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.”

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Nolan Ryan
Nolan Ryan is a junior from northern Michigan, studying English and journalism. He is this year's News Editor at the Collegian, as well as a student writer with the marketing department. This summer, he is interning with the editorial and news sections of the Detroit News. You can find him reading good poetry and trying desperately to be better at appreciating art. Email: | Twitter: @NolanRyan76
  • Ellsworth_Toohey

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