State Surveillance: Munk Debate

The Munk Debate on “State Surveillance” was arguing whether the state should be able to turn to large-scale state surveillance of monitoring information from outside threats or was this “state surveillance” a legitimate defence to infringe our freedom as human beings. Parties that were “Pro” state surveillance were arguing that the threats of terrorism continue to happen and we as a country should be prepared. Their main argument is that the state should be able to monitor and access people’s private information for the benefit of the state and to protect the state. On the other hand, the “Con” argues that this is an excuse for the government to infringe our rights.

The Pro side is representing the government. Since the government is not very trusted with the general public, this can be a huge concern for many individuals. The government continues to be deceptive with its citizens and may consider us as “terrorists” until we have proved ourselves as innocent citizens. Organizations such as the National Security Agency (NSA) are for state surveillance. Their main mission is for global monitoring, collection, decoding, translation and analysis of information and data for foreign intelligence and counter intelligence. Not only that but NSA also help protect the U.S. government communications and information systems against dissemination and network warfare. The objective of state surveillance is to monitor and protect its citizens even though they may be infringing privacy rights of many citizens.

The Con states that millions of innocent people who have done nothing wrong or pose no threat continue to be monitored. It was said that millions of people that are guilty of nothing continue to have their communications monitored and surveilled. They also mentioned that there was a document presented by the National Security Agency (NSA) at a conference called “Signals Development Conference”. The document was entitled “New Collection Posture” and it stated collect it all, sniff it all, know it all, process it all, and exploit it all. We are in serious trouble of sacrificing to the state surveillance and exaggerated acts of terrorism and civil liberties that guarantee citizens’ basic freedoms. This is a control mechanism that the state places on its civilians to control their communication and movements.

State surveillance can either be a really good thing or a really bad thing. Since state surveillance is significantly worried about acts of terrorism, this can help prevent acts of terrorism from occurring within our own civilians. This would require its civilians to sacrifice its basic freedoms over to the state. Organizations like the National Security Agency (NSA) sometimes invade the privacy of its own citizens and are making them possible suspects (Munk Debate, 2014). This can also be a bad thing because allowing state surveillance; this can potentially target individuals or groups that are falsely accused of acts of terrorism. Furthermore, this could disrupt the trust civilians have in the government and can even cause chaos within the country. Since civilians already have a hard time trusting government officials, it would not be a great idea if they monitored individuals without reason. The surveillance state already exists and it is a threat to our rights to be free and private. This allows the government with more power over its people and can therefore monitor innocent people without any reason. Using terrorism as a loophole into invading peoples’ privacy without proof shows how much power government officials really have and how much power citizen’s lack. An argument made by the Con stated that Edward Snodwen for many months, had downloaded sensitive documents and the NSA had no idea that this was happening. The NSA still does not know what Edward Snodwen had taken and how much he had taken (Munk Debate, 2014). This point illustrates how the government can abuse its power and cannot be trusted when it comes to monitoring our documents, communication, and even movements.

In conclusion, government officials have proven in history and many incidents today that they cannot be trusted. By invading and targeting innocent people without any proof or reason shows how the government abuses its power and treats its civilians. Privacy is a big issue for many people. Being watched and monitored for no reason infringes on human freedoms and shows how little power civilians really have and how much control the government has over its people.

Larsen, M. (2014, November 25). Law, Society, and Privacy in an Era of Mass Surveillance. Crim 3305 Law     and Society . Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

CBC. (2014, May 8). State Surveillance: The Munk Debate. Retrieved November 27, 2014, from

Munk Debate. (2014, May). State Surveillance: Munk Debate.


1 Comment

Filed under Contributor Post

One response to “State Surveillance: Munk Debate

  1. Could you clarify what this sentence means?

    “We are in serious trouble of sacrificing to the state surveillance and exaggerated acts of terrorism and civil liberties that guarantee citizens’ basic freedoms.”

    This post provides an interesting overview of some key arguments made by the participants in the latest Munk Debate. One additional issue that should be included in this overview is the question of effectiveness: Is there evidence to suggest that mass surveillance makes the people of a given state appreciably safer, and, if so, do the demonstrable benefits outweigh the obvious costs (in terms of privacy and an expanding security state)? What did the Munk participants have to say about the effectiveness of these practices?