Tuesday, October 28, 2014

National Spying Agency

The NSA collects millions of facial images of US citizens from various surveillance cameras each day. Over 55,000 of these images are of sufficient quality to be run through a facial recognition program, and used as evidence in a court of law, according to an article written by Fox News correspondent Trevor Mogg. This is just a small part of a much larger surveillance program codenamed "PRISM" which has been in operation since a law was amended in 2007, legalizing the project. PRISM has spanned the entire Obama administration, and is still at work today. Although facial recognition technology is presumed to be a fairly new addition to this program, law enforcement agencies have already become increasingly reliant on it to solve crimes. 

While facial recognition can be a valuable asset when searching for suspects, it is completely unrestricted and therefore a breach of the 4th Amendment, which provides protection from unlawful search and seizure without a valid search warrant. The only warrant the NSA needs is approval from FISC (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court), which is a court set up and run by the NSA itself (see a problem?). This means the NSA is free to collect data on whomever they please, without technically being in violation of the law. Overall, the NSA's PRISM surveillance program is unconstitutional, and should be discontinued.

The most common debate surrounding the PRISM program is that of the 4th Amendment: Is it sometimes necessary to breach personal privacy to protect the American People as a whole, or is there no justification for going against the Constitution? Personally, I believe that our country can be protected without the use of technology that invades the privacy of our citizens. We don’t need new technologies, we need skilled, intelligent people who know how to use the ones we have. For example, facial recognition is not a substitute for good, solid police work. Government agencies are using these new capabilities as a shortcut rather than an aid, and placing too much reliance on computers to do their jobs for them. All new technology does is put more and more of our lives into the digital world, where they can be tracked and categorized by anyone who knows how to access the data. This software not only allows for unwarranted search to take place, it can be conducted without us ever knowing.

Facial recognition is just the beginning. The data collected by the NSA would allow for a complete database to be constructed, containing a plethora of data on every citizen to ever use a phone, or a computer, or pass a security camera. For the first time in history, capabilities exist to create a civilization in which our every move is monitored. Where the government can turn on our phones and use the cameras to record information. Where we can be constantly tracked using any security camera in the world. Where we can be constantly monitored, without us ever knowing.

Spying by the NSA is occurring on a global level as well. In India in 2010, surveillance operations were conducted on the BJP, the minority political party at the time (CNN). This caused an international backlash, and Indian officials summoned a senior U.S. diplomat to discuss the matter. But that’s the tip of the iceberg. In 2010, the FISC gave blanket authorization for international spying, and gave the NSA a list of 193 countries to focus on. (CNN)The list also contained the European Union, the World Bank Group, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, and the Pakistan People’s Party. Domestic spying is one thing, but the NSA is now showing blatant disregard for the safety of American citizens by jeopardizing alliances with espionage. What’s the point of spying to prevent terrorism if the spying creates even more tension? The alliance of the countries and organizations on that list is infinitely more valuable than any of the information the NSA has stolen from them. No matter what pretense of peace is used to justify this espionage, all it will bring is war. Why cause conflict when it can be so easily prevented?

In conclusion, the NSA’s PRISM program is unconstitutional, and causes dangerous backlash in the international community. Therefore, it should be immediately discontinued, and it is our duty as Americans to demand its termination. Nothing will be done if good people stay silent. Spying isn’t just unconstitutional, it’s dangerous. It has the potential to cause more wars than anything obtained through PRISM can prevent. We are the only ones who can stand up for our freedom. If we do not make our grievances heard, then who will? Threats to our liberty come in many forms, and not always just on the field of battle. It is our responsibility to stand up for what is right. We as Americans have an opportunity that many don’t: to make ourselves heard without fear of persecution. The first amendment was written so that we could protect the others. Once the people take an active role in their government, things will begin to change. The government cannot ignore the desires of the people forever.

Conclusion: Edited Nov. 11, 2014

The NSA's PRISM surveillance program is unconstitutional and should be discontinued. Domestic spying is not only a violation of our justice system but a breach of our personal privacy. International spying can create distrust and cause the dissolution of very valuable alliances around the world. Overall, spying actually creates more problems than it solves. Now, to speak on the actual blogging process a bit. The research was a bit tedious, and at many times inconvenient. However, doing research allows intelligent information to be put on the web, from a valid source and with credit given to all involved. In an age where so much information on the internet isn't credible, it is invaluable to have good information that allows people to make informed decisions about issues. I learned some things from the blogging process about finding good sources and how to sort out good information from unreliable information.  Overall, while tedious, I did learn from blogging. Also, it was nice to write with less of an informational, unattached style into something more conversational. 


  1. Seahawks 357 good job on your article, I agree with your point that facial recognition and NSA's PRISM is unconstitutional. But I have a different opinion, I think the PRISM project is fine as long as all the informations NSA collects are all under protect, and not used by any authorities when not needed. It is a short cut for the NSA and polices but it really helps to find and track down the person they want.

  2. Dear Seahawks 357,
    I enjoyed reading you opinion on this subject. I agree that Prism is unconstitutional, and very dangerous to the rights of the American people. If they so easily find a loop hole to intrude on our rights, especially for them to be able to do it in secret, what stops them from doing this again. Yup you guessed it, you said so in your blog, the American people are the only ones that are able to stop it. Keep letting your voice be heard.

  3. This is a truly alarming trend in technology, Seahawks 357. Thank you for writing about it. I have read that the tools for broad identification of Americans have been in place for some time. Those of us who drive already have a biometric photo in our state's DMV database and it is apparently photos such as these that are the link between a scanned biometric image from a store or street or other hidden camera and an individual. This article states that the FBI's goal is 52 million scanned images by 2015 of criminals and non-criminals that can be compared against the DMV records, passport records, and fingerprint records for starters. What are your thoughts about the increased surveillance and data collection in the United States of U.S. citizens? Thank you for your report on this issue. --Ms. Riches

  4. I believe that increased surveillance of US citizens will only lead to further violations of our justice system. These technologies allow law enforcement agencies to conduct searches on us without our knowledge or consent.


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