Friday, September 27, 2013

The NSA: a Necessary Evil or is Government Overstepping their Authority?

The NSA has been a large topic in recent media discussion and rightfully so, it is surprising how in a land of democracy and freedom, which America claims itself to be, such an organization can exist to monitor the online activities of it's citizens. Recently it has been discovered that 12 NSA employees had misused their surveillance powers to spy on their significant others. While these are not often occurring instances, they do paint a picture of what the NSA employees are capable of doing. And these were only the NSA agent that have been caught, how many others may there be that have managed to silently avoid detection?

The NSA is a controversial organization because it fails into the category of appearing both necessary and also infringing on personal rights. With FBI agents claiming that the NSA could have stopped 9/11, it is difficult to justify not allowing it to exist. At the same time, allowing the NSA to analyze the phone calls of millions of America is clearly not the best way to go about intelligence gathering. Perhaps and approach of targeted surveillance could work better, instead of the current scatter shot approach they are using.

The very clandestine nature of the NSA makes is difficult to discover what violations they have made or even what they are legally allowed to do. The large media hype surrounding the NSA today is of course due to the leak from Edward Snowden where he released massive amounts of confidential data on the organization. Had he not done so, the American people may still be clueless today about the massive amounts of information gathering happening currently.

With the NSA's every move being watched not just by policy makers, but also the general public and the media, it is unlikely that they will break the law in any way. The concern is really what the law already allows them to do may be too much. The NSA has already taken steps to address these concerns, such as the recent opening of the Civil Liberties & Privacy Officer who would oversee that the NSA does not overstep their authority and that the American people's privacy will remain intact. The question is simply whether or not this is an empty position, or if this "Privacy Officer" will hold true power.

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