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Why the United States Government Should Spy On its Citizens
The topic of spying on the American citizens has been acontroversial topic in the United States in the last three decades.Whereas some people have supported the move by the government to spyon its citizenry, others have strictly opposed the move terming it asan intrusion to people’s privacy. The government has put forwardvarious reasons as to why it spies on its citizenry. Firstly, thegovernment has cited terrorism as the main reason behind spying onits citizenry (Johnson, 45). It is apparent that people would ratherbe spied and deal with the issues of privacy concerns, than dealingwith the loss of their loved ones and enormous damages caused by actsof terrorism , which would have been thwarted.
The issue of spying on the citizenry of the United States has beentaken the wrong way by a majority of people. When the word spying isa mentioned, a vast majority of the people assume that the governmentis spying and recorded every detail in an email, SMS or phone call.However, the US government has reiterated once and again that theyonly look for key words in the messages or emails. For instance, thegovernment can be spying on the emails or SMSs of a suspectedterrorist to look for key words associated with terrorism such asal-Qaida, Alshabaab and attack (Boghosian, 105). This has anindication that spying should be construed to mean that thegovernment interferes or intrudes to personal privacy. For instance,the government would not spy on messages between friends orrelatives.
The issue of terrorism is rife across the world. Terroristactivities are as a result of a network of people who coordinatetheir activities through phone calls, SMSs and emails. In addition,terrorist activities may involve the exchange of money between theinvolved parties. When the US government spies on its citizenry,terrorist activities can be thwarted at their initial stages. TheUnited States has been a target for numerous terrorist activities andthe government has the responsibility to protect its citizenswhichever means possible against the dangers of terrorism (Johnson,66). The 9/11 attack on the world trade center, Boston bombingamongst others, could have been thwarted if the government hadgathered sufficient information regarding the organization of theterror activity. The United States is no longer immune to theactivities of terror and the government must control these activitiesbefore they happen. There has been numerous attacks and attempts toattack the Americans.
Terror activities can be in various forms which range from bombinghouses, plain hijackings and bombing sports grounds or schools. Thegovernment of the United States asserts that it has been able toprevent various plane hijackings and terror activities through theinformation they gather in regard to its citizenry. The sufferingthat is accompanied by terror activities cannot be compared with thediscomfort associated with intrusion of privacy (Boghosian, 76). Itis also apparent that the government is responsible for the securityof the people and their properties. In an incident where there is anattack and there is loss of lives and property, the government isheld accountable. It is therefore, justifiable for the government tospy on its citizens in order to flash out the terrorists.
Although it is not all Americans who are criminals, the fact is thatthere are a few people amongst the innocent citizenry who arecriminals and a danger or threat to social order. Whereas thegovernment may want to flash out these criminals, it is imperative tonote that the entire citizenry must be screened to find out who thecriminals are. The government must collect information relating toall the citizenry, and screen it to find who the criminals orterrorists are. Therefore, people who are innocent should beconcerned when the government collects information. Furthermore, theremoval of these criminals from the society is beneficial to thegeneral public (Johnson, 112). The government is able to avertpossible criminal activities hence protecting the public. Theinformation that the government gathers about its citizenry is aimedat ensuring there is security and social order in the society.
Another great worry that accompanies the idea of spying on theAmerican citizenry is the fear of how the information will be usedand who handles the information. It is clear that the informationcollected is only handled by government agencies that deal withsecurity matters. For instance, the information regarding Americancitizens can be handled by the Department of Homeland Security,National Counterterrorism Center and other government securityagencies (Lathrop, 52). Due to the legislative acts that have beenpassed regarding privacy, these government security departments canonly use the information collected for the purposes it was intendedfor. The information by these departments is safe and its leakage toother third parties is extremely controlled. Therefore, when thegovernment spies on it citizenry, it is evident that there is nocourse for alarm since the information is safe and can only be usedfor particular purposes such as combating terrorism and crime.
