Surveillance breaks Fourth Amendment

By Dawson Westfall - Student editorial

Monitoring and surveillance managed by the U.S. government has created many issues for U.S. citizens, along with relationships of foreign countries. Since incidents like the Edward Snowden phenomenon, U.S. citizens have been more skeptical and cautious as to how they go about their day. U.S. citizens feel as though they are being spied on 24/7, whether they’re having dinner with their family or simply watching television, even if they have done nothing wrong. They act in such a manner because NSA whistleblower Snowden revealed how the U.S. government is conducting mass surveillance on its own citizens. This creates a resentment towards the government and its people. The U.S. government has also been caught spying on foreign officials. Therefore, this has damaged many relationships the U.S. had with these officials.

The lead intelligence agency responsible for these spying systems and mass surveillance is the NSA (National Security Agency). Snowden revealed the NSA’s surveillance program called PRISM which according to Laura Poitras and Gellman Barton from the Washington Post has “Collection directly from the servers of these U.S. Service Providers: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.” The NSA’s response to criticism is that they are insuring national security and stopping terrorism. This is simply not the case. These surveillance programs are not valid because they catch a miniscule amount of real criminals. These programs are used more for gaining power and other precarious purposes rather than stopping terrorism. This power translated to violating Americans’ rights and the Constitution.

The validity of these programs is poor to say the least. The NSA created PRISM to put a stop to terrorism but it has had little effect. It is now used to spy on millions of Americans, while they try to find the needle in a haystack. According to Edward Snowden who was quoted on the website RT “…the (US) president appointed two independent commissions to review the efficiency of these (surveillance) programs, what they really did and what effect they had in combating terrorism. (The commissions comprised) the highest priests of these programs, they found these programs had never stopped a single terrorist attack and never made a concrete difference in a terrorist investigation.” These programs are invasive, but yet they still don’t do what they were created to do.

A nonprofit organization called New American Foundation looked into reports of how efficient mass surveillance programs are when it comes to stopping terrorism. According to Cahall, Bailey, David Sterman, Emily Schneider and Peter Bergen from an article on New America RSS about mass surveillance “(…) bulk collection of American telephone metadata (…) appears to have played an identifiable role in initiating, at most, 1.8 percent of (terrorist cases).” They then concluded, “Surveillance of American phone metadata has had no discernible impact on preventing acts of terrorism and only the most marginal of impacts on preventing terrorist-related activity, such as fundraising for a terrorist group.” This shows that this is a major issue and the only logical reason why these programs are still going on is because the government wants power, not because they’re stopping terrorism.

The reason why the programs are still up and running even though they are not stopping an adequate amount of terrorists is because they’re used for alternate purposes. Snowden is quoted on RT saying, “They (the NSA, CIA) violated the Constitution and the rights of 330 million Americans for 10 years. We have to ask ourselves: was it ever worth it?” He goes on to say the programs “(a) diplomatic manipulation, economic spying and social control. (It’s) about power, and there is no doubt that mass surveillance increases the power of the government.” These programs have violated the right of the people and will only continue to get worse.

According to NPR, the Fourth Amendment says, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.” The NSA’s programs clearly violate this amendment. They have so much power now that they do not get punished for this. Their defense that is saving them is that they are protecting us from terrorism. However, it has been showed they’re not effective in this.

By Dawson Westfall

Student editorial

The writer is a student at Edison State Community College. This piece was written to fulfill a class requirement.

The writer is a student at Edison State Community College. This piece was written to fulfill a class requirement.