Debating Surveillance: Conclusions

Previous: Kritiks


The resolution grew out of a recent and ongoing controversy related to surveillance, especially mass surveillance. Although the surveillance controversy extends beyond the shores of the United States, the resolution does limit topical plan action to curtailing domestic surveillance. The fact that Americans are frequently caught-up in the surveillance of foreigners, and that fact that most Internet traffic flows through the US, means that there will be topical cases in the “foreign” area, though these will be limited and always contestable with topicality.

It is topical for Affirmative cases to act beyond the area of mass surveillance and address reductions in suspicion-based surveillance, but many of these cases deal with issues related policing and it will be difficult for the Affirmative to both topically and strategically access many of these cases because most policing occurs at the state and local levels. Given this, I suspect that most Affirmative cases will deal with mass surveillance, though some cases will focus on more limited, at least in terms of quantity, federal police surveillance. Very popular cases in this area will deal with the federal surveillance of racial minorities, surveillance at the border, and DNA surveillance. These cases will be popular because they are topical, they are focused on issues people like to debate about, and they offer an opportunity for the Affirmative to stake out some relatively unique ground.

Some teams may be creative and extend surveillance reductions outside the areas of counter-terrorism and policing to focus on areas such as biomedical surveillance. These creative cases will likely make excellent kritik Affirmative cases.

There are many different advantages that can potentially be claimed from curtailing surveillance, including the protection of privacy, strengthening free speech, the reduction of racism, Internet freedom, economic growth, and an improvement in US global status. These advantage areas will make interesting debates onto themselves.

Although the cases will be very strong, there are a number of strong disadvantages with significant consequentialist impacts that can outweigh many of these cases. The Terrorism disadvantage is the core “topic DA” and teams should be prepared to debate it. As always, Politics will be popular and can outweigh many advantages.

Negative teams can also place Affirmative teams in a basic counterplan-kritik double bind. Affirmative teams that advocate direct reductions rather than regulatory approaches will be vulnerable to counterplans that establish such standards. Terrorism and Politics disadvantages are likely to be net-benefits to such counterplans. Affirmative teams that rely on such standards will be vulnerable to many different kritiks of legal approaches. Counterplans to eliminate the practices the Affirmative criticizes in the 1AC will solve many (or all) Affirmative advantages and will make the kritiks excellent net-benefits.

The combination of strong arguments for both the Affirmative and the Negative that intersect the current issues of mass and targeted surveillance should make for excellent debates on both sides. I do look forward to helping debaters prepare on this important topic.