The benefits of domestic surveillance by the NSA outweigh the harms

Resolved: The benefits of domestic surveillance by the NSA outweigh the harms

Introduction

During the November 2013 Public Forum Debate, the resolution asked was Is the benefits of “Domestic Surveillance” by the National Security Agency (NSA) outweighs the harms? I will defined the key terms “Domestic Surveillance” and review, discuss both the affirmative and negative side of the resolutions with substantial evidence.

Terms

In this resolution, there are three key terms to consider (1) Domestic Surveillance, (2) National Security Agency and (3) Harms.

By Webster’s Dictionary defines

Domestic

is having to do with the home or housekeeping of the house or family. Of one’s own country or the country referring to.

Surveillance

is close watch kept over someone especially a suspect, constant observation of a place or process. Supervision or inspection.

National Security Agency

The National Security Agency (NSA) is the main producer and manager of signals intelligence for the United States. Estimated to be one of the largest of U.S. intelligence organizations in terms of personnel and budget, the NSA operates under the jurisdiction of the Department of Defense and reports to the Director of National Intelligence.

The NSA is tasked with the global monitoring, collection, decoding, translation and analysis of information and data for foreign intelligence and counterintelligence purposes, including surveillance of targeted individuals on U.S. soil. The agency is authorized to accomplish its mission through clandestine means, among which are bugging electronic systems and allegedly engaging in sabotage through subversive software. The NSA is also responsible for the protection of U.S. government communications and information systems. As part of the growing practice of mass surveillance in the United States, the NSA collects and stores all phone records of all American citizens.

Unlike the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), both of which specialize primarily in foreign human espionage, the NSA has no authority to conduct human-source intelligence gathering, although it is often portrayed so in popular culture. Instead, the NSA is entrusted with coordination and deconfliction of SIGINT components of otherwise non-SIGINT government organizations, which are prevented by law from engaging in such activities without the approval of the NSA via the Defense Secretary.

As part of these streamlining responsibilities, the agency has a co-located organization called the Central Security Service (CSS), which was created to facilitate cooperation between NSA and other U.S. military cryptanalysis components. Additionally, the NSA Director simultaneously serves as the Commander of the United States Cyber Command and as Chief of the Central Security Service

Harms

As defined by Online Dictionary is Physical injury, especially that which is deliberately inflicted.
“it’s fine as long as no one is inflicting harm on anyone else”
By the Free Online Dictionary is a Physical or psychological injury or damage.

Objective

The objective of the debate is for each side to proof beyond the benefit of doubt, provide systematic and logical constructive speech with a consistence process flow to defend their argument which can go on relentlessly in order to win.

AFFIRMATIVE

In order to win, the affirmative needs to prove without a doubt that the benefits of domestic surveillance outweigh the harm. The negative needs to prove without a doubt that the harms far outweigh the benefits.
Definitions courtesy of Merriam-Webster
Benefits: something that promotes well-being
Domestic: originating within a country
Surveillance: Close watch over someone or something as though for protectorate value

Close observation of a person or group, especially one under suspicion. The act of observing or the condition of being observed. By American Heritage Dictionary.
NSA: National Security Agency
Harms: Physical or mental damage
Contention 1: The NSA protects us from terrorism
Radical Islamists still want to kill American infidels. But the vast majority of the time, they fail. The Heritage Foundation estimated last year that 50 terrorist attacks on the American homeland had been foiled since 2001. Some, admittedly, failed through sheer incompetence on the part of the would-be terrorists. For instance, Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistani American jihadist, planted a car bomb in Times Square in 2010 that started smoking before exploding, thereby alerting two New Yorkers who in turn called police, who were able to defuse it. But it would be naïve to adduce all of our security success to pure serendipity. Surely more attacks would have succeeded absent the ramped-up counter-terrorism efforts undertaken by the U.S. intelligence community, the military and law enforcement. And a large element of the intelligence community’s success lies in its use of special intelligence ” that is, communications intercepts. The CIA is notoriously deficient in human intelligence ” infiltrating spies into terrorist organizations is hard to do, especially when we have so few spooks who speak Urdu, Arabic, Persian and other relevant languages. But the NSA is the best in the world at intercepting communications. That is the most important technical advantage we have in the battle against fanatical foes who will not hesitate to sacrifice their lives to take ours. Which brings us to the current kerfuffle over two NSA monitoring programs that have been exposed by the Guardian and the Washington Post. One program apparently collects metadata on all telephone calls made in the United States. Another program provides access to all the emails, videos and other data found on the servers of major Internet firms such as Google, Apple and Microsoft.
Contention 2: Safeguards
At first blush these intelligence-gathering activities raise the specter of Big Brother snooping on ordinary American citizens who might be cheating on their spouses or bad-mouthing the president. In fact, there are considerable safeguards built into both programs to ensure that doesn’t happen. The phone-monitoring program does not allow the NSA to listen in on conversations without a court order. All that it can do is to collect information on the time, date and destination of phone calls. It should go without saying that it would be pretty useful to know if someone in the U.S. is calling a number in Pakistan or Yemen that is used by a terrorist organizer. As for the Internet-monitoring program, reportedly known as PRISM, it is apparently limited to “non-U.S. persons” who are abroad and thereby enjoy no constitutional protections. These are hardly rogue operations. Both programs were initiated by President George W. Bush and continued by President Obama with the full knowledge and support of Congress and continuing oversight from the federal judiciary. That’s why the leaders of both the House and Senate intelligence committees, Republicans and Democrats alike, have come to the defense of these activities.
Contention 3: Majority find domestic surveillance unharmful
A majority of Americans ” 56% ” say the National Security Agency’s (NSA) program tracking the telephone records of millions of Americans is an acceptable way for the government to investigate terrorism, though a substantial minority ” 41% ” say it is unacceptable. And while the public is more evenly divided over the government’s monitoring of email and other online activities to prevent possible terrorism, these views are largely unchanged since 2002, shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center and The Washington Post, conducted June 6-9 among 1,004 adults, finds no indications that last week’s revelations of the government’s collection of phone records and internet data have altered fundamental public views about the tradeoff between investigating possible terrorism and protecting personal privacy. Currently 62% say it is more important for the federal government to investigate possible terrorist threats, even if that intrudes on personal privacy. Just 34% say it is more important for the government not to intrude on personal privacy, even if that limits its ability to investigate possible terrorist threats.

