Archive for the 'Intelligence Gathering' Category

May 04 2010

Profile Image of joy01pd2011

Workplace Surveillance vs. Privacy

wipe hard drive

Attention workers: wipe your hard drive clean! Surveillance is a rising concern among today’s working class; numerous court cases have taken place in the US involving the worker and his/her company debating the right to record phone calls, filter mails or track e-mails. Some say monitoring should be completely removed and others believe it should be enforced. It all boils down to privacy and ethics.

Critics state that employers “are free to violate employee privacy” (Source A), but this claim is not true. Roche from Smart Business Pittsburgh declares “a number of federal and state laws have been enacted” directly addressing privacy rights in all work places, such as the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (Source B). The head of the company is held liable for any charges, so it is critical for firms to guarantee a safe working environment, whether it is to prevent harassment, robbery of trade secrets or even from a member of staff from accessing someone else’s private e-mail accounts.

There may not be a definite or absolutely correct solution to workplace monitoring, since the whole issue is complicated “by the limited and ambiguous nature” of laws regarding to “the privacy of electronic communications” (Source C), but there are several ways to work out this situation. By implementing an employee ethics training program for example, decreases “exposures to reputational risks”, “losses of financial assets” and valuable human resources for the company (Source D), therefore minimizing a strict monitoring method. If an ethics program is successful in its education, then workers will have a new idea of moral values; after strong principles are established in the working environment, employers could lighten the monitoring load.

Before hiring an applicant, employers should clearly state the standard electronic monitoring policies to him/her. The extent of collecting information should not stretch beyond areas that are irrelevant to work, such as tapping home-phone lines. Also, to respect privacy rights, personal data that is collected should not be disclosed “without prior employee consent” (Source D). I believe that monitoring is still an essential system in a company but these means of compromise could regulate the procedure.

Source A: American Civil Liberties Union. “Through the Keyhole: Privacy in the Workplace, an Endangered Right.” 26 July. 1998. Web. 04 May 2010.  <>.

Source B: Roche, Jerry. “Employee Privacy Rights.” Smart Business Pittsburgh. 07 October. 2008. Web. 04 May 2010. <>.

Source C: Hartman, Laura Pincus. “Workplace Monitoring Can Be Ethical.” Technology and society. Ed. Auriana Ojeda, San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2002.

Source D: Zablow, Robin J. “Creating and Sustaining an Ethical Workplace.” Risk Management Sept. 2006: 26+. SIRS Researcher. Web. 04 May 2010.

Source E: Dean, Lisa, and Declan McCullagh. “Q: Should Employers Have to Reveal Electronic-Surveillance Activities?.” Insight on the News Vol. 16, No. 34 11 Sep 2000: 40. SIRS Researcher. Web. 04 May 2010.

Source F: Dillenberger, Cassandra. “Workplace Privacy: A Changing Landscape.” Contractor’s Business Management Report New York, NY 01 Oct 2009: 1. SIRS Researcher. Web. 04 May 2010.

3 responses so far

Apr 22 2010

Profile Image of joy01pd2011

Monitoring Employees: Issue on Privacy

Ever wonder if someone is tracking your every move? From the minute you send an e-mail, the second you send a text, the moment you open a word document – all this history can be traced and exposed. As technology becomes more advanced, employee privacy simply does not exist anymore. Where should we draw the line in cyberspace? The fact is, monitoring a workspace is crucial to guarantee a safe working environment for everyone.

Some workers claim that firms only attempt to “squeeze every penny’s worth of their employees’ salaries” and ensure a “lawsuit-proof workplaces” (Source A) by watching their every move, but then fail to recognize the ample reasons behind this act. Keeping a close watch on the working environment such as filtering e-mails protects employees by preventing “serious issues such as sexual harassment” and “cybercrime cases” (Source B).

Even though one’s safety is the number one priority, complete privacy for an individual cannot be the optimal solution. From daily news sources we witness that it is almost impossible to avoid attempts of illegal pilfering or sexual harassment incidents no matter what kind of a job one has. From a banker to a mall clerk, there is every possibility to assume that these unpleasant episodes could happen and the best chance to avoid it altogether would be through the system of filtering messages.

In terms of cybercrime, employees may not even know that downloading a single song or a simple pdf file can hold their employers liable for copyright charges. After admitting someone to a job position, valuable company information is easily accessible, so fraud and theft of intellectual property becomes a high possibility. In order to not risk company trade secrets being revealed at all, corporations have little choice but to keep an eye on their employees.

