technology and national security / privacy issues / Edward snowden
The massive 9/11 attacks revealed some obvious flaws in our security system. Terrorists not only managed to slip through the immigration and airports but also managed to live, train and plan within the United States for many years. The resulting fear of other terrorist groups who might have been living and training in U.S. were justifiable. In this regard, congress came close to passing the patriot Act that offered the government more powers to go after the terrorists. Nevertheless, security has since been tightened at the airports, borders and ports. Moreover, department of homeland security has since been created to monitor and control the efforts (Lyon, 2007).
Why government surveillance violates our constitutional rights
The government surveillance has no authority to have round the clock information of our religion, sleeping and waking hours, a person making calls to his friends, people making Christmas calls, our daily life, spying on our social life, the amount of colleagues we have and even knowing our political interests and affiliations. The NSA also keeps track of calls to emergencies, abortion clinics, sexual assault cases, helplines and support groups which is totally illegal and uncalled for. Thus NSA is committing a crime itself and invading the personal lives of Americans for that matter. It is also violating the first amendment in the American constitution. It must be stopped dead in its tracks (McVeigh, 2013).
The increased government power has been blamed on the deprivation of security and civil rights formally enjoyed by the citizens. For instance, people have and still are being put in jail in the absence of trial and access to a lawyer. Another example is, just like Clinton administration, the bush administration began particular local NSA spy operations on Americans without being overseen by the court. According to the civil rights advocates, a dangerous group in the form of government big brother is in the process of being established and is a threat to the way of life of Americans. Impracticable wartime efforts such as palmer raids and Japanese internment have been referenced as justifiable reasons for the present fears. Palmer Raids was an attempt by U.S. Department of Justice to deport and arrest anarchists and leftists from USA once and for all. Nearly, 500 such individuals were taken off American soil during the year of 1919. Thus, these actions are highly questionable under the pretext of American law (Kennedy, 1980). There have been many cases in case of American-Japanese imprisonment due to government detaining citizens in times of war. This is again a case of state committing crime against its own citizens by keeping a watch on them (Irons, 1976). Unfortunately, majority of these policies, including setting up wiretaps in the absence of a court warrant continues even under the presidency of Barrack Obama (Lyon, 2007).
The act of denying people their civil rights essentially interferes with the very definition of being an American really means which in turn hands the terrorists victory. The ability of individuals to lead a life free of government interference, whether one belongs to the majority or minority with the current government, is one of the things that make USA a great country. Therefore, the removal of civil rights disintegrates the very essence of being an American. There is really another better way of awarding the terrorists’ actions that destroying Americans’ way of life (., 2010).
The existing protections offered by the constitution are being violated even as the U.S. constitution being regarded as one of the most enduring and intelligently created documents of all time. This explains why U.S. is the most successful country in the world and also the reason why many people across the globe come to settle here. It is quite unfortunate that the war efforts focused on terror is destroying constitutional force. Individuals are being tracked even in their places of worship (1st amendment violation), Can be put to jail without being tried (7th amendment violation) and can be denied the right to access a lawyer or face the witnesses against them (6th amendment violation). Additionally, right to place has been violated deeply. It has commonly been said that, in his efforts to fight terrorism, the U.S. attorney general has the U.S. constitution on one hand and a pair of scissors on his other hand (Michael et al., 2010).
Justifying Government Surveillance
In a bid to establish the justifications for government surveillance, a question that remains unanswered is the extent to which our civil rights and privacy should be reduced to fight terrorism. Terrorists never really commit crimes unless they engage in act of terrorism itself. The current system of justice states that a person must commit a crime for them to be arrested. The bad news is that, the very first time a terrorist carries out a crime leads in massive deaths and severe losses, a good example is the 9/11 attack. Terrorists are so fanatical that they are always willing to give up their lives for their course. This being the case, we have limited deterrent. It is so surprising that Al Qaeda manuals have information on how well to blend with the society as a ‘law abiding’ citizen (Minsky, 2013).
If we failed in our efforts, thousands or millions of people could get killed. More than three thousand people died on 9th November in 2001. Obviously, this number is small compared to the number of people who could die if a chemical, nuclear or biological attack was to happen. Terrorists have not made any effort of hiding the possibilities of such life threatening acts. There are no doubts in the possibilities of terrorists using weapons if they had the opportunity to do so. Jose Padilla was arrested if though he had not technically committed the crime of dispersing a dirty bomb. What happened in his trial can be classified as Federal Conspiracy Law. Herein the government only had to prove what might happen in the future, rather than what actually happened in the past. Padilla was arrested and charged for planning to commit a crime (Revcom, nd). Should we have waited until he had committed the crime for him to be arrested? If we had information that 9/11 terrorists would strike, should they have been arrested prior to committing the crime (Minsky, 2013)?
The economic damage of such attacks is measured by the number of people put out of work and the wealth destroyed. Specifically the 9/11 attacks cost the economy unsaid billions. Many people across the world felt this economic impacts since many nations are dependent on the U.S. economy. Besides the number of lives lost, the effect on the quality of life is worth keeping into consideration. When the economy weakens, people are put out of work, and thousands or even millions of people across the to starvation levels and poverty. In this regard, the costs of failing to act are far higher than those of action (Feldman, 2011).
