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The United States government should not have the right to eavesdrop and target U.S citizens because of matter of national security. However if we have nothing to hide from the government, then why we should be afraid of the government eavesdropping on U.S citizens because of a national security reason, if according to the government it is to benefit and protect us? Should we give our privacy rights away for security? “Once you’ve lost your privacy, you realize you’ve lost an extremely valuable thing.” (Graham B. 1958).
In this essay I will talk about the National Security Agency eavesdropping versus privacy rights. I will also discuss whether the National security agency should have or not the right to take U.S citizens digital privacy away in exchange of security. I will also share my opinion on which side I stand and the reasons why I believe so, supported by veridical facts that are known and have been exposed to the light from the United States government. However I will also emphasize the government’s point of view. Last after having both sides perspectives and facts, I will conclude explaining on which side I stand and the reasons why, based on the research that I will provide to the reader throughout the essay. Should the National Security Agency have the right to listen to all digital communications and target all Americans because a matter of “national security”? In order for the National Security Agency to have complete access to all types of digital communications it would need a warrant against all civilians.
Therefore if the National Security Agency is really using secret warrants, then it is violating the fourth amendment of the constitution of the United Sates which is the part of the Bill of Rights that prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures, it also requires any warrant to be judicially sanctioned. Under the Fourth Amendment, law enforcement must receive written permission from a court of law, or a qualified magistrate, to lawfully search and seize evidence while investigating criminal activity. Therefore if the national security is using these warrants against all U.S citizens, then all Americans are being considered criminals by the government. The Bush administration passed through the congress a secret warrant to give through the United States Department of Defense full access and authority to the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on all United States citizen digital communications and databases. Now what is the National Security Agency “NSA”, and what is the function and purpose of this agency? The National Security Agency is the main producer and manager of signals intelligence for the United States.
Estimated to be the largest intelligence agency in terms of personnel and budget, the NSA operates under the jurisdiction of the Department of Defense and reports to the Director of National Intelligence who is Keith Alexander. The National Security Agency is home to America’s code makers and code breakers. The National Security Agency has provided timely information to U.S. decision makers and military leaders for more than half a century. The National Security Agency is unique among the U.S. defense agencies because of the government wide responsibilities. National Security Agency provides products and services to the Department of Defense, the Intelligence Community, government agencies, industry partners, and selected allies. They also deliver critical strategic and tactical information to war planners and war fighters.
According to this information that was shared by Keith Alexander in 2009, the National Security Agency clearly has a lot of power, however this power should be used to target potential threats against the U.S citizens, not the U.S citizens. In the past year, the NSA has repeatedly denied that it is collecting data on U.S. citizens. In March 2012, NSA chief Keith Alexander told Congress that his agency doesn’t even have the ability to collect data on Americans. “The NSA gathers intelligence under Section 702 of the FISA Amendment Act, which allows the NSA to gather data on non-U.S. citizens outside the U.S. It also gathers tens of thousands of “domestic communications” by and from Americans in its normal gathering of foreign surveillance, according to declassified court finding.” (PBS. 2013). Now we can observe that there is a contradiction in between what the National Security is saying about spying on people, and what many articles are actually saying.
However if these accusations from the people are true, how can we be sure and support them since the National Security Agency is a classified agency that will never disclose this information with the civilians? A former contractor from the National security agency Edward Snowden gave away his liberty and his salary, which was above two hundred thousand dollars a year. Just to tell the world through The Guardian that the National Security Agency was violating the fourth amendment and spying all digital communications and targeting all civilians as high risk targets against the United States. Snowden said he just wanted the public to know what the government was doing.
“Even if you’re not doing anything wrong you’re being watched and recorded,” (CNN. 2013). Snowden told The Guardian newspaper in the United Kingdom that he had access to the full rosters of everyone working at the NSA, the entire intelligence community, and undercover assets around the world. “I’m just another guy who sits there day to day in the office, watching what’s happening, and goes, ‘This is something that’s not our place to decide.’ The public needs to decide whether these programs or policies are right or wrong,” (The Guardian. 2013).
