The Illusion of Peace in a Time of War
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The United States is a nation privileged with freedom, privacy and protected rights. Thus, it is only natural that an explosion of controversy would erupt from something like the National Security Agency choosing to collect data from phone conversations of citizens in order to protect against terrorist attacks. Though the party opposing the NSA’s decision is the loudest, more citizens are actually in support of allowing the NSA to continue collecting private data.
According to a Washington Post-Pew Research Center poll, about 56 percent of Americans—over half of the population—find it suitable and acceptable for the government to continue surveillance of civilian phone conversations.
The other portion of the population does not feel that looming terrorist attacks are a real enough threat to monitor the private lives of our nation’s citizens.
The comfort of knowing that we are not in an official state of war at this present time (despite our inevitable involvement in the ticking time bomb of Middle Eastern affairs) seems to be enough of a consolation to put our minds at ease and numb ourselves to the memory of events like 9/11 and the Boston Marathon bombing. But Marc A. Thiessen, writer for the Washington Post, urges people to rethink letting their acceptance of the reality of terrorist attacks slip into dormancy. Thiessen also challenges, “if the critics don’t think the NSA should be collecting this information, perhaps they would like to explain just how they would have us stop new terrorist attacks.”
Terrorist groups don’t have navies, armies or movement that we can trace with satellites. This means that there are three main tactics that we can use to gather information that will help us prevent terrorist attacks: interrogation, penetration and signals intelligence. Using interrogation is out of the question, per Obama’s decision, and penetration is too inconsistent and dangerous, especially due to leaks. Signals intelligence (monitoring phone calls and internet activity) is the best option that we are left with.
Due to the fact that we live on a safe home front, away from the constant atrocities that much of the world is experiencing, tapping phone calls and intruding on people’s private conversations seem unnecessary and intrusive actions to many of us. However, modern technology makes distance a matter of little importance. Despite feeling safe because of the oceans distancing ourselves from the chaos, danger is very near indeed and waits at our front door. We as a “know-it-all” nation and a people who have been granted the privilege of access to extensive education sometimes needs to accept that we, despite our greatest efforts, do not know everything that is going on. Humility is necessary to recognize that the decision not to trust our government to be the gatekeeper of our safety for the sake of pride and personal privacy might just be the very forfeiting of our freedom.