DEBATE: National Security or Privacy?

DEBATE: National Security or Privacy?

“Big Brother in the form of an increasingly powerful government and in an increasingly powerful private sector will pile the records high with reasons why privacy should give way to national security, to law and order […] and the like.”
― William O. Douglas, Points of Rebellion

A child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all. They’ll never know what it means to have a private moment to themselves an unrecorded, unanalyzed thought. And that’s a problem because privacy matters; privacy is what allows us to determine who we are and who we want to be.

Edward Snowden, “Edward Snowden, after months of NSA revelations, says his mission’s accomplished”, Washington Post, December 23, 2013

H.R. 2048 – USA Freedom Act ( 2015)

“To reform the authorities of the Federal Government to require the production of certain business records, conduct electronic surveillance, use pen registers and trap and trace devices, and use other forms of information gathering for foreign intelligence, counterterrorism, and criminal purposes, and for other purposes.”


Each student should post an initial declaration of opinion in no less than 350 words by May 7 at 10:00 p.m.; Please wait to start debating your fellow students until everyone has posted an initial post.

Then post no less than (3) three replies (at least 200 words for each reply) to other students within the range of time between May 7 at 10:01 p.m. and May 9 at 10:00 p.m., and not consecutively at the same time (posts should be at least four hours apart).


Remember that although there is no word minimum for your replies to other students’ posts, part of the rubric for grading is engagement with other posts, and that’s hard to do in just a few words!



Please read ACLU’s National Legal Director David Cole’s argument in The New York Review of Books:


“Must Counterterrorism Cancel Democracy?”


Then decide for yourself and choose a side in your initial post (no less than 350 words):

Side 1: Agree with David Cole that surveillance, without transparency, counters democracy in dangerous ways.

Side 2: Disagree with David Cole that surveillance, without transparency, counters democracy in dangerous ways.


You may need to define your terms in arguing your side – what are democracy, privacy, and transparency?


Make reference to the texts in Module 6 on Privacy/Democracy in your post as well, which are clearly relevant!


Keep in mind what Cole claims in terms of these terms:

Of course, transparency has costs as well as benefits, and secrecy is sometimes necessary. But secrecy has significant costs, too—not just to human rights, but to democracy itself. As US Court of Appeals Judge Damon Keith warned in 2002, in a case involving secret immigration trials, “Democracy dies behind closed doors.” We won’t have a chance to arrive at defensible policies on surveillance and targeted killing if the questions are not fully and fairly debated. When the balance between individual rights and security is struck in secret one-sided determination, as has been the case with both drone killing and electronic surveillance, as well as the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program, it will inevitably be skewed.
Increasingly, our governments seem to be insisting that our lives be transparent to them, while their policies remain hidden from us. For the sake of democracy itself, we must do all we can to resist that impulse.




Rubric for Grading:

Engagement with the topic                                             40%

Engagement with other students’ posts                         40%

Timeliness and length of submissions                            20%


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