Industry Insights: Thoughts on the National Security Agency Bombshell

By William Morrissette on June 20, 2013

I have been intrigued, of late, with the public discussions and debate on the NSA surveillance programs leaked by Edward Snowden.  These revelations are little surprise to our Domestic and International Security Students who are required to read the Shadow Factory by James Bamford.  Although the recently leaked programs were not pointed to in his work, he clearly warned that this level of surveillance was highly desired as a national security tool.

My interest in these events is really based on the question of the degree to which U.S. Citizens are comfortable giving up certain amounts of freedoms in return for security.  One of our criminal justice students conducted research on airport security and found that the majority of people are okay with increased invasions of their privacy during airport screening.  I was surprised at this finding and the more recent public polls that show the majority of Americans are okay with the surveillance being conducted by NSA.  The recent poll did caveat that this level of public support hinged to a great degree on how the polling questions were worded.  Specifically, people became less comfortable when they were asked about specific instances of potential invasions of their privacy like “NSA listening in on your phone calls.”

In thinking about this issue of surveillance and privacy a bit more, maybe it should not be that surprising that people are this comfortable and I would point to social media and the byline of YouTube “Broadcast Yourself.”  People are becoming increasingly comfortable with broadcasting who they are and what they do and why they do it by way of social media.  Many of us in education warn of the perils of this endeavor but, perhaps, we should look at it differently.  In light of the NSA ‘s desire to “look at us” secretly, we might, as a society, be saying yes you can see but it will be on our terms.  Before you have a chance to look at us secretly we will broadcast ourselves publicly and, in this small way, maintain, at least, the freedom of choice.