User:Devinplatt/Projects/Debate/Brief

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Today, asymmetrical warfare is more prevalent than traditional symmetrical warfare between well defined nation states. We argue that this trend does not justify governments to perform unrestrained electronic surveillance on its citizens.

Resolution

The US Federal Government should be allowed to perform unrestrained electronic surveillance on its citizens.

Position

The resolution should not be permitted.

Definitions

Unrestrained

Not limited by any protections usually granted by the Constitution, nor by public oversight. The resolution does not specify the boundaries that such a word places on the U.S Federal Government’s ability to conduct electronic surveillance; therefore we must assume this to be a highly elastic definition that extends not just to the legality of electronic surveillance, but also to ensuring a lack of any other mechanisms which may impede an electronic surveillance campaign, such as transparency or public knowledge of electronic surveillance practices and protocols. This definition is preferable because it reflects the interpretive nature of legal statutes, and how this resolution may be used in the hypothetical situation that it became law.

Electronic surveillance

The surveillance of a subject by means of an electronic system, or of the subject’s electronic footprint or data itself. This definition reflects the wide variety of ways with which electronics can be used to monitor someone, which is an important consideration in examining how many tools can now be used for surveillance “unrestrained” by other U.S laws. This definition is preferable because it again reflects how such broad language in legal documents allows for highly interpretive and elastic laws, that can then be used with great leeway, and more or less at the discretion of whomever holds the necessary position.

Argument

Such a resolution would endanger both the American values and security that it's meant to protect.

Governmental abuse

Unrestrained electronic surveillance of a nation's citizens leads to governmental abuse. In the 1960s, the FBI used electronic surveillance techniques to suppress the Civil Rights Movement, in a program known as COINTELPRO. They targeted now revered leaders such as Martin Luther King.[1] Information collected by the FBI during COINTELPRO launched a number of police raids, some of which resulted in bodily harm and even extrajudicial killings, such as in the case of Fred Hampton.[2]

Chilling effect

Without public oversight, government surveillance campaigns create a chilling effect on activism. According to civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, "When you have this feeling that the government really is watching you, you know, taps your telephone, maybe in your text files, it has a chilling effect. It takes away your freedom. And often for leaders, none of us are perfect, it neutralizes people."[1]

Cyber threats

Unrestrained electronic governmental surveillance of U.S. citizens would increase American vulnerability to cyber threats. According to Reuters[3], "more than 21 million individuals had their sensitive data pilfered during a breach at the Office of Personnel Management." One report found that U.S. federal, state and local government agencies rank in last place in cyber security when compared against major private industries.

Citations