Counterpoint: The National Security Agency should not end its surveillance of U.S. citizens


Advait Nair, Contributing Writer

For the past two decades since 9/11, the United States has established a mass surveillance program that has stopped domestic terror attacks.  Despite this, many Americans feel like their privacy has been breached in order for the system to be implemented.  This begs the question, does the loss of privacy weigh more than the security and safety of our people?  Surveillance does create privacy concerns, but it is a small price to pay to save countless American lives.

“I think it’s important to recognize that you can’t have 100% security and also then have 100% privacy and zero inconvenience,” said President Obama in a 2013 press conference in San Jose, California.

The NSA is an agency that handles the security of American people and has kept our lives safe since 1952, when it was created.  Since then, the agency has improved upon its technology to stay ahead of terrorists and cyber attackers.  The NSA stops attacks by dismantling them before they can even begin.  The NSA works behind the scenes, and doesn’t get the rightful credit that it deserves for saving lives. 

“The NSA does stop a lot of attacks, but the problem is that it’s just not reported as much as other agencies.  When you think of the NSA, you think of secretive stuff, and people just don’t realize how much they actually accomplish,” said freshman Robert Thornton.

Despite this, there are instances where the NSA has shown that lives have been saved, and catastrophes have been stopped.  Taking away surveillance would weaken our country and allow more attacks.  According to International Business Times, the NSA has actually helped thwart around 50 terrorist attacks.  Knowing that hundreds of American lives could have been lost and our home state, New York, would have faced yet another devastating attack makes clear the importance of this program.

“I think privacy is important but keeping our country safe is a top priority.  We should do whatever is possible to keep ourselves safe from terrorists,” said freshman Harrison Roth.

Another example of when the NSA has saved American lives was when they monitored a known extremist in Yemen who was communicating with a man in Kansas City.  This information led the FBI to the perpetrator, his co-conspirators and ultimately the plot to bomb the New York Stock Exchange.  He ultimately confessed to sending money to al-Qaeda and was caught before the attack could  be committed.  

Looking into the future, technology is advancing everywhere, and while it brings advancements and improvements to society, it also allows terrorist attacks to occur more frequently in the cyber world.  The United States counters this with the NSA also advancing its technology.  The end of mass surveillance would strip the abilities of the NSA to advance and would give cyber attackers the means to exploit databases.  The NSA needs to move with the future, but stopping surveillance is going in the other direction.  The riots on Capitol Hill should serve as a wake up call about far-right activity online and in person in the US.  If surveillance were to end, there would only be more of these riots occuring, while if surveillance could evolve and take another step to progress, incidents like the one that happened on Capitol Hill would be less frequent.

Online life has taken an unprecedented percentage of our time, and is only expected to increase over time.  The more the internet is used, the more incentive there is for terrorists to attack in the form of hacking.  This only increases the need for the NSA.The privacy of the United States is held firm thanks to the NSA, and will continue to improve as technology evolves.