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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Regarding the NSA Spying Scandal: "Thwarting Terrorism" is Not a Valid Justification for Violating Rights

The most popular justification for the NSA spying scandal is that such efforts have thwarted "terrorism." The Washington Post reports on testimony to the House Intelligence Committee:
Intelligence officials said Tuesday that the government’s sweeping surveillance efforts have helped thwart “potential terrorist events” more than 50 times since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, and the officials detailed two new examples to illustrate the utility of the programs.
Evidently, according to these officials on both the Right and the Left, as long as government surveillance efforts result in preventing an attack from occurring, any manner of rights violations is justified.  Is this true? Should we welcome an Orwellian Big Brother state as long as we are "protected from terrorism?"  The answer is an emphatic "No!" As I wrote about in a previous post concerning gun control legislation, the idea of protecting Americans from harm is not a blanket justification for violating rights:  
[L]et's consider the concept of "safety", which evidently is of paramount concern to those supporting the [gun control] legislation.  As usual, this term is being used out of context.  For example, if safety is the goal, perhaps we could station government agents in our homes to regulate our movements just like at airports. After all, they could make sure we are clothed properly for the elements so that no one is ever cold.  They could make sure we eat only nutritious foods and beverages that have been approved by Michelle Obama and Mayor Bloomberg. They could make sure that we are not warping our minds with violent video games or television programs unsanctioned by the state.  They could make sure that no "offensive" speech is uttered, particularly, by the racist tea party talk radio show hosts.  They could make sure we carry the appropriate medical coverage. To really thwart potential danger, we could all live in cages and have government agents decide when we are allowed to leave and with whom we may interact.  Then all would truly be SAFE!
The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution specifically prohibits the government from conducting unreasonable searches and seizures and requires the police to obtain a warrant based on probable cause. If we drop the Bill of Rights and allow the government to trample individual rights what exactly are we fighting for (or against)?  Should we give up freedom to protect us from those who would take our freedom?