Aside from avoiding civil liability, time is another matter of concern. According to a survey conducted by the American Management Association, 89% of users at a random company admitted to using their office system “to send jokes, gossip, rumors or disparaging remarks to outsiders” (Source A). Personal communications for internet surfing or e-mails could “cost the company a fortune in lost productivity and lost dollars” (Source C), which translates into poor customer service and also jeopardize the loss of clients.

Critics insist that “workplace monitoring is virtually unregulated” and that intruding into an employee’s life is unprincipled (Source D). Though this argument brings up an unethical issue, it is in fact an incorrect assertion. Under common law, employers are not to exert unreasonable searches and keeping track of “employee communications is increasingly viewed as a business necessity” (Source C). Today, applicants are notified these standard procedures through contracts before getting hired-therefore, monitoring workers isn’t impossible to regulate and control.

Works Cited:

Source A: Petrecca, Laura. “Feel Like Someone’s Watching? You’re Right.” USA TODAY 17 Mar 2010: B. 1. SIRS Researcher. Web. 21 April 2010.

Source B: Reilly, Tom. “How Employee Monitoring Can Help Us All.” ComputerWorld 03 Apr 2009: 13. SIRS Researcher. Web. 21 April 2010.

Source C: DePree Jr., Chauncey M., and Rebecca K. Jude. “Who’s Reading Your Office E-mail? Is That Legal?.” Strategic Finance 01 Apr 2006: 44. SIRS Researcher. Web. 21 April 2010.

Source D: Ignelzi, R.J. “Privacy: The Workplace.” Beacon-News (Aurora, IL) 07 Apr 1996: D1+. SIRS Researcher. Web. 21 April 2010.

4 responses so far

Apr 10 2010

Profile Image of joy01pd2011

Monitoring Employees = Cubical Invasion?


In most workplaces today, employers use many technological tools to keep tabs on workers. In large corporate companies for example, phone calls may be taped, web hits could be tracked and personal e-mail could be read freely. While some argue that maintaining a close watch on workers can heighten productivity, others assert that probing background checks and credit histories violate employee’s rights to privacy.

Dana Hawkins paints a scenario starting with a pair of private detectives meeting at their client’s company. They slip in a worker’s cubicle and sift through everything: voice mail, file cabinets…etc. and download all the information from the computer hard drive. By doing so, a forensic computer analyst will later recover e-mails and documents long ago erased for the proof that the worker released trade secrets of the company to a competitor. This episode is known as a “midnight raid” and employee investigations in the states “have increased an average of 30% each year” (Source A).

Regular checks on workers are made to either “collect evidence to fire an employee, defend against a discrimination lawsuit, to catch a company thief” (Source A). Hawkins recognizes the benefits for employers and their companies but raises a case that is extreme. The reason behind these raids is because lawsuits have increased and employers now feel the pressure to decrease employee freedom; if companies are going to be held liable for employee actions, then should surveillance not be considered as an improved measure of security? Laura Hartman proclaims that “the balance to this issue is challenging,” but ultimately, “monitoring is an effective means to ensure a safe and secure working environment” (Source B).

Firms have sufficient reason to keep an eye on its workers. In addition to securing business information, evaluating an individual’s performance while at work is crucial. By reviewing a phone call to the service desk, a manager can truly understand the proficiency and ability of his or her employees. Further, free Internet access opens the possibility of “significant copyright infringement” or viruses “which employees can inadvertently introduce to company systems by downloading software programs” (Source B).

“Under common law,” Hartman concludes, “unreasonable intrusions into employee’s private affairs are prohibited” and most companies do notify their workers in advance. Electronic surveillance such as cameras in a working environment is to ensure everyone’s safety, not with the intension of intruding personal lift.

Works Cited:

Source A: Hawkins, Dana. “Workplace Monitoring Violates Employee Privacy.” Technology and Society. Ed. Auriana Ojeda. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2002.
Source B: Hartman, Laura Pincus. “Workplace Monitoring Can Be Ethical.” Technology and society. Ed. Auriana Ojeda, San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2002.

3 responses so far

May 17 2009

Profile Image of daisy01pd2010

How to Spot A Terrorist (Last Post)

I am a Muslim not a Commodity by Edge of Space. 

