Quite frankly, if the National Security Agency tapped into my phone calls it would probably be listening in on little more than one of my parents accidentally butt-dialing me.
So I’m about 100 percent certain any content discussed during my personal phone calls will not be of much help foiling any terrorist plots. However, if collecting the digital records of everyday Americans provides us a greater sense of national security, then by all means, let's keep using programs like PRISM.
I don’t doubt PRISM and similar efforts have the potential to detect brewing terrorist plots. But what good is harvesting mass amounts of information if it can’t be sorted through efficiently? Phone tapping and warnings by the Russian government caused the Tsarnaev brothers to cross the FBI’s radar at least three times before the Boston bombings even occurred.
So if a threat can’t be recognized amidst mounds of phone and Internet records, then it really doesn’t make much sense to collect them in the first place. In this digital era, monitoring online and phone records is without a doubt capable of serving as a mechanism for catching terrorist plots at their early stages. When this information is collected, though, it must be handled responsibly and efficiently.
In the meantime, let’s take a step back before we keep treating “hacktivists” Edward Snowden, Aaron Swartz and Bradley Manning like heroes of civil liberty. Let’s soberly consider whether we want to know the miniscule details about the programs designed to protect us, even if that means jeopardizing the security that they offer.
And as a young journalist, I think right now this country needs good journalism more than ever, and the sensational press has no place in a democratic society where national security is being threatened on digital platforms. Topics like NSA and U.S. intelligence operations need to be given the responsible and highly credible coverage they deserve.
Don't get me wrong, I believe wholeheartedly in the freedom of information and its importance to democracy. I believe with utmost conviction that some degree of privacy is essential to liberty. But we all need to be reminded national security can coexist among freedom.