Symposium 2015: In light of recent terrorist attacks, should the federal government increase domestic surveillance? How far should a domestic surveillance program be allowed to go?

Cartwright—If you use Facebook or Google or Apple or Amazon and you have a problem with domestic surveillance, you’re out of touch with reality.  Facebook, Google, and your cell phone provider know about you and what you do than Uncle Sam does.  Do you think the federal government is listening in to the phone calls of nearly 400 million people in America?  That’s not happening, but is Google tracking your every move on the internet?  You bet your ass they are.  Ever get pop-up ads for something you looked at on Amazon a week ago?  Think that’s a coincidence?  Think again.  They know what you’re looking at online.  They know what you like, what you want, what your habits and patterns are.  They know all this about you.  Your cell phone provider may even know where you are right at this moment.  Does Uncle Sam know that you looked at a pair of shoes on Amazon last week?  Probably not. 


This is a serious issue for sure.  The last thing I want is for the federal government to have more power over individuals and more information about individuals.  We still have a reasonable expectation of privacy but we have to be willing to make some sacrifices in the name of making America a safer place.  Logistically, the federal government doesn’t have the resources to listen in on everyone’s calls, for example.  If they want to listen to what I’m talking about on the phone, have at it.  It’s probably pretty boring stuff most of the time.  Do I want them listening to me?  No.  Do I want them listening to a suspected terrorist or someone with terrorist ties?  Yes.  The federal government does have limited resources when it comes to domestic surveillance.  More often than not, they’re going to focus those resources in the right places and they’re going to be working within the parameters of the law which means they’re going to need court orders to listen in on your calls.


If you go to some big cities, Big Brother is watching you walk down the street and get on the subway and so on.  There are cameras everywhere we go.  The reality is we’re under surveillance just about all the time as it is—online, at the grocery store, in the restaurant, walking down the street, and so on—and most of this surveillance is done by private business owners who have no obligation to you.  So, is it really that big of a deal?


Let’s consider something else.  The odds of anyone in this room or anyone that anyone in this room knows being killed by a terrorist here in America is remote.  You probably have a better chance of winning the Powerball than you do of being killed or of knowing someone being killed by a terrorist here in the United States.  It’s just that simple.  Of course, this is the counter argument to more surveillance.  Why focus our resources here when the odds of a terrorist attack are so low?  Why not focus our efforts on spying on people with terrorist ties overseas?


On the other hand, our intelligence community has stopped a number of terrorist plots and may have stopped many more that we don’t know about.  I like most Americans want to be safe and want America to be safe.  Can we accomplish this without giving up some of our privacy?  No.  Are ordinary Americans giving up any more of their privacy for domestic surveillance programs than they do for Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc?  No, and in fact, we’re probably giving up less.


Personally, I think surveillance of Facebook and other social media outlets is fair game, for example.  I also think surveillance of foreigners living here in America and visiting America is fair game, especially those from countries with known terrorist ties.  And, if you’re an American and you decide to travel to a country with terrorist ties, stay for a while, then come back, maybe you should be under surveillance too.  Who should be under surveillance: mom, dad, and the kids who go to the beach on vacation or someone who goes to Iraq for a vacation?  Who should be under more surveillance:  someone’s grandmother from Kansas or a twenty year old male, Syrian “refugee?”


Let’s use some common sense here people and recognize that we gave up our privacy long ago.

Read more here at Thinking Outside The Boxe


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