Media Counterpoint Information Privacy versus National Security

On September 11, 2001, the United States and the world changed forever. Terrorists successfully planned a mastermind series of terrorist acts that included flying planes into the Twin Towers in New York City, as well as into the Pentagon. Nearly 3,000 people died that day, but what also died was any sense of safety that American citizens had in the government’s ability to protect them.

Americans love their privacy almost as much as they love their right to free speech. Experts note that the only time when people are willing to give up their right to privacy is when their security is at stake. Perhaps this is the reason why most Americans didn’t seem to be too concerned when sweeping legislation passed in the post-9/11 national security crisis. The U.S. government promised that the passage of the Patriot Act and the creation of Homeland Security were steps in the right direction, increasing the government’s ability to monitor extremist terrorists from faraway countries in the Middle East.

The country was mobilized in its determination to catch Osama Bin Laden, Al Qaeda and the Taliban, terrorist groups bent on destroying the American way of life. The world has experienced numerous terrorist attacks since 9/11, and technology has made the recruiting of new terrorists, and the planning and carrying out of future attacks far easier. Long gone are the old days of tapping a hardwired telephone or intercepting a handwritten letter sent via the U.S. Postal Service.

Now people could communicate via text, or even an app downloaded on one’s smartphone. Private messaging through Facebook, even Skype, made surveillance challenging to say the least. The FBI simply could not keep up with all of the new smartphone apps that allowed point-to-point connections via the web—WhatsApp, Viber, Telegram, Skype messenger, Facebook Messenger, Kik, Snapchat. Each easy to use, and free.

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