We Should Choose Liberty

By Cody Rizzuto, President UC College Republicans:

The largest privacy breech in American history is happening on our watch, and despite the gradual destruction of our civil liberties, few people are taking notice. The debate over whether Edward Snowden is a hero or a traitor for leaking classified NSA documents seems to have been the centerpiece of the issue rather than the documents themselves, but the bottom-line for the average American is that we are being spied on.

Our private phone conversations are being recorded and our emails and text messages are being read. This program, we are told, is designed to keep us safe. From who? Me? You? There is no question that we live in a world where there are very few black and white issues, but the NSA has vastly overstepped their authority.

It was recently learned that the NSA gathers 5 billion cell phone location records a day worldwide. They are snooping on the population of the planet and trampling on our rights here at home. The fact that the US government knows who you’re talking to, who you’re with, what you’re saying, and where you are should be a cause for concern. When the government knows more about my daily activities and whereabouts than my own family, something must be done.

This is an area of debate that crosses party lines, with some top Republicans supporting the program as a necessity to retain a strong national defense. It’s not the best argument to agree to trash our civil liberties to defend a nation that was founded on the basis of individual rights and personal freedom. It’s a hypocritical stance at best.

Our founding fathers first began opposing the British government due to their incursion on the affairs of private citizens. Our society is obviously different today, but the basic principles never change. In principle, what is the difference between the British quartering soldiers among the citizenry in the 1770’s and the NSA spying program in 2013? It’s clearly much more subtle, but the premise is the same. This is a specific comparison that Senator Rand Paul has made on a number of occasions and it’s a brilliant insight.

Today’s threats are real and we must take appropriate measures to defend ourselves. But when the US government destroys the very principles that are a part of our national bedrock in order to keep us safe, we have already lost. This is far more devastating than any physical attack can ever be.

Benjamin Franklin shared some wisdom on this when he said, “Those who give up their liberty for more security deserve neither liberty nor security.” The threats will never go away, but if we let it, our liberty can.

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