Photo Credit: 'Goed Zoekveld' by Bart van de Biezen. Flickr. Creative Commons.

Photo Credit: ‘Goed Zoekveld’ by Bart van de Biezen. Flickr. Creative Commons.

The goal of the US government’s security agencies ought to be to preserve a society that values the freedom of American citizens. If those rights must be sacrificed in the interest of security measures, then what have these measures truly accomplished? If the US government were given wide latitude to use electronic surveillance, even if this surveillance was only supposed to be used to find threats to national security, this power would likely be abused. Already, without laws giving permission to surveil citizens, the NSA can and has reached deep into the private lives of individual citizens. If these citizens were individuals planning a terror attack then these actions might seem more justified, but they were not. A recent Wired article about Edward Snowden mentions a document “that showed the NSA was spying on the pornography-viewing habits of political radicals… [and] that the agency could use these “personal vulnerabilities” to destroy the reputations of government critics who were not in fact accused of plotting terrorism” (Bamford, 2013.) This surveillance for political purposes has happened in the past, too: for example, the FBI used a wiretap on Martin Luther King in 1963 and passed the information it gathered on to the anti-civil-rights Senator James Eastland who used it in debates (Singh, 306.) This goes far beyond what is necessary in order to protect the country from those with criminal intentions, and laws expressly permitting the violation of citizens’ privacy would only make it easier for similar events to occur. Rather than defending America, such practices would violate the country’s fundamental values of freedom and democracy.