Right now, as I watch media coverage explode around the NSA hacking scandal, I'm not thinking about the invasions of my privacy, why Edward Snowden leaked the information, or whether he should be caught and prosecuted.
I have a different set of questions: What do we need PRISM for? Why does the NSA need so much data? And does the program even work?
Asking what the PRISM program is designed for dives to the very heart of the United States’ national security: Who exactly is the enemy? Are we looking for terrorists, drug lords, Soviet spies? Reading the original Guardian article, I see nothing about what this program specifically looks for, which should be a glaring red flag.
By targeting anyone that may or may not be foreign (according to an algorithm barely better than a coin flip), the NSA is not only putting innocent people’s privacy at risk, it may be wasting time, energy, and funding by targeting individuals at random instead of looking for something in particular (with a warrant). The NSA may be looking for a needle in a haystack, but they're just stockpiling useless data in instead of passively monitoring for warning signs, the latter being cheaper, easier, and more compliant with the 4th Amendment.
And then there's the inherent folly in looking for people while really fighting a war of information. My previous article on terrorism covers this misguidedness in depth.
The United States has lived in a state of paranoia since 9/11. As a result, we have sacrificed our privacy for programs of dubious legality and questionable competence. PRISM may be another example of this.
I do not know whether PRISM actually works, nor do I claim to. However, I have my doubts, and while others may ask about their 4th Amendment rights, I want to know why we have PRISM, and whether it is worth its costs. Encroachment of privacy is one thing, but needless encroachment is another entirely. The American people need to ask why we need PRISM, so we may find a better solution -- preferably one the would not spike sales of 1984.
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