Think about the amount of times a day you go on the Internet or use your phone. Now think about all the “top secret text messages” you have sent to a friend or about that time you googled something really embarrassing or inappropriate that you swore would have killed you if anyone ever found out.
In reality there is a government machine that is able to see not only those private texts or Internet searches, but also your entire technological life.
Just this year Edward Snowden, a former U.S. intelligence defense contractor leaked top-secret information on this government “machine” that is able to stalk your entire being. This machine can see every US citizen’s personal texts, Internet searches, calls, emails, or any other form of interactions with technology. The fact that a giant computer is keeping track of our every move seems more like a plot from a futuristic sci-fi novel, not the actions of a democratic government.
We are not the only country who the US government has kept tags on. The whole NSA scare has been brought back up with a large backlash from France, who recently discovered that the US government had been using the same technology to watch over them. America has records of over 70 million French citizens’ phone calls from only one year. Making sure to not be outdone by the French, the news of the US getting caught in another spying incident has only drastically increased the paranoia of the American public.
It is this exact fear that has caused many to think of Edward Snowden as a hero, rather than as a traitor to the country. Many think he took a courageous stand in revealing what he believed the people deserve to know rather than the censored information the government feeds us.
Personally, I believe that Snowden should not be celebrated as a hero, however citizens should also not just brush off the information he has leaked. It is our constitutional right as American citizens that we will not be subjected to unreasonable searches. It clearly states in Amendment IV that “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated ... ”
Although the founding fathers obviously did not have Internet and the technology we have today while writing the Constitution, it is undoubtedly true that the government does not have the right to search through our private information without a warrant. This means the government’s current actions are completely unconstitutional.
It may appear that there has been progression in the institution of warrants with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, however this is not the case. The FISC was created under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to protect American’s fourth Amendment rights, especially dealing with technology. The FISC issues warrants for electronic surveillance, however a majority of these warrants are simply bypassed due to security reasons. Obviously security is an important issue, but in the past denying citizens their believed basic rights lead to a massive war within our own country.
On the other hand, it is hard to ignore the opposition from those who support the NSA. The President and other government officials often justify the over-protective measures as a fight against terrorism. Since 9/11 America has drastically increased its anti-terrorism programs to ensure the safety of its citizens. In a way it is hard to complain about the government compromising privacy for security, especially for those who lost loved ones due to terrorist attacks.
Overall, I believe that there is no answer that will satisfy everyone in this complex problem. There is a huge gray area over the constitutionality of the government’s actions verses the security issues at stake. Over the years there have been many court cases involving the FISC and government investigation without the use of a warrant. Unfortunately, many times the President simply claims that it was for security reasons and the necessity of informing our citizens of the government’s illegal actions are dismissed. It is unjust that the government keeps our citizens completely blind from their power to watch every private electronic detail in our lives. A government that is built off of the ideas of freedom and democracy cannot hide this kind of crucial information from their citizens without casing major speculation. Think about it: If the government has concealed a machine with the power to survey your entire technological life, imagine what else they have been keeping in the shadows.
Natalie Marcotullio is a student at Westfield High School.