Slack speaks with stu­dents attending talk on coun­tert­er­rorism. Nolan Ryan | Col­legian


Sur­veil­lance of American cit­izens is a major concern for some, according to Kevin Slack, asso­ciate pro­fessor of pol­itics, but there are dif­ferent views of where the problem lies and what must be done about it. College Repub­licans had Slack speak on the issue and take part in a dis­cussion on policy on Nov. 8.

The College Repub­licans hosted a policy dis­cussion entitled “Counter-ter­rorism.” Slack opened the event by speaking on gov­ernment sur­veil­lance. Afterward, there was open dis­cussion among the stu­dents that attended.

Slack argued that today there is “an unprece­dented level of spying.” This is not just on foreign com­mu­ni­cation, but also on American cit­izens, Slack said. The sur­veil­lance put in place after the 9/11 ter­rorist attacks, he said, have con­tinued to expand since then.

“The gov­ernment claims to draw a line between U.S. cit­izens and non-cit­izens,” Slack said, “but it col­lects the metadata and content of U.S. cit­izens nev­er­theless, both upstream, via fiber cables, and down­stream, by requiring private com­panies to turn over infor­mation about their clients.”

The National Security Agency is col­lecting infor­mation from at least nine com­panies through the sur­veil­lance program PRISM, he said. The Department of Homeland Security also gives funding to state and local police for sur­veil­lance equipment.

“The NSA claims it does not collect content, nor does it spy on American cit­izens,” Slack said.

But this claim, he said, is not true, as directors of National Intel­li­gence have lied to a con­gres­sional com­mittee. This dimin­ishes the cred­i­bility of gov­ernment sur­veil­lance offi­cials, he said. Sur­veil­lance of American cit­izens, he sug­gested, has not made us much safer, as “it has proven inef­fective in pre­venting ter­rorist attacks.”

In order to resolve the problem of gov­ernment spying, Slack says the laws must be mod­ified, though this will prove to be dif­ficult.

“The solution to this problem, which would require a change in exec­utive orders and U.S. law, is pretty straight­forward: require war­rants for all domestic sur­veil­lance, re-encrypt the data, and stop col­lecting and storing most of it,” he said. “But to undo such an entrenched bureau­cracy would require epic states­manship, espe­cially when our elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives are hardly law­makers in any proper sense of the word.”

Slack cited Michael Glennon, pro­fessor of inter­na­tional law at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts Uni­versity, in arguing that many elected offi­cials are puppets for bureau­crats. Wide­spread sur­veil­lance of American cit­izens puts money in the bureau­crats’ pockets, he said, but does not help the people of the nation.

Ross Hatley, pres­ident of Hillsdale College Repub­licans, said the event was arranged to help Hillsdale stu­dents better under­stand where policy and prin­ciples meet.

“We have to build statesmen here on this campus to go out into the political arena,” Hatley said. “I hope that’s what we’re able to con­tinue doing with this event format.”

He added some thoughts to Slack’s talk, espe­cially on the dif­ference between domestic and foreign sur­veil­lance.

“The more we can sep­arate the foreign policy and the national security appa­ratus from the domestic side, we’ll have increased success,” he said.

Senior Razi Lane also attended the dis­cussion and had his own views on the policies pre­sented.

“The text of the law itself, par­tic­u­larly the Patriot Act and the FISA, delineate spe­cific pro­tec­tions for United States cit­izens, and part of the problem now is that the NSA is not fol­lowing those pro­vi­sions as closely as it ought to,” Lane said. “In terms of a solution, that was what was up for dis­cussion tonight; I don’t think we arrived at any kind of a ‘silver bullet,’ so to speak, to the NSA problem.”

However, Lane had his own views on a solution to this issue. He sug­gested Con­gress should order the Gov­ernment Account­ability Office to conduct audits on the NSA.

“You want a private, gov­ernment orga­ni­zation con­ducting an audit of the insti­tution,” he said. “I think we can start from there.”

  • Ellsworth_Toohey

    You liberal art stu­dents are so funny.… I thought you meant Slack as in the col­lab­o­ration tool