2013-08-07 / Editorials

Protection Vs. Privacy

The 12th anniversary of the September 11 attacks are a month away, and the U.S. government is currently facing criticism by many citizens for its controversial surveillance programs. Yet we all want to be safe from terrorism.

Many government organizations and programs were implemented to protect the U.S. It began with the Patriot Act in October of 2001, when law enforcement and intelligence agencies had restrictions lifted, when it came to the gathering of intelligence for anti-terrorism measures.

Next came the Department of Homeland Security, and its offshoot agency the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) created to safeguard our airports and transportation areas.

In addition, many other programs were created by the National Security Agency (NSA) and implemented in the interest of national security. Some of these programs allow the monitoring of our phone calls and e-mails.

Programs like Boundless Informant, a big data analysis and data visualization system is used by the NSA to collect data worldwide. The Boundless Informant program was very aggressively collecting almost three billion data elements from inside the United States over a 30-day period just last March.

Although this kind of widespread surveillance has thwarted several terrorist attacks, many Americans, both private citizens and those in government feel that this is a direct violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Recently, the House of Representatives defeated legislation by a narrow margin (51 percent to 49 percent) that would have prevented the NSA from collecting vast amounts of phone records.

This type of narrow vote shows an almost even split of confidence in the government’s claim that they are authorized to engage in universal phone record and data collection.

Despite the monitoring of cellphones and e-mails, terrorists still managed to strike last April, during the Boston Marathon, killing several people and wounding many more.

We must re-evaluate restrictions on our right to privacy.

If this universal act of information surveillance continues, it will fulfill the prophecy of Big Brother, a term coined by George Orwell in his book, 1984, and even more so, desecrates the purpose behind the creation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, when this nation’s founding fathers warned against illegal search and seizure and intrusion by the British.

We must debate our interests; freedom and safety may be in conflict. What price do we pay for our safety? Some would say pay any price, but a total disregard for our freedoms cannot be one of the costs.

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