In the United States, there has always been an underlying presumption of political corruption, whether mild or severe, at any given time. However, recent media attention has been focused on a particular practice which had previously not even been admitted to: NSA monitoring and collecting of communications throughout the country, between any and all people within its borders. Despite the fact that monitoring by the NSA has been in place since the 9/11 tragedy, the revelations of Edward Snowden have exposed the existence of this standard monitoring, regardless of the fact that it had been previously denied.
Monitoring of communications that take place in the United States has been around for over a decade. According to Eddlem, “Widespread surveillance of Americans began shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks under the Bush administration, and received some attention with reporting by the New York Times from 2004-2006” (17). With such a long-running campaign of monitoring and surveillance, what made the topic reappear in the American culture? The answer is: Edward Snowden. As reported by Wolverton:
Edward Snowden, an employee of an NSA subcontractor, leaked a cache of documents containing compelling evidence of the NSA’s wholesale violation of the Fourth Amendment through the dragnet surveillance of phone records of millions of innocent Americans. (11)
This “leak” was particularly stunning and revelatory because, before this incident, the NSA and the U.S. government as a whole had patently denied the fact that such monitoring had taken place.
My position on the policy is that it is a necessary evil. Although many might call such monitoring invasive and violative of constitutional rights, the truth is: we need this type of monitoring to protect those of us who are “innocent” from those who are truly intending to do evil. This idea is echoed, as posited by Goldsmith who supports such monitoring because “cyber-intrusions threaten corporate America and the U.S. government every day. ‘Relentless assaults on America’s computer networks…hackers and criminals have created an urgent need for safeguards to protect these vital systems” (9-10). Although the reasons for beginning the wide-sweep monitoring are quite compelling (i.e. terrorists of the sort that attacked on 9/11), many believe that this reason has now passed. Yet, Goldsmith and others such as myself are in the cautionary group that believes the next domestic terrorism threat might not come from physical harm, per se, but cyber harm through software, hardware, malware, and viruses.
To solve this problem, there could be more stringent guidelines enacted to limit or curtail the government’s ability to monitor communications. However, this could actually lead to more harm rather than less, if the ability to monitor is severely strained, allowing more threats to slip through. For those who are political activists, the best way to ensure ideas are heard and responded to is: grassroots organization. Anyone who feels an idea or policy has not been thoroughly addressed, or needs to be changed, should organize a neighborhood, community, or school-wide group that is specifically focused on a particular issue, such as curtailing monitoring (if that is the supported stance). Throughout American history, some of the most effective political and social change has come in the form of a few citizens fighting for what they know to be right.
- Eddlem, Thomas R. “The NSA Domestic Surveillance Lie. (Cover Story).” New American (08856540) 29.19 (2013): 17. Points of View Reference Center. Web. 12 Oct. 2013.
- Goldsmith, Jack. “We Need an Invasive NSA.” New Republic 244.17 (2013): 8-12. Academic Search Complete. Web. 12 Oct. 2013.
- Wolverton, Joe. “The New Age of Surveillance. (Cover Story).” New American (08856540) 29.19 (2013): 10. Points of View Reference Center. Web. 12 Oct. 2013.