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Debates

Better More Domestic Surveillance Than Another 9/11

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Debate Details

In the aftermath of the September 11th attacks, President George W. Bush signed the USA Patriot Act into law, and gave the government unprecedented surveillance powers both at home and abroad. Proponents argue the state has a duty to protect its citizens, and given the threat of terrorist activity on U.S. soil, must employ all resources available to keep the Americans safe. But does the threat of attack warrant intrusion of Americans’ right to privacy? And do efforts to expand government powers violate the Constitution?

The Debaters

For the motion

David Frum

Senior Editor, The Atlantic

David Frum is a senior editor at The Atlantic. From 2001 to 2002, he served as speechwriter and special assistant to President George W. Bush and... Read More

Andrew C. McCarthy

Fmr. Federal Prosecutor & Contributing Editor, National Review

Andrew C. McCarthy, a contributing editor at National Review and a senior fellow at National Review Institute, was a top federal prosecutor involved... Read More

John Yoo

Law Professor, Berkeley & Fmr. Attorney, Justice Department

John Yoo is the Emanuel Heller Professor of Law at the University of California at Berkeley and a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute... Read More

Against the motion

Bob Barr

The 21st Century Liberties Chair for Freedom and Privacy at the American Conservative Union, and Board Member of the National Rifle Association

Bob represented the 7th District of Georgia in the U. S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003, serving as a senior member of the Judiciary Committee... Read More

Jeffrey Rosen

Professor of Law at the George Washington University Law School and the Legal Affairs Editor of the New Republic

Jeffrey is the author of The Unwanted Gaze: The Destruction of Privacy in America, which the New York Times called “the definitive text on privacy... Read More

Nadine Strossen

Fmr President, ACLU & Professor, New York Law School

Nadine Strossen, professor of law at New York Law School, has written, lectured, and practiced extensively in the areas of constitutional law, civil... Read More

Where Do You Stand?

For The Motion
  • Unlike previous wars, the war on terror lacks a geographic framework and requires increased global surveillance to monitor enemy activity and ensure national security. 
  • An individual right to privacy does not eclipse the collective right to national and public security. 
  • The Fourth Amendment does not guarantee absolute freedom from government search, but rather requires those searches be justified. 
  • The legal parameters around what justifies a government search must be expanded; by the time an individual is proven to be a terrorist, it is often too late for surveillance.
Against The Motion
  • Expanding government reach during an open-ended conflict ensures “wartime” powers have no established end date and leaves Americans vulnerable to government overreach in the name of security.
  • Targeted search is more effective than widespread surveillance that allows government to collect the data of innocent Americans.
  • The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable search and seizures and should not be violated or tempered. 
  • The government should enhance foreign intelligence gathering and reduce barriers to interagency information sharing before seeking to undercut American freedoms.

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