Edited By Ariana Kopf and Emily Chandler
Dr. Trevor Hoag
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My name is Obi Wan Kenobi, legendary Jedi knight and throughout the galaxy, government surveillance in the eyes of some life forms is seen as a tool of safety. At what point does a tool begin to lose sight of its original function? Well, I’ve seen this age of surveillance make its way into the territory of the United States, increasing due to the number of mass shootings (gun violence) and the always present idea of terrorist cruelty. It’s these sort of issues that this government organization was originally set in place to combat. Like anything in this galaxy, when something comes to power, it’s always looking for a way to increase its power. For example, a certain man who started out as a senator, who went on to become the galaxies most feared and powerful person in history, Emperor Palpatine. It’s this same hunger for power that has the United States in the place they are today regarding the NSA. This ascend didn’t come about overnight, rather it has come by the means of their government leaders and court rulings over time. Some humans on earth would say this power has begun to stretch itself like Palpatine, finding itself in issues that don’t directly concern the safety of their nation. The argument becomes whether the NSA (government-led surveillance) is beginning to destroy their democracy.
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Normally when someone, or something, begins to over-step their reach, people begin to form their suspicions. These suspicions can result in a variety of things. Society may form a distrust against government leaders as a whole or create a fear where subjects will follow any action of his/her authority. In either case, society is the victim of this reckless use of power. The NSA must look themselves in the mirror, unlike my once padawan, Anakin Skywalker, and ask themselves, at what price is this lust for power beneficial to the very people I’m supposed to be keeping safe. This is important to Americans, they realize what’s actually at stake, their given freedoms and rights laid out in the first and fourth Amendments in their Constitution. This fear reminds me of when my beloved republic form of government was wiped out by Chancellor Palpatine in replace of an Empire. Although my republic form of government was taken by force, it relates a way through manipulation, which I believe the NSA to be guilty of. Manipulation is a very powerful device. It’s a way of disguising something in order for it to look like they aren’t trying to do it purposefully.
As I do with most of my arguments, I present the facts backed up by data and evidence in order for me to remain credible. Computers in the galaxy are hard to come by. Some life forms compare computers to the United States “flip phone,” what we call technologically out of date. Luckily I was able to get my hands on one through my good friend Dexter Jettster. What I found was not to my surprise, an article from The New York Times states that the NSA has tripled its collection of data from U.S. phone companies. If my calculations don’t betray me, that’s 534 million records of phone calls and text messages from American cell phone providers like Verizon and AT&T. Experts from this same article state that the NSA is also more frequently looking for information regarding telecom metadata. It’s important to realize that the NSA is doing this type of surveillance without any suspicion or connection to any terrorism investigation. This takes me back to the worst day of my life when order 66 was executed, which led to the destruction of the Jedi order. Innocent Jedi were slaughtered, they had done nothing wrong nor committed any crime, simply because there was an order given by a higher power and the fact that they were Jedi. Although my knowledge of the force and this example are a bit extreme, it goes to show how the corruption of power can lead to injustices and worst case scenarios, elimination.
Continuing on to an article I happened to find from The Atlantic that talks about how many minorities on earth feel like surveillance is discriminatory towards them in many ways. Even if it isn’t for just the color of their skin, studies have shown that even if you voice a “minority” view/opinion online about government policies you are more likely to be monitored than a person who shares the majority view. They feel like they must battle surveillance, especially in law enforcement, which is where minorities feel most targeted. This can be backed by what I see on Galaxy news channel 3, constantly seeing how people of color in the United States are constantly labelled, sought out, and harassed by their law enforcement. I think back to when I was a young padawan of Qui-Gon Jinn when the people of Tatooine were enslaved simply because they were poor. I remember the stories Qui-Gon would tell me, and he couldn’t stand it, which is why he went out of his way to help free my once padawan, Anikan Skywalker. Mistake or not, Qui-Gon’s heart was in the right place helping free a young boy from slavery. I see the influence of the NSA making its way towards all surveillance, in this case, law enforcement, not just what the NSA oversees in regards to national security. That should be an eye-opener for the people of earth to realize the power that the NSA possesses, to have an impact in other areas besides their own.
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If it wasn’t for whistleblowers like Edward Snowden, Americans would still be in the dark about many of the NSA’s secrets and suspicious activities like spying on the American people. For example, how the NSA has access to the servers of tech giants, like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Apple. While pretty much every single phone company in the U.S. provided access to their entire customers’ base phone records, certainly overstepping their bounds. Snowden fled to Russia where he still seeks refuge, too scared to return home unless granted a pardon or a commuted sentence. It’s this intimidation by the NSA that makes me think this government led organization is desperate to flex its muscles, in order to deter this from ever happening again and to hold onto the power it has accumulated over time. Similar to the mighty empire in my world of Star Wars, the empire has its death star plans stolen and hidden on a secret rebel base. Princess Leia refused to give up the location of the rebel base, so the empire decided to flex its muscles by destroying her home planet of Alderaan. It correlates to what the NSA did with Snowden, wanted to display its power in order to make any future person considering not complying with all their rules to “respectfully” reconsider. This whole incident was a disservice to the American government, the people of America should be given the framework of how the NSA is going about using surveillance and what they’re choosing to do with it.
