Recent revelations concerning the National Security Agency's controversial mass surveillance programs -- and the government contractor who leaked classified documents about those programs -- have sparked a renewed dialogue: How much individual freedom are U.S. citizens willing to sacrifice for the sake of national security? Like many Americans, I appreciate a zone of privacy around my personal matters. I don't like it when that zone is invaded. At the same time, there are legitimate reasons for our government to monitor cyberspace, where the threats and vulnerabilities to American safety are real and need to be taken seriously. Still, my own ambivalence toward the privacy vs. security discussion does not diminish my disappointment in the disclosure that the U.S. government has for several years been mining the private data of millions of Americans and, in effect, spying on our allies as well as our adversaries. Equally bothersome is that this new, massive extension of government power has occurred with very little debate or public discussion and on the watch of the president, Congress and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, better known as the FISA court.
- The NSA's controversial activities raise some important questions:
- How do we have an informed debate when we don't know what our government is doing?
- Can the scope of intrusions into people's lives be minimized or narrowed?
- Why is this data so critical to our government?
- How do we better limit the access of contractors to the nation's most sensitive secrets?