of 9/11 have not been repeated because they are no longer possible or are at least far less likely due to increased security checks at airports, even though this infringes on people's rights to privacy.

What CON needs to show, but has not attempted to, is the difference between the number of deaths with the programs and the number of deaths that would occur without the programs. If the number was small then this could indicate that the program is cost-ineffective - although it would still need to deal with the issues that as a security program the details of it are widely unknown and that in complicated real life situations it is usually overly-simplistic to ascribe everything to one cause. It is perfectly possible for a terrorist attack to be foiled by multiple complementary reasons, none of which have obvious primacy.

I feel that the comparison between terrorism and alcohol is also invalid due to they key issue that drinking alcohol is a consensual act while being killed by terrorism is not - as well as the wider geo-political implications of the latter.


CON does not offer any examples of the NSA promoting totalitarianism. The claim is unsupported.

He further claims that the NSA has no right to violate privacy. In fact the programs have been run based on laws passed by congress[1] and with their continuing oversight. A requirement for all bills being passed through congress is that they specifies what constitutional right allows the law to be passed. In the example I give above, for instance, it states "Congress has the power to enact this legislation pursuant to the following: Article 1, Section 8, clause 3 and Article 1, Section 8, clause 18". They do in fact have the right to carry out these actions.

This is in fact a law being passed by a democratic government with reference to the collectively decided rights defined in the constitution of this state. In this particular instance I cited they are even actually scaling back the NSA's powers slightly, readjusting what they are allowed to do as time progresses and they can reassess the situation. That is as far from totalitarianism as you can get.


Despite being titled "Abuses", CON never actually explains what the abuse is, merely listing numbers of calls. Is the assumption meant to be that because so many calls are 'listened' to there must be a significant number of some ill-defined abuses being carried out? Or is listening to that many calls meant to be inherently abusive? I don't know because CON never explains or makes the case.

More importantly, even his contention is inconsistent. He states that every year the NSA listen to over one trillion ninety five billion phone calls. However the point is that even if collected meta-data on every single call made in the USA (which he does not show occurs), collecting meta-data is not the same as listening to calls.

As he explains meta-data is phone numbers of the parties, date and time, length of call, etc. The meta-data being collected DOES NOT allow them to listen to calls and his argument is inconsistent.


CON does not support his points. He states three different times that they are abusing their tools or that tools are abuses of the NSA. He never explains WHY " the truth is that these tools are abuses of the NSA"s power". It is merely the same unsupported claim being made three times across three sentences, each time in slightly different language.

My Case

Both the the right to privacy and the right for congress to "provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States" are essential rights derived from the Constitution.

What to do when they come into conflict and you have to choose between one or the other.

This happens fairly often. See for instance the old example of someone shouting "FIRE" in a crowded auditorium where people could be trampled in a stampede. Another example is the conflict a few years ago in the UK where Lord Justice Leveson did a decent analysis of (amongst other thing) the conflict between the journalist's right to expression versus the individuals' right to privacy and how the conflict between these rights should be dealt with. [2]

So the mere fact that people's rights will be infringed upon is not an adequate reason for supposing that the harm of domestic surveillance outweighs the benefits. Either way people will have rights infringed upon, whether it's the right to privacy or right for their government to keep them secure.

We must therefore look at the other effects of the two competing policies to see what else happens beyond the identical effect of a right being infringed.

As my opponent has admitted, although he tried to minimise it, there is a benefit to the people in terms of increased protection from terrorist attacks. Personally I believe that there will be far more than two terrorist attacks where the domestic surveillance by the National Security Agency had an effect, but the entire basis of this being a secret security program makes this hard to judge. What we must keep in mind however is that CON's admission is the barest minimum that we must accept as beneficial.

However as to the harm of the domestic surveillance, there is none. it is a philosophical issue about a right being infringed upon, and as explained that will happen regardless because we are in a situation where rights conflict and one must be infringed either way

As an infringed right and protection from terrorism (however small) is better than just having an infringed right, the issue under contention for this debate should be supported. The good outweighs the harm.

Lastly many of the beliefs about what the NSA does domestically are outdated, for instance it ceased its bulk metadata collection program in November of last year.[3] As CON's beliefs seemed to indicate that he could simply assume that the NSA was monitoring every call in the USA when this is not the case, his statements about what the NSA is carrying out cannot be merely accepted at face value. As he has not provided evidence that they are happening, his argument cannot be deemed to support his claims.

Vote PRO.

Debate Round No. 1


JonathanDebater999 forfeited this round.


Opponent has FF R2. I believe my R1 arguments were valid and I extend them.

Hope you make it back for R3!
Debate Round No. 2


JonathanDebater999 forfeited this round.


Opponent has FF again.

As explained in R1 I believe that Con does not support their claims about the harm of domestic surveillence and that as even they admit there are some benefits to the domestic surveillance of the NSA the motion of this debate should be accepted.

Please vote PRO.
Debate Round No. 3
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by Overhead 6 months ago
Durrrrr, post comment =/= post argument!
Posted by Overhead 6 months ago
Opponent has FF R2. I believe my R1 arguments were valid and I extend them.

Hope you make it back for R3!
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by tejretics 6 months ago
Who won the debate:-Vote Checkmark
Reasons for voting decision: The debate plays out pretty clearly. I'm not getting much offense from Con's C2, C3 or C4. None of those arguments is properly explained. I have no idea how the NSA promotes totalitarianism, and Con doesn't show me how privacy is important at all. Pro refutes C3 by pointing out that nothing Con says is evidence of "abuse." With C4, once more, Con doesn't explain how much offense is carried by privacy, or how important privacy is. The main point of contention in this debate is security. Con's C1 talks about money being wasted on surveillance and the ineffectiveness of the same, while Pro's whole case is based on how surveillance is effective. I buy Pro's argument that those examples aren't enough because there could be more, confidential, examples and that even those examples warrant the cost because lives are saved and terrorism is stopped. While I don't think this is usually adequate, Con's forfeit means Con drops Pro's impact analysis, so I vote Pro.