The Privacy Question


Christopher Issa, Writer

Many people in the United States feel that they have the right to their privacy and that the government should have no part in it whatsoever. Others, both in the government and civilians alike, believe that the government should have the right to overextend its authority in order to apprehend terrorists and prevent possible terror attacks. Even some in the government would agree with those who cherish their privacy.

Privacy advocates argue that it’s unconstitutionally indiscriminate, violating Fourth Amendment protections from warrantless searches of US citizens. Article 8 of the Human Rights Act states that ‘Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and correspondence.’ However, according to General Keith Alexander, the former director of the NSA, at the Black Hat 2013 security conference, “This information is not classified to keep it from you: a good person. It’s classified because sitting among you are people who wish us harm.” He also states, “It is worth considering what would have happened in the world if those attacks — 42 of those 54 were terrorist plots — if they were successfully executed. What would that mean to our civil liberties and privacy?” James Lewis, a researcher at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, reiterates, “The NSA said there were 54 cases where they were able to detect plans and stop them, and 50 of them led to arrests. Fifty doesn’t sound like a lot compared to the number of records the NSA collected, but would you have preferred to have 50 more Boston bombings?”

Despite the justifications put forth by the NSA, many Americans are still strongly divided over the government intruding on their private lives. Other Americans do not mind at all with the NSA potentially spying on their text messages, phone calls, and emails as much as credit card companies knowing every address they have had or internet cookies recording information. However, other Americans feel that there should be a logical balance between privacy and national security. Americans are not ignorant of their rights and some have proposed that before the government spies on a US citizen, it must have a warrant to search and that citizens should undergo due process as well. Due process means that the government cannot spy on a US citizen, prosecute, or put on any kind of list without adhering to the US Constitution and without treating them through the normal judicial system.