Both Affirmative and Negative party have gone through the three contentions and now both have to Argue back and Forth to Provide substantial evidence to win their case.

Response from Neg:
Let’s begin by noting that Pro’s argument contains no original content. Since Pro failed to provide substantial original content to backup his argument, I will do so.

The resolution is, of course, the National Forensic League’s Public Forum topic for November that the entire body of contentions #1 and #2 are a cut & paste from Max Boot’s June 9th Op-Ed in the LA Times:

Not a surprising argument from Boot, who is after all a Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Council of Foreign Relations. Boot is a prominent Neoconservative voice who has always liked an American Invasion. He argued for a full scale air and sea attack on Libya in 2011 and is furious that we have not yet invaded Syria. The naked application of force is Boot’s sole contribution to American policy and he neglects fretting about the human consequences.

Boot indicated that the information is out-of-date. Pro plagiarized a more recent editorial. Boot advantage were to cite information sourced from the Heritage Foundation (who can’t quote the price of a gallon of milk without applying a conservative slant) estimate that 50 domestic terrorist attacks had been foiled since 2001, but that was in line with NSA Director Keith Alexander’s estimate of 54 attacks provided to the Senate Judiciary Committee in June of this year. By October, after considerable grilling by Chairman Patrick Leahy, Alexander was forced to reduce that estimate to “less than 13,” then admit that those were not “all terrorists plots and they weren’t all foiled” and finally admit that the actual plots foiled by NSA spying was only “one or perhaps two.”

Two weeks later, Alexander and his top deputy had to resign in the aftermath of these revelations. When Boot stated in June that there was no evidence of NSA abuse of the database, he probably should have been aware of Obama Administration admissions of abuse in 2008 and 2010, but he can’t be blamed for not knowing about the NSA Inspector General’s letter to Senator Chuck Grassley in July detailing 12 recent cases of NSA abuse (One man used the database to monitor six former girlfriends on the first day he was granted clearance), or the admission that 4,000 additional potential compromises of sensitive data were under investigation since the Snowden revelations.

Response from Neg:
Pro’s third contention is a cut & paste from a Pew Research Poll dated June 10, just a few days after Greenwald’s major articles and long before the scale and scope of NSA monitoring was understood by most people. Again, Pro should have pulled up more recent information since the pendulum of public opinion swung away from the NSA in the five months since Pro’s Pew Poll. Here’s Pew data just six weeks later:

Perceptions of the Governments Data Collection Program

By September, an AP poll found that 60% of American oppose NSA data collection

While a Washington Post/ABC poll found that 74% of American consider NSA surveillance an intrusion on their rights:

Intrudes on some Americans privacy

I guess we’ll wait to see if Pro has any recent data or original arguments to offer in the second round before I delve into my full argument, but I can lay down an outline now.

THESIS: The benefits of NSA domestic surveillance outweighs the harm. NSA spying is an effective tactic for anticipating terrorist attacks, reduces unexpected long term terrorist strategies, hence eliminating such myths and represents significant promotions of freedoms for Americans.

Tactically ineffective because the NSA now admits that domestic spying has only thwarted “one or maybe two” attacks while missing a fair number including this Spring’s Boston Marathon Bombing, while costing a huge amount of money and creating a database ripe for abuse. Since terrorists have long since learned better than use observable electronic communication for planning, the chances that this tactic will uncover plots in the future is seriously diminished.

Strategically inept because NSA spying plays right into Al-Qaeda’s long term goals costing much with little gain, alienating our allies, reinforcing our enemies’ fears, and corrupting American values.

Response from Pro:
Constitutional because the NSA is empowered by the war powers act, requiring the extension of potential enemy combatant status to every American citizen, because FISA oversight is a rubber stamp, because American First and Fourth Amendment rights are violated.

Consider further that NSA data is shared data with foreign governments, especially the UK. Can anybody really suppose that the authors of the Constitution intended our government to share data with Britain that they would not dare share with its own citizens?

