Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially curtail its domestic surveillance.


Topicality  Advantages Plans Disadvantages Counterplans Kritiks  Conclusion

“’The stuff I saw really began to disturb me,” Mr. Snowden recalled. ”I could watch drones in real time as they surveilled the people they might kill.” He added: ”I watched N.S.A. tracking people’s Internet activities as they typed. I became aware of just how invasive U.S. surveillance capabilities had become. I realized the true breadth of this system. And almost nobody knew it was happening” New York Times


The controversy related to issues surrounding surveillance became a hot topic for debate when it was disclosed in June of 2013 by former defense contractor Edward Snowden and journalist Glenn Greenwald that the US National Security Agency (NSA) and other federal agencies are engaging in extensive surveillance to fight crime and reduce the threat of terrorism.



The magnitude of the disclosure shocked many people, including elected representatives who were unaware of the extent of the surveillance. Civil rights advocates view the surveillance as an assault on privacy and liberty, while law enforcement and national security officials see these mass surveillance programs, and other targeted surveillance programs that are based on individual suspicion, as essential weapons in the war on terror, the fight against nuclear weapons proliferation, the general protection of US national security, and even efforts to reduce conventional crime.

Since the release of the original story, the controversy has become front page news around the world, with more and more arguably problematic programs described in the leaked trove of Snowden documents coming to light. New stories appear on a daily, making this one of the easiest topics to research and update in some time.

Journalist Glenn Greenwald's New Book Detailing NSA Spy Programs Goes On SaleThe federal mass surveillance programs that had been revealed through the spring of 2014 are catalogued in former debater Glenn Greenwald’s most recent book, No Place  to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the US Surveillance State, which also offers a page-turning read into Greenwald’s initial meetings with Snowden and documentary film maker Laura Poitras in Hong Kong, as well as his access to the documents. The initial meetings are also documented in Poitras’ CitizenFour. Curtailing any of these and other mass surveillance programs will make for arguably strong Affirmative cases.

And although I think the recent controversy over these relatively new federal mass surveillance programs that are aimed at preventing terrorism will make up some of the core cases on the topic, the resolution extends beyond these programs to include any surveillance programs conducted by federal law enforcement agencies, even if they are targeted at preventing more traditional crimes and are targeted in nature rather than based on mass surveillance. There will be many interesting cases related to drug surveillance, border surveillance, and surveillance based on race.

In this essay, I will examine some key terms in the resolution, discuss some important aspects of its wording for the strategic development of arguments on both the Affirmative and the Negative, and then introduce the main advantages, some of the likely Affirmative cases, key disadvantages, main counterplans, and likely kritiks. By the time you finish reading the essay, you should have a good idea as to how most of the main arguments on the topic will play out as well as some strategic considerations that you should consider when selecting arguments on both sides of the resolution.

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