When Edward Snowden issue happened and turned the people’s trust and faith against the government, the people started wondering and researching what were the methods that the government was using to target and spy all digital communications. PRISM, for example, is a clandestine mass electronic surveillance known to have been operated by the United States National Security Agency (NSA) since 2007. The Prism program collects stored Internet communications based on demands made to Internet companies such as Google Inc. The Apple Company just officially announced another source that helps the National Security Agency with data and information, when the iPhone 5s came out they announced that they would be sharing their database with National Security Agency. “Tim Richardson, District Manager of Apple’s North America Marketing Department admits about the sharing of Database with NSA, he said to Jane M. Agni” (Hackersnewsbulletin. 2013).
The National Security Agency has been compiling a special database for over a year now to use with the new Apple technology. This clearly says that through the National Security Agency the government has an extremely high interest on listing and monitoring all communications of civilians. Of course people don’t find this acceptable, neither they can believe anything that leaders from the government say. Civilians now think that when our leaders like the National Security Agency say nobody is listening to your phone calls, after the facts of the whistleblower, it actually means that all phone calls and digital communications are being intercepted, recorded and saved, then converted to text via a computer software which is PRISM. Prism then converted the txt into a metadata that gets analyzed by a computer algorithm and searched by National Security contractors.
The contractors can listen to both recorded and live calls, as well as read emails, chats, financial histories, and then get the secret court rubber-stamp for the secret warrant, which is completely against the fourth amendment. However, the government is completely aware that this is a total violation of the fourth amendment, so they classified it as a matter of national security because they know if Americans realized what they are actually doing they will be upset and take action against it. Even if they spent billions of dollars trying to hide it, at some point the will truth come out. And president Obama said the same thing in 2008, but it seems that he didn’t take his own advice, that he gave to his administration in his first speech as president. Eventually the truth came out even that rumors of these violations were going around Edward Snowden made it official and this created many protests against the government. One of the main groups that took action against it is the Anonymous group, who are an anonymous group of hackers from all around the world who work together against the government.
Their weapon against the government is data information, they hack into classified networks and then they share the information they obtain with everyone. Their emblem is, “Knowledge is free, we are anonymous, we are a legion, we don’t forgive, we don’t forget, expect us.” If a government cannot be clear and not show their people what they want, then the civilians will stand up against the government and that is what the anonymous group is doing. For example, they are having a march on Washington D.C, and they are expecting 5 million people to show up to show the government how they feel about their acts and violations.
If they don’t stop denying what has been clearly shown and proved by people from inside the government the people of the United States will take into consideration other options to change the government and its way of doing things without a permission of consent of the civilians. If we look back to history, every time there has been a revolution it is because the people were tired of an oppressing government and they took action against it, but at the same time Americans are not focused on what is really happening in the government. They are too focused into what the media is feeding them which is another of the government’s methods to keep people distracted from the violations they are doing, and this is what all these anonymous type of groups are doing, which is to try to wake people up to the reality of all the rights we are losing because of a matter of national security.
ACLU. (2013). “ACLU sues NSA for massive spying program” American civil liberties of union.
Retrieved from http://www.aclu.org/secure/aclu-sues-nsa-massive-spying-program-stand-us CNN. (2013). “Man behind NSA says he did it to safeguard privacy, liberty. CNN Politics. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/10/politics/edward-snowden-profile/index.html Electric Frontier Foundation. (2013). “NSA spying on Americans”. Defending your rights in the digital world 2014. Retrieved from http://www.eff.org/nsa-spying Parks, Alika. (2013) “NSA wiretapping. “Government agencies foster unfair economic advantages”. The Huffington Post. September 9 2013. PBS. (2013) “NSA ability to intercept domestic communications raises more privacy questions” PBS Newshour. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/government_programs/july-dec13/nsa_08-21.html National Security Agency. (2009). Freedom of Information act.
Retrieved from http://www.nsa.gov/public_info/foia/index.shtml The Guardian. (2013) “Latest on the computer analyst whistleblower who provided theGuardian with top-secret NSA documents leading to revelations about US surveillanceon phone and internet communications”. The NSA Files. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/world/edward-snowden Hackers News bulletin. (2013) “ Apple admits, iPhone 5s finger print database to be shared with NSA”.HN Bulletin News. Retrieved from http://hackersnewsbulletin.com/2013/09/apple-admits-iphone-5s-fingerprint-database-shared-nsa.html