NSA purpose seems noble, agency’s aims may contain flaws


Art by Maddy Mueller

Ross Parks


Art by Maddy Mueller
Art by Maddy Mueller
The recent scandals within the United States government and the National Security Agency and those circling around Edward Snowden have led to the revelation that the U.S. government is spying on its citizens.
According to reports, the NSA, a division of the government intended to collect intelligence has reportedly been keeping extensive and expanding information on the citizens of the United States as well as those of foreign countries. While the purpose of the NSA is nothing new, being a 61-year-old division of the government, the allegations that it’ using its resources against the people for which it is intended to protect, is alarming too many.
The NSA operates under the Department of Defense, and the motto, “Defending the Nation. Securing the Future.” Their vision and goal are as follows: “Global Cryptologic Dominance through Responsive Presence and Network Advantage,” and their values, “We will protect national security interests by adhering to the highest standards of behavior.” Which all sounds pretty nice and peachy, but all depends on the usage of text to determine the true intentions of the agency.
After all, nearly everyone likes soda, and promote and condone soft drinks; however, if we called them “diabetic’s cocktail,” then we may no longer accpet the putrid, caffeine filled, addictive, high glucose and sodium dump of liquid that we agree is kid friendly and serve willingly at parties and events.
Overall, the purpose of the NSA does seem noble, however, the aim of the agency is the what is in question. If the intent is truly to protect the people, then it shouldn’t also be stored on record, unless the issue is directly aligned with national security.
As of now, the NSA can collect and store information for a length of five years in the pursuit of furthering an investigation or to use the evidence to compile upon possible “threats.” However, once again, the NSA needs to define “threat” before these premises are acceptable – a task which is too large for one man to handle and only many courts, in which legality rather than opinion is the key function, can decide.
However, while answering the legality of the question in great detail may be impossible for one person to accomplish, some reflection upon overarching themes in American history can and have proven to make the points of many people before.
After all, the larger question is still in play. It is not whether the actions of the NSA are or are not legal, but if we should allow them to be legal. Laws have been made, broken and reconstructed by the hands of those who disagreed with a set of rules and standards that they found overtly unjust, numerous times.
Every great social movement is a nearly perfect embodiment of the idea that the country and its policies are those crafted by the will of the people and the force that we hold to make change. The civil rights movement, women’s suffrage and even the civil war are expressions of the people in response to policy that they found to be unjust.
As citizens of a country founded upon the ideals of freedom, it is and always has been our duty to constantly reevaluate and reinforce the ideals of the country, especially those listed within the first 10 amendments to the constitution.
However, in securing these freedoms, the spectrum between freedom and absolute control, at times, has weirdly met. The line as to where security ends and freedoms reign are unclear and has lead to many pieces of legislation that in retrospect were not in line with the ideals of freedom for all. Easy examples would be Japanese internment and the Alien and Sedition Acts.
In theory and on paper, these ideas were meant to secure the greater freedom for all. What people failed to realize at the time is, by restricting the freedoms of people, it ironically inhibits their ability to be free. And by taking away the rights of others, no matter how few, the rights of those still deemed good by the government, became all the less legitimate. After all, if we are all born with certain inalienable rights, then how may we take those freedoms from others to secure our own. In fact, if we were to try and take others’ rights, as we have tried to before in the past, the rights we hold are then an ironic and deplorable misconstruction of what freedom is meant to be and blatantly misrepresents from where freedom derives.
Freedom is meant to be possessed, not afforded by man or government. As many seem to be confused, our government does not grant Americans their rights, instead our government is to be a statement of our rights, and one that should never violate the liberties of man , as the regimes before it.
Many argue the legislation that quickly followed the attacks of 9/11 violated people’s rights. Both prisoners and the people of the U.S. were violated because the legislation gave the government a rather unlimited capability to track down whatever they deemed as a threat with no requirement for transparency. For many, this sounds like a good idea, because safety always sounds nice, especially when it’s efficient.
But what people seem to forget is that the power to eradicate the freedoms of others is not afforded to any one person. Only is something a crime when one acts against another individual and only then is it taken to court to be decided. Therefore, with legislation that allows for the detention and silencing of those who conspire and plot against the government may sound nice, while we all have an idea of what freedom feels like, perhaps we all should be reminded that the power to determine what is good and bad is one traditionally held by the people. And allowing the government to covertly track, follow, compile information upon and eventually detain individuals without a proper trial as any other accused, is traditionally inconsistent to say the least, with the ideals behind our existence.
With legislation such as that following 9/11 and the actions of the NSA, the American public should be well versed in what it means to forfeit liberties of securities. After all, when the public gives its government the right to label the citizens good and bad, the road is not long to being afforded rights on a conditional bases, rather than possessing them innately within ourselves.
Besides, those who founded the country in which we live warned and warred strongly against a powerful, domineering government, but even more so against a people who didn’t realize their own rights.
“Those who sacrifice liberty for security, deserve neither.”
—Benjamin Franklin
By Ross Parks