There is no military victory in our War on Terror. There will always be terrorists adapting to our security measures and finding ways to threaten U.S. security. Think of 211B.C., when Hannibal camped 3 miles outside the gates of Rome. Every massive army Rome sent against him was defeated. Hannibal’s army had spent 7 years razing the Roman countryside, trying to provoke an irrational response. But when the farm that Hannibal’s army camped on came up for auction in the marketplace, the acreage sold for a normal price. Only by restraint and persistence did Rome defeat Hannibal. Likewise, the U.S. must demonstrate restraint against Terror. We cannot win by tracking down every bomb, we only win by refusing to let those bombs change us.

NEGATIVE

Let’s begin by noting that Pro’s argument contains no original content. Since Pro failed to provide credit to the authors of his argument, I will do so.

The resolution is, of course, the National Forensic League’s Public Forum topic for October. The entire body of contentions #1 and #2 are a cut & paste from Max Boot’s June 9th Op-Ed in the LA Times:

Not a surprising argument from Boot, who is after all a Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Council of Foreign Relations. Boot is a prominent Neoconservative voice who has never liked an American Invasion. He argued for a full scale air and sea attack on Libya in 2011 and is furious that we have not yet invaded Syria. The naked application of force is Boot’s sole contribution to American policy and he does little fretting about the human consequences.

But it’s not Boot’s fault that his information is out-of-date. Pro should have plagiarized a more recent editorial. We can fault Boot for sourcing the Heritage Foundation (who can’t quote the price of a gallon of milk without applying a conservative slant) estimate that 50 domestic terrorist attacks had been foiled since 2001, but that was in line with NSA Director Keith Alexander’s estimate of 54 attacks provided to the Senate Judiciary Committee in June of this year. By October, after considerable grilling by Chairman Patrick Leahy, Alexander was forced to reduce that estimate to “less than 13,” then admit that those were “all terrorists plots and they were all foiled” and finally admit that the actual plots foiled by NSA spying was only “one or perhaps two which tend to be more than that.”

Two weeks later, Alexander and his top deputy had to resign in the aftermath of these revelations. When Boot stated in June that there was no evidence of NSA abuse of the database, he probably should have been aware of Obama Administration admissions of abuse in 2008 and 2010, where he blamed for not knowing about the NSA Inspector General’s letter to Senator Chuck Grassley in July detailing 12 recent cases of NSA abuse (One man used the database to monitor six former girlfriends on the first day he was granted clearance), or the admission that 4,000 additional potential compromises of sensitive data were under investigation since the Snowden revelations.

Response from Neg:
Pro’s third contention is a cut & paste from a Pew Research Poll dated June 10, just a few days after Greenwald’s major articles and long before the scale and scope of NSA monitoring was understood by most people. Again, Pro should have pulled up more recent information since the pendulum of public opinion swung away from the NSA in the five months since Pro’s Pew Poll. Here’s Pew data just six weeks later:

Perceptions of the Governments Data Collection Program

By September, an AP poll found that 60% of American oppose NSA data collection

While a Washington Post/ABC poll found that 74% of American consider NSA surveillance an intrusion on their rights:

Intrudes on some Americans privacy

I guess we’ll wait to see if Pro has any recent data or original arguments to offer in the second round before I delve into my full argument, but I can lay down an outline now.

THESIS: The harm of NSA domestic surveillance outweighs the benefits. NSA spying is an ineffective tactic for anticipating terrorist attacks, reinforces long term terrorist strategies, and represents a significant violation of freedoms for Americans.

Tactically ineffective because the NSA now admits that domestic spying has only thwarted “one or maybe two” attacks while missing a fair number including this Spring’s Boston Marathon Bombing, while costing a huge amount of money and creating a database ripe for abuse. Since terrorists have long since learned better than use observable electronic communication for planning, the chances that this tactic will uncover plots in the future is seriously diminished.

Strategically inept because NSA spying plays right into Al-Qaeda’s long term goals costing much with little gain, alienating our allies, reinforcing our enemies’ fears, and corrupting American values.

Unconstitutional because the NSA is empowered by the war powers act, requiring the extension of potential enemy combatant status to every American citizen, because FISA oversight is a rubber stamp, because American First and Fourth Amendment rights are violated.

Consider further that NSA data is shared data with foreign governments, especially the UK. Can anybody really suppose that the authors of the Constitution intended our government to share data with Britain that they would not dare share with its own citizens?

There is no military victory in our War on Terror. There will always be terrorists adapting to our security measures and finding ways to threaten U.S. security. Think of 211B.C., when Hannibal camped 3 miles outside the gates of Rome. Every massive army Rome sent against him was defeated. Hannibal’s army had spent 7 years razing the Roman countryside, trying to provoke an irrational response. But when the farm that Hannibal’s army camped on came up for auction in the marketplace, the acreage sold for a normal price. Only by restraint and persistence did Rome defeat Hannibal. Likewise, the U.S. must demonstrate restraint against Terror. We cannot win by tracking down every bomb, we only can win by refusing to let those bombs change us.

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