Guest / Limited Access /
Three Views: Should Christians Resist Greater Government Surveillance?
Image: James O'Brien

No, Demand Oversight

Keith Pavlischek

First, we need to understand the difference between internal communications content, and the bulk collection and analysis of telecommunication data. When we do, it becomes clear why the National Security Administration's (NSA) use of this data does not necessarily violate our privacy rights under the Fourth Amendment.

The debate over the proposed USA Freedom Act has little to do with whether the government is spying on Americans by listening to their phone calls or reading their e-mails. This legislation, simply stated, would restrict the bulk collection and analysis of data about data (known as metadata—numbers dialed, length of call, billing records) in the fight against terrorism. It has long been settled that the Fourth Amendment doesn't protect a conversation that merely has taken place. The Supreme Court ruled in Smith v. Maryland (1979), "While the guarantees of the Fourth Amendment are broad, they are not boundless."

The bulk collection of this kind of data is constitutional, yet informed debate on this issue is as difficult for Christians as anyone else. Too often, the debate is reduced to a simplistic choice between good (the right to privacy) and evil (government surveillance). Scholar Benjamin Wittes summarizes this polarized view in his review of No Place to Hide, journalist Glenn Greenwald's book about Edward Snowden: "NSA is unrelentingly evil, its appetite voracious, its purpose political control and the suppression of dissent. Terrorism and other national security interests are mere smokescreens and pretexts for collection that is, in fact, just a repressive instrument."

When privacy advocates don't embrace such ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
RecommendedRevival 100 Years After the Armenian Genocide
Revival 100 Years After the Armenian Genocide
My family, displaced by the genocide, returned to see Christ at work in our homeland.
TrendingWhich False Teachings Are Evangelical Christians Most Tempted to Believe In?
Which False Teachings Are Evangelical Christians Most Tempted to Believe In?
Hidden heresies come in many shapes and sizes.
Editor's PickMore Martyrs: ISIS Executes Dozens of Ethiopian Christians in Libya
More Martyrs: ISIS Executes Dozens of Ethiopian Christians in Libya
Propaganda video released the same day Justin Welby arrives in Cairo to honor the previous 21 victims.
Christianity Today
Three Views: Should Christians Resist Greater Government ...
hide thisSeptember September

In the Magazine

September 2014

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.