The national security agency has reiterated numerous times that ittargets the foreigners and not the citizenry. It is a fact that thesecurity of the United States is paramount to its social, economicand political progress. The information spied upon by the securityagencies is aimed at the defense of the country against the outsideworld (Lathrop, 83). It is also imperative to note that America isthe not the first country that collects people’s information. Othercountries have also been collecting such information for the purposeof their own security and defense. Brazil and Britain have also beenspying on various people for the purpose of their own security andother reasons such as politics.
There is sufficient evidence that American law enforcement agenciesand spy agencies do their work under the law. It is evident that theinformation that they collect from Google, Facebook and other socialnetworking is under watchful eyes of the courts and congress. Thereis currently an ongoing debate on the trade-off between privacy,security and convenience. It is increasingly becoming evident thatthe electronic surveillance carried out by the security agencies isextremely helpful in averting various attack plots (Boghosian, 125).Research indicates that Americans are divided over the issue ofsurveillance. However, a critical look into the issue would drive oneto ask why an innocent person would be uncomfortable with spyagencies scrutinizing his information and or his communication.
The Islamic extremists who launch attacks on Americans and otherpeople across the world are difficult to investigate both in theircountries. It has become apparently clear to the security agenciesthat the terrorists and other criminals use the internet and mobilephones for communicating and organizing their evil activities. As aresult, the security agencies viewed electronic surveillance as theeasiest way to curb the criminal activities. The security agenciesare able to avert numerous organized terrorist activities. As thedirector of NSA, Keith Alexander said, since the revelation by Mr.Snowden, there has been numerous plots that have been stopped orprevented that would have had disastrous consequences (Ghitis, 7).
More often than not, American law enforcers will bump into people’shomes without warrants and search for any signs of criminalactivities. Whereas this is considered as an intrusion to privacy, itis evident that its results are something to smile. Logic willdictate that you cannot inform a criminal or a terrorist that you areon the way coming to search his or her house. Law enforcementofficers are therefore justified to bombard criminals and makearrests. It has become increasingly difficult to separate thecriminals and terrorists from the innocent members of the public. Asa consequence, the spy agencies and law enforcement officer mustscreen the public to point out the criminals.
Whereas the US government has the sole duty to protect its citizensand their property against the evil acts of terrorists and criminals,it should do so within the confines of the law. The information thatthe government collects in spying the activities and the histories ofsuspicious people should be used for the sole purpose of enhancingsecurity and defense of the country. The big question which has beenpeddled around for decades is the trade-off balance between privacyand security and convenience. Would it be ok to feel the convenienceof privacy and be at a security risk? The answer to this question hasbeen a controversial topic. Whereas some Americans believe that it isok for the government to spy on its citizens, others believe thattheir privacy is a constitutional right that should not be violated(Ghitis, 8).
Since the September 11 terrorist attack on America, it becameapparently clear to the National Security Agency that America was nota safe haven and that it was as vulnerable to other nations are inthe hands of terrorists. As a consequence, the issue of spying on thecitizens should be viewed positively and be seen as a way ofenhancing security and defense of the United States. The revelationby Mr. Snowden who was a former security agent in the United Statesthat American security agencies have numerous data of millions ofAmericans was critical in keeping attackers and criminals alike atbay.
The main reason as to why the government security agencies wouldcollect personal information would be to use such information againstsuch a person. However, if the security agencies do not find anyinformation that is suspected to link the individual to criminalactivities, the emails, call records or SMSs are deleted.Furthermore, it apparently clear that the security agencies spying onthe citizens have no idea of the owners of the information they arescrutinizing. Therefore, it is clear that there is no apparent issueof privacy that is a great concern in government spying on itscitizens. If a country like the United States has to be secure fromits enemies, the citizens must be ready to sacrifice their privacyfor security and defense.
Boghosian, Heidi. Spying on Democracy: Government Surveillance,Corporate Power, and Public Resistance. , 2013. Print
Ghitis, Frida. U.S. needs to get spying under control.Retrieved from: http://edition.cnn.com/2013/10/25/opinion/ghitis-u-s-spying/2013.
Johnson, Chalmers A. The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy,and the End of the Republic. , 2005. Internet resource.
Lathrop, Charles E. The Literary Spy: The Ultimate Source forQuotations on Espionage and Intelligence. New Haven: YaleUniversity Press, 2004. Internet resource