The privacy of American citizens should be prioritized over government surveillance efforts, even in the interests of national security. First, the right to privacy is an unalienable right that goes in tandem with, or could even be seen as the obvious and necessary inverse of, the right to free speech. Even if American’s don’t realize why this is a right they need to have—or think they have “nothing to hide”—a rhetoric that is often used in this debate, that line of thinking is a slippery slope. Just because someone can’t see how they could use a right in that moment does not mean it should be taken away from them.
Second, even if citizen’s surveillance data is being collected solely in service to law enforcement and national security efforts—which, in many cases, other tactics prove just as successful as information gathering to solving—the government should not have this much power go unchecked. As the NSA is part of the executive branch, it is a gross overreach of this one branch of government on the citizenry that needs to be balanced and overseen, to ensure that only true suspects are being surveilled and not just every citizen. Also, it is important to remember that real humans do this work, and there are always bad actors that abuse the system—for example, NSA workers that were reported to have been using their credentials to spy on ex-girlfriends. These kinds of practices are another reason why government surveillance efforts and the NSA should not be given any kind of wide latitude to surveille, and must be reined in.