Author: benw

National Security Should Take Precedence Over Cyber Privacy

CON (3 arguments)


national security- any matter or issue that concerns the safety of US citizens at a large scale

cyber privacy- regarding the protection of our online rights


Weighing Mechanism: Since the issues of privacy and security are the responsibilities of the United States government, whichever side best upholds our fundamental beliefs as outlined by the Constitution should win. Therefore, if the Neg sufficiently proves that we best support the Constitution, we should win this debate.


1. Prioritizing national security over the right to cyber privacy violates the constitution.

Our constitution grants United States citizens the rights to free speech, due process, and privacy. But, forcibly or covertly accessing the internet information of individual citizens without their consent directly goes against these fundamental rights. As a democracy, our government is only kept in check by our rights as citizens, meaning that our right to privacy must be kept intact to protect against tyranny. However, allowing the government free pass to violate cyber privacy whenever they feel like “national security” is in the balance is an open door to an unjust, illegal big brother state.


There are multiple ways in which allowing the the US federal government the ability to put national security over cyber privacy violates the constitution. First off, the American Civil Liberties Union or ACLU found that this prioritization violates the Fourth Amendment by allowing the FBI and NSA to search and seize records and personal information under the veil of “national security”. This is because the government can claim anything is a “national security” matter and subsequently investigate people’s cyber activity without a warrant. Second, the ACLU found that putting national security over the right to cyber privacy goes against the First Amendment because it “allows the FBI to obtain information about a person’s reading habits, religious affiliations, Internet searches, and other expressive activities that are constitutionally protected to be private under the First Amendment.”

2. Past precedence proves that the government searches get out of control and investigate anything regardless of relevance to “national security”.

Giving the government and related agencies, such as the FBI and NSA, unlimited power to decide when national security was in the balance and then the ability to choose whatever route of action they want has not worked historically. For example, the Patriot Act, which gave the government the power to circumvent rights, including cyber privacy rights, if our national security was threatened by terrorist threats, was a complete failure and did not benefit national security.


According to a report by the House Judiciary Committee Chairman, in the first five years after the government began cyber searches without warrants through the NSA with the Patriot Act, they initiated over 200,000 searches without warrants. And, through all 200,000 of those searches that violated individual privacy rights and put people’s liberties at risk, the US federal government was only able to arrest one terror-related actor. Clearly, even with giving national security precedence over cyber rights, the US government still takes advantage of it and it’s past actions show it is not very reliable or effective. More damning still is an analysis from New America, a nonpartisan think tank, which analyzed the cases of 225 individuals charged with terror-related crimes and found that bulk collection of metadata started only 1.8 percent of the investigations and contributed little to the remainder. The TSA’s no-fly list has over 20,000 people on it. The Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, also known as the watch list, has 680,000, 40% of whom have “no recognized terrorist group affiliation.”  In the years after 9/11, the NSA passed to the FBI thousands of tips per month; every one of them turned out to be a false alarm. The cost was enormous, and ended up frustrating the FBI agents who were obligated to investigate all the tips. We also saw this with the Suspicious Activity Reports —or SAR — database: tens of thousands of reports, and no actual results. Inspector General Michael Horowitz said that between 2004 and 2009, the FBI tripled its use of bulk collection under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which allows government agents to compel businesses to turn over records and documents, and increasingly scooped up records of Americans who had no ties to official terrorism investigations. Our privacy rights are too important to be sacrificed based on the unverifiable claim that it will make us safer.


Washington Times

3. Allowing US agencies like the NSA to have access to our private cyber information puts all of our confidential secrets at risk, since the meta-collection of our data is easily and often hacked.

While giving the US government the right to violate our cyber privacy rights may seem like it will do us good since it could protect us, in fact, the exact opposite occurs. When government agencies like the NSA use meta-collecting techniques to gather a great deal of data, the majority if not all of the collected data is irrelevant. However, in this “irrelevant” data are what normal, individual citizens would deem very important and private, such as bank card numbers, health care information, and sometimes even social security numbers.


Just last June, one of the largest mass-data hacks took place and compromised the private information of over 4 million citizens. This breach was only possible as a result of mass-data collection that occurred because of the US government’s insistence that all information is essential for national security. The hack, according to Reuters, was one of the worst in the past five years. "This is deep. The data goes back to 1985. This means that they potentially have information about retirees, and they could know what they did after leaving government. Access to data from OPM's computers, such as birth dates, Social Security numbers and bank information, could help hackers test potential passwords to other sites, including those with information about weapons systems”. Not only were personal security compromised in this hack, but delicate codes and information about our nation’s top weapons programs were also stolen, meaning that in fact as a result of the government’s metadata collection, we ended up giving our enemies all of our secrets. In addition, Electronic Frontiers Executive Officer Jon Lawrence stated that “mandatory data retention was an unnecessary and disproportionate invasion of privacy that could further lead to personal information being compromised. The scope of risk in terms of, for example, systems administrators who manage this information is very high.”