Pros And Cons Of The NSA Surveillance

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The recent revelations about the NSA surveillance programme have cause concern and outrage by citizens and politicians across the world. What has been missing, though, is any extended discussion of why the government wants the surveillance and on what basis is it authorised. For many commentators surveillance is wrong and it cannot be justified. Some commentators have argued that surveillance is intrinsic to the nature of government and its ability to deliver the public good.[1] Few, though have looked at the surveillance within a wider context to understand how it developed. A notable exception is the work by Steven Aftergood.

In his excellent blog NSA surveillance and the Failure of Intelligence, Aftergood looks at the history of domestic
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Yet, is this the right question? If we are to argue that the surveillance is inappropriate, we need to understand the change in context. If we look at the world 10 years ago, when attitudes to surveillance changed, the attack of 11 September 2011 is seen as a catalyst. However, it is not the source of the surveillance. The surveillance reflects the constitution and the social contract the government has with its citizens.

The source of the surveillance is the law and the
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We are not facing an issue of civil rights. We do not have a 21st century Martin Luther King who is trying to deliver a people from a constitutional injustice. Instead, surveillance is a symptom rather than a cause of the constitutional crisis. Perhaps with greater understanding of constitutional history and the constitutional effects of war, commentators would have seen this issue.[6] How does America remains secure in the world where such threats exist? Can it do this without a constitutional crisis each time the threat emerges? Perhaps a constitutional crisis the price that America has to pay to remain secure. Perhaps the deeper question is who decides when the threat is no longer a threat? We may believe that Bush made a poor decision. However, what alternative did he have? What alternative does Obama have? If we simply say the threat is the fear of tyranny from a president swollen with power from foreign wars, we miss the perverse result our constitution has created. In no small measure, our fear of an overly powerful president waging war abroad has had the unintended result that the government has to become more powerful and intrusive because America will not resolve the constitutional issue. Who will decide that the public’s demand that the president and the government act to keep them safe is now excessive? If security requires America to shape the world by its direct military efforts, how
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