For some reason, no one seems to be talking about NSA surveillance anymore. What was once a hotly debated issue seems to have become a talking point of the past. This worries me. We should all be talking about the NSA, not only because there are still unanswered questions regarding the nature of surveillance methods, but also because startling revelations surrounding the agency remind us of the consequences of big government.
The NSA is a prime example of how government, when left unchecked and unrestricted, is indifferent to the will of the citizenry. It is possible that you agree with many of the methods utilized by the NSA, including metadata collection and the like. However, did you know such measures were being used before Edward Snowden leaked the information? Did you consent to having all of your phone and email records subject to government surveillance? The answer is no. You could not have known of such measures and you certainly could not have given consent. This is because no one besides the government knew what the NSA was doing. The NSA was acting completely outside the realm of public knowledge, without regard for the people’s will.
The NSA’s overreach of power and neglect of the Constitution should not come as a surprise to many Americans, especially conservatives. We should not be shocked to discover that a government agency acted irresponsibly. Ronald Reagan said it best when he called government a baby “with a big appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other.” Government must be held accountable or else, as in the case of the NSA, irresponsibility will result in a loss of freedom. Thus, we should be talking about the NSA, not only to condemn the behavior of the agency, but also to condemn big government as a whole.
My point in this article is not to convert supporters of certain NSA methods. I recognize that we are living in a frightening global climate. With the rise of ISIS and other terrorist groups, some people are willing to sacrifice certain Constitutional rights for perceived security. I am certainly not one of those people, but I understand them. Such people, however, should be able to agree with me that the NSA should not have implemented such measures without disclosing information to the public and allowing the people to have a say. As the Declaration of Independence says, governments derive “their just powers from the consent of the governed.” The people are not subject to the government; rather, the government is subject to the people.
I am concerned that many Americans are forgetting the dangers posed by big government. Neither of the two major candidates for president demonstrate a desire to adhere to the checks and balances put into place by our Constitution. One candidate appeals to authoritarian tendencies and the other demonstrates a clear disregard for the law. This is extremely troubling because if the NSA has taught us anything, it is that there are severe consequences of unfettered government. But Americans seem to have moved past the scandal–and this is a problem.
We can not forget about the NSA, because if we do, we diminish our capacity to check ravenous government.