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There has been talk amongst the Wookies that there is an opposition to this argument in the States, something that normally hits home for a vast majority of people. Throughout my existence, travelling all across the galaxy I’ve found that national security has a way of igniting a fire under people. Life forms want to feel safe while in their home country or planet and are willing to risk anything in order to achieve it. If they ever feel at all threatened by those wanting to limit government agency’s power, they likely bring up examples from the past (9/11) in order to work back to security and why these programs were originally set up in order to combat. These people are willing to lose a certain amount of their individual freedoms in order to feel like they aren’t in danger. With the help of the force and my internet provider, “99 problems, but galaxy WIFI ain’t one”, I came across a lady named Dianne Feinstein, former Chair of the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and supporter of the NSA. She wanted to pass a “data retention” law that would have basically forced phone companies into keeping all kinds of private data for years even if the customers wanted it deleted. This literally goes against the definition of safety, so it makes me wonder if supporters of the NSA or oppositions to my argument really want to be safe after all. They simply want to rely on the government for their safety, and some would say that’s a dangerous game to play but, different strokes for different folks. Their argument is understandable though because as a Jedi Master the safety of others is one of my main concerns. I find that safety shouldn’t be solely relied on by others, although it should be there as a last resort, not constantly watching you, waiting for something to happen.
I sense as though the American people are heading down a slippery slope when it comes to surveillance. R2-D2 filled me in, that it wasn’t until 2014 that the NSA finally released its first “Statistical Transparency Report.” This report provides details to the American citizen about the number of surveillance orders the agency performed last year (2013). How does this massive organization hide this type of information from its very own people? I can tell you that the people of the Republic would never stand for such a thing, so I had to do additional research to find what Americans truly think about the NSA and surveillance. I found that 54% of Americans disapprove of the collection of phone and internet data being justified as counter-terrorism measures. Continuing on, 74% of people said that they shouldn’t have to give up their personal liberties in order to be safe from terrorism. I didn’t find it surprising that 93% of people say it’s important to be able to control their information, while 90% think it’s important to know what information about them is being collected. By far, the most telling stat is that 49% of people don’t think anti-terrorism measures have gone far enough. It wasn’t until I read this statistic that I was able to let the force guide me into coming up with a clear solution to this widespread issue.
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The solution is rather simple: to let private surveillance companies take the place of the NSA, aka privatize big brother and require by law that these private companies will strictly deal with counter-terrorism, nothing more. It reminds me when I visited the planet of Kamino, I was suddenly surprised to learn the existence of the clone army. I discovered that the army was commissioned by Master Sifro-Dyas, a Jedi Master who ultimately was removed from the Jedi council and commissioned the army for an impending full-scale conflict with his fellow Jedi council members. The Sith got word of this army and wanted it for themselves, and Sifro-Dyas was killed by Count Dooku, ultimately taking over the army. The Sith were done with, were tired of the droid army, started to see them as a liability, and wanted something more (clone army). The Trade Federation provided the droid army, so the Sith leaders went to a “private” alternative, the Kaminoan government and stole the clone army. So basically the droid army was the NSA in this case, and the clone army became the result of privatizing.
Privatizing the NSA would allow businesses such as phone companies to have the power to, once again, choose what they would like to do with their customer’s information. It would give the power back to the people of America, a cure to treat their ill-government. Although privatizing is normally associated with Republicans, I have no political bias. I simply want what’s right for the greater good of the people. After reading your country’s Constitution, it didn’t make sense to me how the federal government should be able to seize and store this crazy volume of information without violating your first and fourth amendments. The main point of privatizing is the incentive of profit and I know how much earthlings enjoy themselves some money. To conclude, the NSA must relinquish its power in order for the American people to retain their democracy, and as always may the force be with you.
Board, The Editorial. “Surveillance: A Threat to Democracy.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 12 June 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/12/opinion/surveillance-a-threat-to-democracy.html.
Bowden, John. “Trump Aides Hired Israeli Private Intelligence Firm to Dig up Dirt on Obama Officials: Report.” TheHill, The Hill, 6 May 2018, thehill.com/policy/international/386393-trump-aides-hired-israeli-private-intelligence-firm-to-dig-up-dirt-on.
Cyril, Malkia A. “The Antidote to Authoritarianism.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 8 May 2017, http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/05/the-antidote-to-authoritarianism/525438/.
McLaughlin, John. “NSA Intelligence-Gathering Programs Keep Us Safe.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 2 Jan. 2014, http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/nsa-intelligence-gathering-programs-keep-us-safe/2014/01/02/0fd51b22-7173-11e3-8b3f-b1666705ca3b_story.html?utm_term=.b25e0758cd6c.
Savage, Charlie. “N.S.A. Triples Collection of Data From U.S. Phone Companies.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 4 May 2018, http://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/04/us/politics/nsa-surveillance-2017-annual-report.html?rref=collection%2Ftimestopic%2FSurveillance%2Bof%2BCitizens%2Bby%2BGovernment&action=click&contentCollection=timestopics®ion=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=collection.