Essay about Government Surveillance - Essay Prowess

Essay about Government Surveillance


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Analyze why the government surveillance is not necessary.

In the present times, most governments, both the developing and developed ones have been highly concerned with the issue of security more than ever before. This is mostly due to the fact that for economic development to be achieved, every government needs investors to come and implement their investment decisions, and this helps not only in the generation of revenue through taxation, but also creation of employment opportunities to the locals. However, before any investor decides to implement his or investment decision, he evaluates the security situation of the host nation, in such a way that if the latter encounter security issues more often, the former may be reluctant to invest. Moreover, considering that there are numerous terrorist groups today compared to some decades ago, most governments have not been leaving anything to chances when it comes to security. In the United States for instance, the September 11 terrorist attack served as an awakening call as far as security is concerned. There are numerous security measures that were established since then, including thorough screening of individuals at the entry points and government surveillance. Though enhancing security is encouraging, some measures such as government surveillance interferes with the affairs of the citizens and contribute very little when it comes to reinforcing the security of a nation. This paper pays high attention to the analysis of why government surveillance is not necessary.

In the contemporary world, the privacy of individuals is highly being jeopardized by the increasing surveillance apparatus that is often hailed in the name of enhancing national security. Various government agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security, as well as the state and local law enforcement agencies monitor the communications of innocent citizens with the argument that they are maintaining security. The officials who work in these agencies go to the extent of gathering databases of when and who every citizen calls at any given time, and use vague standards to classify what they refer as ‘suspicious activities’. Apparently, the government`s action of gathering this sensitive data is by itself an invasion of individuals` privacy, which ought to be safeguarded (Timothy 42). In addition to this, the manner in which the sensitive information is used by the government is also associated with abuse. For example, a harmless data is put into inflated watchlists, and the resulting outcomes are punitive consequences to innocent citizens. For example, numerous innocent individuals have found themselves being barred from some kinds of jobs, being prevented from boarding planes, their bank accounts being frozen, and being interrogated by security officials.

In addition, when citizens` private information is in the hands of the government, such information can be broadly shared and preserved for decades, and the conditions about use and access of such information can secretly be distorted without the knowledge of the members of the public. Apparently, this violates the democratic and constitutional provisions which dictate that the government should always be accountable and transparent to its citizens, but not the other way round. From history, government surveillance mechanisms have in a number of times been abused for political gains by powerful individuals over then disfavored minorities. Overall, government surveillance to a larger extent amounts to the violation of a number of human rights such as the right of association, free speech, privacy, and due process. In addition, government surveillance greatly contributes to the stigmatization of minority activists and communities by the powerful, mighty and rich individuals in the society (Robert & Timothy 71).

Moreover, since the adoption of government surveillance as a strategy of enhancing and preventing criminal activities, this mechanism has not been successful in achieving this core objective. For example, when President Barack Obama mandated the President`s Review Group on Intelligence and Communication Technologies to conduct extensive analysis of criminal cases that had occurred from the onset of the twenty first century up to 2013, the findings of this groups were devastating. This Review Group reported that the National Security Agencies` mass surveillance and collection of phone records had failed to prevent terrorist attacks (Lauren n.p). The report of this Review Group also revealed that in more than 48 cases, conventional surveillance warrants which had been collected from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court had been utilized to gather evidence through the aspect of security officials intruding the e-mails and phone calls and phone calls of the suspected individuals. Apparently, more than half of these cases were started through the use of conventional investigative tools such as family members or member of the community providing tip to the investigative authorities but not through government surveillance. Other traditional investigation methods that were involved entailed evidence being revealed during the investigations of non-terrorism cases, a community or business member reporting a suspicious activity to the investigative agency, as well as the use of informants.

These findings were also echoed by another report from the New America Foundation, which stipulated that the government`s revelations about the effectiveness of its surveillance tools prior and after the September 11 terrorist attacks were misleading and distorted. For example, the extensive investigation of the 225 individuals who were charged with an act of terrorism after being suspected to have been recruits of the al-Qaeda or any equivalent terrorist group, as well as holding ideologies of this group shows that conventional investigative strategies provided the background for investigations as opposed to the use of surveillance programs (Susan 57). Precisely, the use targeted intelligence operations, tips from local communities, as well as the use of informants were the source of investigations of most of these cases, and National Security Agencies mass surveillance programs had minimal contributions to these cases if any.

