The issue of the National Security Authority’s spying program which gave the NSA the power to get personal details of any American citizen in the name of preventing terrorist attacks is a major issue of contention in the United States today. The US government states that this is justified because national surveillance is in the best interest of the United States and its fight against terrorism. The purpose of this essay is to argue on the basis of utilitarianism and assess the appropriateness of the national surveillance of the United States’ National Security Authority.
The theories of ethics evolved simply because there was the difficulty in defining what is right and what is wrong. This gave way for the presentation of different theories and ideas about which way to define good and bad. Utilitarianism is one of the theories and concepts in this family of ideologies. Utilitarianism argues that an action can be adjudged as right or wrong on the basis of how many people it causes happiness to and how many people suffer or are unhappy by that particular course in action. Therefore, it can be said that something is right if it causes the highest levels of happiness to the highest number of people and causes the least levels of suffering for the lowest number of people. This is in opposition to Kantian or absolute deontological ethics where things are either right or wrong irrespective of their results and impact.
Therefore, utilizing the Utilitarian philosophy, the NSA surveillance can be judged or assessed on the basis of what it will do to Americans and other related people. Thus, what is sacrificed could be worthwhile if the program helps to protect more lives and achieve the best interests and goals for its people. Hence, the end, will justify the means.
America is a nation founded on freedom and liberty. America is a country in which the rights and civil liberties of all its peoples are protected and guaranteed by the constitution. The idea of America gaining its independence was to enable its people to be free to pursue the highest levels of opportunity and happiness. Therefore, the United States is meant to provide a system through which the privacy of every single American is respected and protected. In that sense, every American expects the government and other agencies including the police and the NSA as well as other related entities to respect the rights of the citizens to privacy. Therefore, before any single phone is tapped and any one comes under surveillance, that individual must be made aware of that.
The recording of people’s information and movement without their knowledge is something that goes against the fundamental freedoms of Americans. The right to privacy and the right to some kind of distance from the law enforcement authorities is an inalienable right and any American who gets that right taken away from him becomes unhappy. This is because the US constitution tends to protect Americans from tyranny of the government and its arms as the case was in Britain. Therefore, the abuse of police powers in the United States will make the country a police state, rather than a democratic and free country. This is definitely going to make people unhappy and sad.
The NSA states that there is the need to gather information in its surveillance to protect Americans. This is meant to be a system through which the United States will be able to gather information and sort it in order to find out an approach through which they can act. The idea is to detect issues quickly and work within laws and acts like the PATRIOT Act in order to deal with problems and issues that are significantly dangerous and stay one step ahead of would-be terrorists. Logically, these actions are meant and designed to protect American lives and infrastructure.
However, the problem with the use of this system is that the gathering of information of millions of Americans just in the name of protecting the country is improper and against the fundamental principles of the country. The American people have the right to know when information about them is being taken. On the other hand, there is the question of how many people are at risk from these actions. Obviously, 9/11 caused the death of thousands of Americans. Looking critically about how it was executed, it is illogical to think that this complicated system would have detected it. This is because there were four Arab youth from foreign countries who made contacts in the United States and never left their details around carelessly. Therefore, it can be said that this system will not guarantee anything.
Secondly, there is the question of how many Americans are at risk from these actions by terrorists. The US President was quoted as saying that the number of Americans who have died in terrorist attacks after September 11th is less than 100 but the number of Americans who have died from gun-related violence is in the tens of thousands. This means that protecting Americans from terrorists is not the greatest threat faced by the American people. There are bigger threats like the threat of Americans killing Americans with guns and other issues that causes more risks to Americans. Therefore, singling out terrorism as the main reason for this action is not appropriate.
Additionally, the number of terrorist attacks foiled in the United States is not so much. There are few cases where people planning terrorist attacks have been arrested and jailed. However, this is not so frequent. Therefore, it can be said that this system and program of spying on Americans is not appropriate.
Finally, the fact that the US government literally gets a blank check in checking on anyone they desire is likely to cause far reaching pain to Americans. This is because there are people who could abuse the system and misuse the information and personal details of Americans through this process. Therefore, it can be said that it is not in the best interest of Americans to keep this system going. This is because there is the propensity of people getting a lot of information from the system which could be abused and used by a ruling government to gain some unfair benefits and advantages. Therefore, the risk is extremely high and cannot be tolerated in a country where civil liberty is at the foundation and core of its ideology.
In conclusion, this paper identifies that the NSA surveillance program is wrong from an utilitarian point of view. This is because it involves the breaking of the fundamental and constitutional rights of all Americans. This is because it gives the government unfettered powers to all citizens of the United States. Secondly, the number of people it protects is minimal and so low. This is because the threat of terrorism is not so significant and it is dwarfed by the statistics of American-on-American gun-related crimes. This weakens the argument of using the system to protect an important need of America. Fighting off terrorists is important but it is not as frequent and as urgent as other issues and risk facing Americans. Therefore, this negates the justification of turning American into a police state on the grounds of protecting Americans against terrorism.
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