A Commentary on Government Surveillance Situation
I just want to share an article that was posted on the website The Week. Before you make an opinion listen to what Paul Brandus says in his commentary.
To understand what Edward Snowden did — out a massive National Security Agency surveillance program that he says is undermining American democracy — it's helpful to go back to Sept. 11, 2001.
Remember the anger and defiance you felt that day? The fear? I certainly remember — like it was yesterday. I watched the towers burn and crumple from my Manhattan office building. After the shock wore off, this troubling question lingered on: "Why couldn't we have done more to stop it?
The answer was, sadly, that we could have done more to stop 9/11. We could have paid attention to 954-815-3004, a telephone number used by Mohamed Atta, who crashed American Airlines Flight 11 into the North Tower. We could have paid attention to phone calls made by Nawaf Al-Hazmi and Khalid Al-Midhar, whose home number was brazenly listed in the San Diego phone book — before they became two of the hijackers on American Flight 77, which slammed into the Pentagon.
Then there were the calls made between the hijackers and contacts in Germany and the Middle East. There were credit card transactions, driver's license records, and more — a string of clues that, if stitched together ahead of time, might have prevented the morning that shattered our complacency about safety and privacy. We've been debating both ever since.
This system has stopped plots. The government cites the 2009 arrest of Najibullah Zazi, the Afghan-American who was picked up before he could bomb the New York subway. How was he nabbed? The government had reason, based on his communication patterns, to actually listen in. Next time you ride the New York subway, think about that.
The delicate balance between vital yet seemingly conflicting demands — privacy and security — that's the real debate here. It's an issue that eclipses partisan politics. How do we as Americans want to live?
Then there are those like Snowden who argue that upholding our civil liberties is the best way to protect the American people, that the corrosive effect of surveillance is just as much a threat as those who wish to physically attack us. That is a legitimate debate. Snowden says the government is going too far; perhaps it is. But let's hear his ideas on maintaining that balance.
The question again: How much security and surveillance is enough? And how much is too much?