Government Spying: To Trust or Not to Trust – Not

Recently there has been a rash of scandals concerning government spying and there seems to be a much-divided consensus concerning phone records being kept and internet activities being recorded. I personally do not like government snooping but then; perhaps many of us really just do not care.

A former CIA employee, Edward Snowden, recently revealed that the NSA (National Security Agency) has been collecting the phone calls of the American public. Mr. Snowden took off to Hong Kong to avoid prosecution for revealing government secrets. Not only has the NSA been collecting phone calls but it has been snooping around the internet too, with companies like Google and Facebook giving them a hand.

Privacy concerns me, but I am willing to give the government some level of confidence that they are acting in our best interests and not spying for political reasons, such as political dissent or because someone perhaps knew too much. I suspect that if there were another terrorist attack like 9/11, those most critical of government spying now, would be some of the same people most critical that the government did not do enough, had another terrorist attack occurred.

If anything should come out of this revelation, it is that the American people must demand that Congress set strong rules in place, in order to protect the privacy of ordinary Americans not suspected of any crime or the planning of any crime. Otherwise, we must leave the government alone and let it collect information with proper oversight by Congress. That kind of information has protected us in the past and it very well is likely to protect us in the future.

Is Big Brother watching? Probably. Can we do anything about it? I do not think so. If we did, spying operations would go underground without any approval. That is because this government, as all governments, will do anything to survive, even if that means violating the rights of its citizens.

We know the government will do what it can to protect us in the event of an attack, but we also know that its top priority is to protect its leader, the president and then all those in the immediate chain of command on down.

Can the government be trusted? Of course not. As long as there is money in politics, government will be like the fox guarding the hen house. We can set up an independent watchdog agency to protect whistleblowers who may be targeted by the government, as one alternative. That does not mean a whistleblower is not culpable for his or her actions, considering circumstances, but surely that should be decided by a jury of that whistleblower’s peers as any citizen has a right to Habeas Corpus. In the case of Edward Snowden, his intentions should be the deciding factor in his innocence or guilt.

There must be a balance and there must be strict regulations in place to keep government from going too far. Protection for whistleblowers must be coupled with the freedom of the Press to report what it deems valuable to the public’s interests. We should not limit government in its ability to protect us, but we should sleep with one eye open and be sure to lock in safeguards through congressional oversight and hopefully, judicial oversight that will have the American people’s privacy and constitutional rights as an overwhelming factor in all rulings.

Security is a fleeting thing and our government cannot always prevent every would-be terrorist from doing us harm. However, without clandestine and covert operations done by this government, we would surely see many more attacks upon our nation, and perhaps we would all be speaking Russian or Chinese now, or maybe even German, if it were not for spying. Of course, the government spying on its own citizens, calls for strict rules, but that does not mean it holds no value toward our security. There are American citizens who plan evil against this government, just as there are foreign interests that do.

Big Brother may be a problem when it comes to one’s privacy, but a big brother is certainly a welcoming sight when bullies are trying to beat you to a pulp.

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