Author: benw

National Security Should Take Precedence Over Cyber Privacy

PRO (4 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: In this debate, whichever side has the best impact to the lives of American citizens should win, since life is more valuable than anything else.

1. Giving national security precedence over cyber privacy saves countless innocent lives by preventing future terrorist actions.

Terrorism is a sad truth in our world, and despite our best efforts to prevent attacks from occurring some still are carried through. However, we can greatly minimize the future probability of terrorist attacks by being able to access the cyber information of suspected or verified terrorists. Planning a terror attack takes a great deal of communication. The terrorist must first contact a weapons supplier to obtain deadly materials, which for the most part, is done through online transactions which can be traced. Then, the terrorist must coordinate with fellow accomplices to ensure their plan is properly carried out, meaning that gaining access to their emails or texts can warn us ahead of time if an attack is going to take place. A terrorist attack takes a great deal of planning, most of which occurs online, so being able to access their online information even if we must violate their cyber privacy, is a small price to pay for countless innocent lives saved.


According to CNN in 2013, breaching a few people’s cyber privacy to gain information crucial to stopping potential terrorist attacks has already made real world impacts. CNN finds that prioritizing national security has stopped 54 terrorist attacks from occurring in the span of 5 years, saving hundreds of lives. Furthermore, the National Security Council’s senior director on cybersecurity, Ari Schwartz, stated that “we must be willing to sacrifice a few people’s cyber rights to protect hundreds of citizens rights to live. While it is obviously a lose-lose situation, we must act morally and in some cases national security must take precedence”. Additionally, Professor Omer Tene of Stanford Law School found that it is in fact the duty of the United States government to protect citizens’ right to live over citizens’ right to cyber privacy. Professor Tene furthers that as long as prioritizing national security over cyber privacy saves a single life, it must always take precedence since life is more valuable than cyber privacy in every case. A U.S. intelligence document provided to CNN by a congressional source in 2013 asserts that the dragnet of U.S. phone data and Internet information from overseas users "has contributed to the disruption of dozens of potential terrorist plots here in the homeland and in more than 20 countries around the world."

2. Putting national security over cyber privacy is essential to preventing online hacks and viruses from spreading.

Nations that are not friendly towards the United States routinely use hackers to inflict harms upon American infrastructure. However, the United States can prevent and contain these attacks by tracing the hack back to its origin and creating a solution to end the virus. Furthermore, by violating a few people’s cyber privacy, we can find the origin of the virus and use that information to prevent future cyber attacks from occurring.


One specific example of the US preventing a cyber attack from spreading is in the case of the Citibank hack. This virus infected over 5,500 Citibank ATMs nationwide over the course of two weeks in 2008, and stole valuable information. However, the US government gained access to what would have been classified information and were able to trace the virus back to its origin. In fact, they traced the virus to two Russian hackers who worked for a larger hacking ring. Not only was the US able to contain the virus to just those 5,500 computers, but by breaching cyber privacy, the US was able to find the perpetrators of the attack. Subsequently, the US government took action against this specific hacking ring and what used to be an influential and dangerous hacking circle now is defunct. According to the Brookings Institute in 2016, the US has been able to stop an estimated  70,000 potential cyber attacks since last September alone.

3. Putting national security over cyber privacy saves the government and the victims of cyber attacks significant amounts of money which is especially important in hard economic times.

Cyber attacks are extremely expensive to its victims.  Economist Jeffrey Mills calculated that the average cyber attack against the US causes around $8,000 in damages. So, since last September, since the US stopped almost 70,000 potential cyber attacks, the US government has saved around $560,000,000 in potential damages caused by cyber criminals  accessing information through breaching cyber privacy.

4. It is our constitutional duty to breach a few people’s cyber privacies to save countless people’s rights to life.

While people are certainly entitled to their rights of digital privacy, their rights take the backseat when violating these rights can save lives. The right to life always takes precedence since life is a prerequisite to any other form of enjoyment, including enjoying the right of cyber privacy. Our government must put the lives of citizens above any other right, since while cyber privacy is important, innocent lives are simply more valuable. That’s why, the government must act in these situations and breach cyber privacy to ensure the protection of hundreds of other citizens.


According to the House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner in a report on the constitutionality of violating cyber privacy for national security, he found that the total number of constitutional violations was “zero”. He further stated that “extensive  congressional oversight found no violations. Six reports by the Justice Department's   independent Inspector General, who is required to solicit and investigate any allegations of   abuse, found no violations. Intense public scrutiny has yet to find a single civil liberty abuse.”