The tradeoff between privacy and safety is a long disputed topic in the history of our country. Simply stated, a private citizen cannot fully have both and, whether we like it or not, we are currently sacrificing our privacy for the sake of safety. With the recent leak of CIA documents detailing the extent to which the intelligence community can access citizens’ information, Americans are questioning just how much spying is going on and whether they feel comfortable with government officials listening in on phone calls, reading emails and seeing internet search trends. Although it is easy to feel violated with all of this monitoring, our rights as citizens have not been breached because this type of surveillance is necessary in the face of terrorism and other threats.
A Pew research study taken in December shows that 56 percent of Americans are concerned that the government’s anti-terror policies have not gone far enough to protect the country. On the other hand, another study also showed that 52 percent of Americans are concerned about government surveillance of electronic communications. These contradicting concerns beg the question: how can we be satisfied with our level of protection against terror while at the same time fearing government surveillance? What many need to realize is that security comes at a cost.
It is more than reasonable that some citizens feel uncomfortable when their privacy has been infringed upon. However, one must consider that these security infractions are keeping them safe. Giving up a small fraction of one’s privacy is worth it in exchange for the safety and security that we take for granted most of the time.
As a country, the United States is powerful, and with that power comes risk of attacks. To prepare for or stop terrorism of any kind, the CIA needs to keep a vigilant watch; a watch that sometimes involves intruding upon the privacy of private citizens. However, this surveillance is not affecting anyone’s quality of life and, especially if one has nothing to hide, this should not be a problem.
Imagine, for a moment, if the CIA and other intelligence agencies did not employ such surveillance techniques. Our country would be very susceptible to attacks, compromising our safety. Waiting in line for security at the airport or having a phone conversation listened to is a small price to pay for the ease to live one’s life without fear.
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