The Question No One’s Asking in the Debate about Privacy and Terrorism

Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or don’t read/watch/consume the news), you’ve probably heard about Edward Snowden and his decision to leak classified documents about a US government agency, the NSA, to the public. I thought I’d raise an issue that I haven’t seen raised or written, yet. In fact, I’m a little surprised that I haven’t seen it raised. There have been plenty of Op-Eds (Brooks, Friedman, Shafer, Cohen, etc.) and columns (Simon, etc.) from many of the common people who write Op-Eds and columns about national security, but no one seems to be taking a step back and re-examining the question.

Most of what I’ve seen has the illusion of taking the step back and saying something to the effect of, ‘remember 9/11? That’s why we need programs like these to spy on those would seek to do us harm. It’s because of terrorism that we need these types of programs.’ Did you catch it? Did you see the underlying question that this line of reasoning assumes away?

Before I spell out exactly the point I’m trying to make, I think another analogy may help. Have you ever been sick? Of course you have, what a silly question. Upon being sick, ill, or injured, you’ve probably had to visit a doctor. When at the doctor, you were probably asked about your symptoms. After a few minutes, the doctor likely gave you a prescription or recommendation for something that would help you take care of your symptoms. As the symptoms were the thing that was bothering you, taking care of them probably seemed like a good idea to you, too.

Unfortunately, treating the symptoms won’t solve the problem of you being sick. It’ll just make the symptoms go away, but leave the underlying issue! Maybe you got sick because you were too stressed out about a big project and so that compromised your immune system, thereby making you more susceptible to being sick. And because your immune system was compromised, not washing your hands after playing with your kids at the local park meant that those germs that remained on the swing from one of the other kids was able to take up residence in your body. So, giving you medicine to make your symptoms go away might be helpful, but it weakens your immune system slightly (as it’s not able to develop antibodies on its own to take care of what’s affecting your system) and you still have that big project to finish.

What’s the tie-in? Terrorism is a symptom. It’s not the cause. The kind of terrorism that’s trying to be prevented isn’t the kind of terrorism that happens on a whim. It’s thought out, it’s well planned, it’s premeditated. Actions like that come with a reason. There’s an underlying cause to that terrorism. What is it that the US has done to provoke “terrorism?” That’s not a facetious or rhetorical question, but I think that’s the missing question from this debate. That’s the question that needs to be debated in Op-Eds and in columns.

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2 responses to “The Question No One’s Asking in the Debate about Privacy and Terrorism

  1. Pingback: Is Sunshine Really the Best Disinfectant: Edward Snowden, PRISM, and the NSA | Jeremiah Stanghini's Blog

  2. Pingback: It’s All About Perspective: The Blind Men and the Elephant | Jeremiah Stanghini

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