4 years ago
John Thottungal

A lone gunman besieged Los Angeles International Airport on Nov. 1, opened fire on a TSA officer and killed him. In addition to casualties, the terminal was shut down and flights were delayed, people were emotionally traumatized and needless to say there was a significant loss of revenue for all parties concerned with the exception of the shooter.

One only needs to remember other mass shootings, specifically the Aurora shooting, to understand the need for a better algorithm-based surveillance. How else does a lone person sitting in a one-bedroom student apartment order more than 60,000 rounds of ammunition over a short time span and not raise any eyebrows?


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Surveillance is getting a lot of negativity in the press. The European Union has unanimously condemned U.S. intelligence agencies for spying on them. Google, Facebook and Twitter are all angry at the National Security Agency’s capability of hacking into their servers. According to The New York Times, these companies are now taking extra precautions to protect their networks and the privacy of their users.

Snowden’s revelations talk about alleged programs such as ‘Prism’ and ‘Blarney’ that collected metadata for mining information. Companies routinely cooperated with the Department of Justice as they are supposed to legally, but are weary of their customers finding out. They are immune to civil lawsuits concerning wire tapping, a privilege given to these companies from the office of the U.S. Attorney to negate the liability of being sued by their own customers, but this is not information that is widely publicized.

Revealing top-secret information has become the media mainstay with WikiLeaks, Manning and more recently the Snowden revelations. Snowden has publicly appealed for clemency while he hides out in Russia, unable to leave to a non-extradition country like Peru. The world, especially Europe was up in arms and almost every American ambassador in major European countries was called in to explain the actions of our government to the foreign governments.

With this amount of surveillance and intelligence capabilities, when do we say enough is enough?

The answer in my opinion is never.

If I lost a family member due to a shooter going on a killing rampage and knew later on that it could have been prevented if there was some specific sort of intelligence gathering that could protect privacy but be able to pick out patterns that lead to such behavior, I would be completely fine with that.

If there are surveillance programs used by local, state and national law enforcement agencies that are able to catch child predators and those adults who engage in child trafficking and pornography, I am completely okay with the government tracking some of the internet traffic. Is your life less important than your sense of online propriety?

One can argue that right to privacy is paramount but do you honestly think billion dollar computer servers are interested in mining information about which illegal site you are visiting under an alias? Unless, you are using a false alias to buy illegal dangerous chemicals from a number of different websites that could be used to make a bomb, they do not care.

Am I saying that some intelligence officials were not caught red handed in spying on their ex wives, lovers or husbands according to CNN? No. Every system will have people who will abuse their privileges but that does not mean that the whole system of intelligence gathering should be brought down. An honest conversation will likely help the public regain their confidence and trust in the knowledge that snooping on personal habits and conversations, unless posed as a national threat, is simply not in the mandate of the NSA, CIA, Homeland Security or the FBI.

The world we live in today is different and our enemies are not clear-cut nor do they share black and white ideologies as in the past. Our intelligence agencies are under attack and will fall quickly behind in its ability to protect our nation from foreign threats and attacks if they are not able to have the advantage in gathering information from electronic and digital resources. Using technology like the Predator Drone program as was done on Nov. 1 to hit eight suspected Taliban officials in Pakistan and kill them is not a macabre use of military might but a sure shot way of taking out enemies without risking American lives and ensuring some level of protection against the loss of future lives.

One must never forget that military industrial complex that plays a significant role in America’s GDP is also under attack from foreign companies blatantly stealing resources that American companies have to spend millions of dollars researching. Loss of information equals loss of superiority in bringing products to the market first. This means that your job that you depend on stands a chance of being cut if your company is not able to get to the market first.

Companies do not have the jurisdictional means to go after foreign hackers but the intelligence agencies do, and this is why the gathering of information plays an important economic role in maintaining a healthy sense of competition.

If nothing else, is anyone going to argue against the lone woman in the CIA who spent a decade hunting down Osama Bin Laden?

Before you might want to answer that, remember a part of this nation’s very birth and existence as the United States of America came greatly due to the fact that then-general George Washington was excellent in recruiting spies and sending them across into British held territory. Let the words, “The British are coming. The British are coming” not just be another folk story but serve as a gentle reminder that despite definitive flaws, ostracizing the intelligence agencies is not the way to go. Using intelligence gathering to further American economic interests and influence international policy decisions is important and necessary. This is not a liberal versus conservative diatribe, but an issue of survival for America in an era where acquisition of information determines a nation’s outcome.