Agents can rely on circumstantial evidence and intelligence to detect a possible terrorist attack, although they may not be in a position to prove it beyond reasonable doubt. Intelligence gathering is not exactly scientific. Majority of elite terrorists are now experts in avoiding any actions that could get them arrested and it is therefore highly unlikely that agents will be able to prove their case beyond reasonable doubt, most especially when no crime has been committed yet. Although some activities might not constitute to a crime, they are naturally suspicious and agents should at least be in a position to wash or investigate the people involved (Allmer, 2012).
There would be additional tools for dealing with crimes not related to terrorism such as drug trafficking. The wars on drugs, locating kidnappers and fighting organized crime at times facilitate tracking of information related to war on terror. Therefore, the law enforcement would be given another tool in their fight against these things. This has become extremely important as the drug war in Mexico spills goes over the borders (Allmer, 2012).
Some amount of trust has to be awarded to the government if anything is to be accomplished. Some dubious acts and scandals that occurred in the past, including Monica-gate and Watergate have resulted in weakened trust in the government. It is not impossible to not find a government official who has not lied or misled at some point in their career. Nevertheless, things are not like they were in the past as there is a lot of media attention to all the officials say or do that it has become hard for them to abscond any misdeeds. The media makes spectacles out of small government misdeeds while such reports represent only a small proportion of the total work done. Officials need to be accorded even a little trust as they do their work. They need to be given the opportunity to establish how best they can get work done instead of wondering how well to cover their butts (Laidler, 2008).
Terrorists will have no option but to re-organize fresh anti-terror techniques, which can be costly and time consuming. Terrorists that carried out the 9/11 attack and ones that have managed to escape law enforcement to present must be highly sophisticated. They look for weaknesses and then change appropriately which leads to delays and more expenses. For example, Osama bin Laden, learned that his cellphone transmissions were being monitored, stopped using them and relied on hand delivered messages. Obviously, this consumes more time and is by far more costly. The use of advanced systems like TIA (Total Information Awareness) would consequently force a series of changes and reorganization. For instance, if TIA starts monitoring credit card transactions, terrorist would resolve to carry more cash among many other changes (Laidler, 2008).
Law enforcement should use new methods of raising the probability of monitoring guilty people to avoid harassing the innocent ones. Techniques such as TIA should help officials to accomplish their goals. The checks-n-balances system of America limits the government from going too far. Awarding the government some unchecked power to invade privacy to spy is a great reason for paranoia but unfortunately fails to sit with reality. The media has compared this system with abuses of Stalin, Hitler and Hussein but there is a huge difference. Firstly, courts have the power to overrule actions by the president or congress. Secondly, officials can be removed from office and thirdly, the public can demand that government overturn or modifies the law. Lastly, the media is vibrant in combing through each word and action of the individuals in power. In this regard, Americans always have the capacity for pulling back the reins on people in leadership (Laidler, 2008).
Invalidating Reasons for Government Surveillance
Possibilities of abuse for the present administration or future administrations are undeniable. Clearly, the war on terror is one that is potentially endless, there may never be a peace treaty signed to officially bring war to an end. To boost government powers, numerous emergency clauses have been referenced as justification. Hence, normal rights such as trial by jury are slowly being taken away even for the U.S. nationals, citing dangerous times as justification. This certainly opens the door for many years of abuse of civil rights. It is possible to say that we trust Obama administration, but can we trust future administrations? Could we find ourselves in the hands of Paranoid place state present in most of the Middle Eastern countries (Lyon, 2006)?
We might experience racial profiling and other forms of discrimination and abuse. The number of Arab-Americans, Muslims and immigrants that are law abiding and loyal Americans is huge, but should they be exposed to abuse on the basis of the categories they fall in? A lot has been done to correct the numerous civil rights abuses in the past years and this trend should continue by avoiding setting aside minorities to discriminate against. War on terror justifies implementation of TIA system but the government might use information obtained for such as blackmail. Such systems could be used by the government to spy someone they dislike which is potentially damaging (Hier et al., 2009).
If the rights of moderate Muslims are abused, this could lead to a number of problems. For instance, such Muslims may not believe in the approaches used by the terrorists. If they have useful information, they may not feel the urge to share with the law enforcement and lastly, they may sympathize with terrorists, take their side and perhaps join them increasing not only the number but also worst kind of terrorist who perpetrates more horrifying acts against innocent civilians (Hier et al., 2009).
It is a commonly known fact that many countries have adopted the technologies from the Americans to spy on its own citizens. The American, Canadian and British technologies are used to full extent. These tools can block and hack online content and keep an eye on its own citizens. Such tools should be banned from use as breach of privacy is being committed here. With the help of such technologies, the government are now able to scan mobile networks, comb emails, read text messages, track its population by GPS, block internet websites and alter email messages; thus ending the privacy of its citizens completely. With the help of malicious software, a webcam and a cell phone can be used for spying purposes. The population has every right to go into court in the presence of such activities and oppose government surveillance (EFF, nd).
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