Privacy and National Security

In the aftermath of 9/11, the President’s Surveillance Program, authorized on March 10, 2004 by the White House Counsel (not the Department of Justice), allowed the government to gather metadata from Internet Service Providers without the consent of the parties involved.3 President Obama signed an extension to certain provisions of the program on May 26, 2011 which allowed for foreign surveillance of suspected terrorists and access to certain information, metadata, from ISPs.

The revelations offered by Edward Snowden “fall into three categories: how the NSA uses the Internet and cellular networks to spy on non- Americans, how it uses the Internet and cellular networks to engage in economic espionage and how it uses the Internet and cellular networks to spy on Americans” [104]. The National Security Agency program called PRISM “allowed the NSA to obtain virtually anything it wanted from the Internet companies that hundreds of millions of people around the world now use as their primary means to communicate” [104]. This allowed the NSA access to private documents - emails, text messages, phone calls and documents in the Cloud - without a warrant, perhaps violating the Fourth Amendment.

Defense of the state necessitates surveillance activities, but in a democracy these have to be conducted within the bounds of the law. Citizens have conflicting demands in maintaining their anonymity and in securing their state. What point along the spectrum of anonymity-transparency is society going to choose? As citizens, we have the right to national defense against external threats. In pursuing this objective, the state may require access to private information so we have “delegated transparency” to select state institutions [105].

 
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