Consecutively, the scope of the National Security Agencies` surveillance programs was also questioned by Edward Snowden. Precisely, in the summer of 2013, majority of media outlets and politicians had supported the agencies` claim that it had successfully managed to prevent more than 50 terror attacks through their surveillance programs. However, when the ProPublica analyzed this claim, it found that this information was inaccurate, especially due to the fact that the list of cases and evidence that the NSA handed the Congress was and remains classified. Moreover, local law enforcement departments have also questioned the effectiveness of the mass surveillance in the United States. A good example was the revelations of Ed Davis, the Boston Police Commissioner who claimed that if mass surveillance programs were effective as hailed by the NSA, I would have provided prior warnings concerning the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. Despite the fact that the Federal authorities had been furnished with Russian Intelligence Report concerning Tamerlan Tsarnaev (the bomber), they failed to failed to disclose this sensitive information to the authorities in Boston or Massachusetts. Davis informed the House of Homeland Security Committee that there was no any surveillance database that would reveal the name of the bomber, and the name of the terrorist could have only been identified through community involvement. Moreover, government surveillance had been, in most cases, the root cause of some of the insecurity issues that are occurring in the present day. Precisely, when the surveillance officials have been given the mandate to intervene calls, messages, and emails that citizens engage in daily, they manage to get sensitive information which they can use for their selfish gains or cover their criminal records (Robert & Timothy 71). The Central Intelligence Agency, which was by then headed by John Brennan, had been reported to abuse its torture and detention programs and this had gone to such an extent of being investigated by the Senate. However, when Mr. Brennan learnt that the C.I.A. officials were being investigated, he used his juniors to Illegally hack the computers of the Senate staff members who were conducting the investigation. When he was asked about the hacking, he openly denied the involvement of the C.I.A. despite the fact that he was actually involved in it.

In addition, government surveillance is also not necessary especially when it comes to intercepting the communications of various organizations. Precisely, considering that the in the modern business world, the level of competition of limited resources such as the space for expansion, talented workforce, and market for produced goods and services have increased more than ever before, intelligence agencies can deliberately disclose the competitive advantages of foreign organizations operating in the United States to local corporations, and this can be detrimental to the survival and operations of the foreign corporations. For example, during the National Security Agency`s Blackpearl program, the private networks of Petrobas Corporation (one of the 30 businesses across the globe as well as the largest oil company in Brazil) were the main target by this program (Maria n.p). As one way of responding to this claim, the head of the U.S. national intelligence, James Clapper, put a record clear to the surveillance officials that the surveillance of corporations should not be aimed at increasing the international competitiveness of U.S companies, but instead, it should be aimed at monitoring financial crisis which could have devastating impacts on the global economy. A number of other companies have also been targeted by the U.K and U.S intelligence bodies including OPEC oil cartel, Belgacom, Cisco serves and routers, and Huawei`s networks.

It is, therefore, evident that government surveillance is not necessary in the present world. This is due to the fact that it jeopardizes numerous rights of citizens including speech, association and privacy. In addition, government surveillance can also contribute to the enhancement of the competitive edge of the local organizations, especially after the surveillance officials disclose operational information of the foreign organizations to the former. There have been numerous cases that have been reported concerning the issue, and this contributes to the exploitation and unfair treatment of the foreign organizations. Moreover, government surveillance has failed to prevent the occurrence of terrorist attacks, which is one of its major role. It is necessary for the American government to consider the negative aspects that are associated with government surveillance and act accordingly.

Works Cited
Lauren Kirchner. What’s the Evidence Mass Surveillance Works? Not Much. Posted on November 18, 2015. Accessed from,
Maria Xynou. Lies and Revelations: Why mass surveillance is not about catching the “bad guys. Posted on October 01, 2015. Accessed from,
Robert Cropf, and Timothy C. Bagwell. Ethical Issues and Citizen Rights in the Era of Digital Government Surveillance. , 2016. Internet resource.
Susan Landau. “Making sense from Snowden: What’s significant in the NSA surveillance revelations.” IEEE Security & Privacy 11.4 (2013): 54-63.
Timothy Edgar. Beyond Snowden: Privacy, Masssurveillance, and the Struggle to Reform the Nsa. , 2017. Internet resource.

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