Resolved: The benefits of domestic surveillance by the NSA outweigh the harms.

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Resolved: The benefits of domestic surveillance by the NSA outweigh the harms.

This is a very difficult topic, mostly because the affirmative is just factually untrue. That being said, we still need to figure out a way to argue that side, so let’s talk about the topic.

I don’t think this topic merits definitions because the words are all straightforward. What does merit discussion is the word “outweigh.” Remember, you have to prove that the harms outweigh the benefits (or that they don’t). What this means is that it is not enough to provide a list of harms or benefits, but you need to prove that one set is actually more important than the other.

For example, suppose the resolution said that the benefits of cocaine use outweigh the harms. If I said that cocaine use decrease blood pressure, increases overall happiness, and improves heart health, that wouldn’t exactly prove that the benefits outweigh the harms. I’d need to explain to you why these benefits are more important than all the harms of cocaine use.

Similarly, you can’t just get up there and say that surveillance helps prevent terrorism. You need to explain why that is more important than the harms that it creates.

Alright, with that, let’s talk about case positions.


1. Surveillance has saved lives, and life outweighs everything else – NSA surveillance has led to apprehending terrorists and fugitives, and preventing attacks against innocent U.S. citizens. These lives saved amount to a benefit that cannot be outweighed because the lives and security of a people are a government’s first priorities and cannot be overridden by other concerns.

2. What harms? – NSA surveillance activities do not have harms. The innocent do not have to be concerned about surveillance. If you don’t commit a crime, you will be fine. Mistakes which have occurred in the past have been corrected. The benefits, however, are improved security and safety for the American people, which clearly outweighs an entire lack of harms.


1. What benefits? – NSA surveillance has not directly prevented any harm to U.S. citizens domestically or abroad. Intelligence which has been used in preventing terrorist attacks has been gained through other investigative agencies and intelligence gathering mechanisms. Therefore, the notion that NSA surveillance is valuable is a myth. Conversely, surveillance directly violates innocent citizens’ rights to privacy and even property (if intellectual property is no longer private). These harms are not outweighed.

2. Surveillance harms the innocent – Countless innocent citizens have been arrested and/or incarcerated as a result of NSA surveillance. If somebody makes an off-color joke or discusses a particular political issue, they immediately become a suspect. This has happened so often that the TSA has even included a “no jokes” item in their airport instructions. The reality is that NSA surveillance is directly counterproductive to justice and protection of individual rights, the cornerstones of the United States government. These harms cannot be outweighed.



4 responses to “Resolved: The benefits of domestic surveillance by the NSA outweigh the harms.

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