In hindsight, the tragic day of September 11th plays back in our heads in slow-motion mellow drama. We remember the buildings collapsing, the bodings flying, the people covered in dust. We remember our flag, our soil, our leader, our country. We remember, above all the fear that spread like chemical warfare and kept us in our shells. And considering all of this, considering all that America has been through, in minds of the country at that moment was the obligation to never allow something like this to happen again.

But let’s stop. Let’s turn off the background music, and start to look at this more objectively. In order to prevent terrorism, emotionally charged mindsets could upset reason and ultimately make the country more susceptible to future terrorist attacks. It is unlike a movie, literature, a romanticized ad. The term “Terrorism”, although popularized in the media as “religious extremism”, is really in its most objective form, abstract and largely dependent on the eye of the beholder or the context of the situation. It is strikingly evident however, that the post-9/11 efforts in preventing “terrorism” have solidified the subject into one entity. This entity is a “young, Arab man”. This entity is “foreigner”. This entity is “dissent”.

Primarily, “racial profiling” has been the most general counterterrorism strategy employed by not only the government but also by the developing prejudice of the entire nation. The initial justification for racial profiling, a term loaded with negative connotations in the law enforcement world, has been that it is simply common sense in the fight against terror.  Supporters of racial profiling claim that America shouldn’t worry about being “politically correct” over national security, proposing that terrorist actions are more obvious then they seem

So they [9/11 hijackers] weren’t masters of disguise, adept at blending into any situation. They weren’t like the Nazi spies in war movies, urbane and charming in their unaccented English. It apparently never occurred to them to act natural, read Newsweek, watch a movie, eat a salad, listen to Lite Rock Favourites of the Seventies, treat the infidel- whore waitress the way a westerner would. But it didn’t matter. Because the more they stuck out, the more everyone who mattered was trained not to notice them (Source C)

In the aftermath of the London bombings of July 2005, Paul Sperry of the Hoover Institution also defended the racial profiling of young Muslim men in New York City subways as common sense, “Young Muslim men bombed the London tube, and young Muslim men attacked New York with planes in 2001. From everything we know about the terrorists who may be taking aim at our transportation system, they are most likely to be young Muslim men” (Source C). To economists, racial profiling in the Justice System makes statistical sense, “statistical discrimination [business necessity], untainted by bigotry, is optimal from a policing perspective because it maximizes the number of arrests consequent upon a given number of persons stopped” (Source C). While proponents justify racial profiling as “smart law enforcement”, opponents couldn’t disagree more. Establishing an archetypal image of a “terrorist” makes it all the easier for terrorist in reality to evade those characteristics. Addressing the same London bombing stated earlier, Raymond Kelly, a New York City police commissioner argues, “If you look at the London bombings, you have three British citizens of Pakistani descent. You have Germaine Lindsay [the fourth London suicide bomber], who is Jamaican. You have the next crew [in London], on July 21st, who are East African. You have a Chechen woman in Moscow in early 2004 who blows herself up in the subway station. So whom do you profile?” (Source C).  The established “young Muslim man” standard also didn’t prevent Richard Reid from his “shoe bomb” attempt and wouldn’t have prevented Timothy McVeigh from implementing the second deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil [Oklahoma City]. Government officials who spoke to the Associated Press only on condition of anonymity said evidence dating before Sept. 11 shows that al-Qaeda operatives have been learning non-Arabic languages like French, English and Spanish. Al Qaeda sympathizers also have reached out to non-Arabic Muslim populations seeking new recruits of different Asian and European ethnicities whose accent or appearance might not draw suspicion (Source E).

 Racial profiling is also the primary means of gathering intelligence through detainment. We don’t know how many people have been detained; in early November, less than two months into investigation, the Justice Department said the number was 1147, but as criticism mounted over the numbers detained, the Justice Department responded by simply stopping its practice of announcing the running tally. In his article, “The Ashcroft Raids”, David Cole proposes the striking similarities between the racial targeting of post 9/11 to the Palmer Raids of 1919,

As in the Palmer Raids, the government seems to have dispensed with developing probable cause before arresting individuals, and instead has used pretext- usually of routine immigration violations- as its justification for detention of hundreds of persons for whom it has only the faintest suspicions. As in 1919, the government seems to be proceeding not on grounds of individual culpability, but of guilt by association. And as in the Palmer Raids, the government has targeted its efforts almost exclusively at immigrants, a group that by definition has no voice in the political process (Source A)

