Reaction to NSA Articles

The NSA Files revealed a lot about the workings of the NSA that I previously did not know. What Snowden was able to expose about the NSA was incredible. For years Americans have been recorded, spied upon, and lied to by NSA officials. One moment in the NSA Files that struck me was when the quote “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear” appeared. This quote seemed like it would be taken out of “1984” or some other dystopian novel in which Big Brother watched over and surveilled its citizens. It does not seem like the type of thing that would be said in the United States. Yet this quote was used to describe the workings of the NSA, which truly revealed how intrusive the NSA has become.

On November 3 we looked at the piece The Assault on Privacy by Arthur Miller. In it, he warned of the dangers of computers and the ways in which computer technology would threaten informational privacy. As we discussed it, no one seemed too threatened. The ideas of passwords and encryption seemed like enough protection for us. But for Miller, it wasn’t. Instead he explained that the only way to truly protect our information was to have trustworthy information managers with a code of ethics and to eliminate the collection of sensitive information. These protocols seem almost obvious in that they should be done, yet through the NSA readings, it seems like these were not done. For example, Jameel Jaffar explains that the government is collecting extremely sensitive information about people to learn the associations between people. The NSA has tapped into links to access information about millions of Americans and has exploited the law to do so. This is both shocking and disturbing. If we are supposed to be living in a democracy with freedom of speech, how can surveillance of this kind be allowed?

When reading about the NSA I thought it was incredibly interesting how the article and the website looked at the NSA and the government as an enemy. For example, Eric Grosse said “It’s an arms race. We see these government agencies as among the most skilled players in the game.” It is not often that the government is portrayed so openly and so publically as a competitor or rival. Yet in the articles, the NSA’s infringement upon American lives made it the true enemy.

2 thoughts on “Reaction to NSA Articles

  1. Reading the longer article did make me wonder how exactly Snowden found his information. The NSA is a huge organization that I’m sure was not easy to infiltrate. It makes me wonder how he discovered his information and also where he currently is. I remember hearing about him in the news where the stories first broke, but not really what happened to Snowden.

    I agree that the whole “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear” quote was a little unsettling. Especially considering that the country was founded under that ideal of innocent until proven guilty. Under current surveillance techniques, everyone is essentially guilty until proven innocent.

    I understand the importance of secrecy in terms of national security, but I feel there should still be some check. The Anti-Federalists during the founding of the country feared that the Judicial Branch of the government would become too powerful because there weren’t effective enough checks on them. They feared the lifetime appointments as well as their ability to be the final court in the land could lead to tyranny. It is interesting to note that the discussion can now be applied to national security. Without any check, how can the public be sure that that security agencies won’t abuse their power?

  2. As I understand it, Snowden did not join the CIA and later the NSA with the intention of infiltrating it and exposing its inner secrets. He was just another recruit when he started off. He was eventually promoted and was given responsibility over some of the NSA’s surveillance program, I don’t know the particulars of his assignment but it was easy for him to steal classified information about the NSA’s programs because he was one of the people assigned to keep them classified.

    As for the “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear” line, that has always been a ridiculous sentiment, the fact of the matter is that everyone has something to hide. Most of us aren’t harboring secret plans to overthrow the government or commit felonies, but all of us have done or said things that we wouldn’t want made public. The question becomes about how OK we are with the NSA having access to monitor possible threats to us when it means that they also have pictures of that time you stole a stop sign as a senior prank. It’s a hard line to draw, but it is a necessary one.

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