Of the 1200-2000 people detained, only Zaracrias Moussaoui, who was picked up three weeks before the attacks had been charged with involvement in the 9/11 violence (Source A). The detainees fall under four categories: More than 725 have been held for alleged immigration status violations, about 120 for federal crimes unrelated to September 11th, an undisclosed number for state criminal charges, and a similarly undisclosed but small number of federal material witnesses. Nearly all the detainees are from Arab countries that have little or no connection to 9/11 (Source A). On a larger scale, the ineffectiveness of racial profiling has been proven in the UK, where the proportion of “Asians” stopped by the police under the new anti-terror legislation tripled in the 18 months following 9/11; to date, not one of these has resulted in conviction for terrorism offence (Source F)

Unfortunately, the government isn’t the only one responsible for promoting racial division between Muslim Americans and the rest of the country. The attitudes of law enforcement and the general public have been largely discriminatory against the Muslim community as violence in hate crimes continue to rise; in Phoenix, for instance, someone threw homemade dry-ice bombs into the backyard of an Iraq-American family. In Burbank, a man blew up a Palestinian family’s van (Source D). Isolating the Muslim community turns away a vital source of intelligence America could be receiving in understanding the real enemy. It seems as though terrorist organizations are only a tiny minority of the Muslim community, the extremity of this status blinds the majority of the world in its perception of true Muslim culture, one that honors the value of peace.

 Racial Profiling, in itself, is ineffective because it is built on superficial suspicion rather than empirical evidence. Put into context to the war on terror, however, where recent “terrorist” activity has consistently been related to the Middle East and “Al Qaeda”, it is difficult not to consider the “race” factor in the terrorist profile.  Although the term “terrorism” is certainly not limited to the actions of al Qaeda, there is a strong link between Islamic beliefs and terrorist acts shown in recent trends, a link that should not be ignored through forced self-ignorance in hopes of being simply, “politically correct”. Considering this “link” however, does not justify the broad generalization of Arabs; racial description should only be a consideration of the terrorist profile, not used to decide the beliefs and behaviors of an entire race of people. In this respect, the overgeneralization from Muslim Americans to the even broader status of “immigrants” is even more outrageous. In a previous post, Ramona Ripston profiled three screeners fired from their jobs because they held green cards, all of them of Hispanic descent. Casting a large net only brings unwanted prey.

Viewing the events that happened on 9/11 objectively and counterterrorism strategies analytically is not synonymous with emotional detachment from the actual event itself. We must always remember that day and how it shook the entire world- but first base reactions, fear, and fury are never rational means of obtaining true national security. In this sense, the means of protection through racial profiling might perceivably be “common sense” and “smart law enforcement”, but the lasting of its effects are only short term and superficial in quelling the nerves of the mainstream masses. We must keep our heads above the water and look at the facts, whether those facts consider the racial links, culture links, gender links ext, the extent of targeting individuals based only on something as generic as “foreign status” is not considerate enough to generate effective security. In  the midst of doing something perceivably “productive”, we are, in reality, being remarkably counterproductive in the fight against terror, isolating our Muslim community, violating civil liberties, wasting time, wasting money, promoting a negative national image, all of which allow terrorism to perpetuate.  

Works Cited

Cole, David. The Ashcroft Raids. It’s A Free Country: Personal Freedom in America After September 11. New York: RDV Books, 2002. 280-85.  (Source A)

Harcourt, Bernard E. “Muslim Profiles Post9/11: Is Racial Profiling an Effective Counterterrorist Measure and Does it Violate the Right to be Free from Discrimination?” Thesis. University of Chicago, 2006. University of Chicago. 16 May 2009 <>. (Source B)

Mark Steyn, “Stop Frisking Crippled Nuns,” Spectator, June 1, 2001. Copyright 2001 by Spectator. (Source C)

Paulson, Amanda. “Rise In Hate Crimes Worries Arab-Americans.” 10 Apr. 2003. SIRS. (Source D)

Solomon, John. “Officals Say al- Qaida Is Branching.” 7 Feb. 2002. SIRS. Shanghai American School Pudong, Shanghai. 16 May 2009. Keyword: Racial Profiling. (Source E)Suroor, Hasan. “Racism in teh Air.” Frontline Magazine Sept. & oct. 2006: 48-50. (Source F)

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May 13 2009

Profile Image of rajiv01pd2009

Legalization of Marijuana

Personally, I am in favor of legalization of Marijuana.  There are many reasons why marijuana needs to be legalized.  Possibly one of the more simplistic but effective arguments for the legalization of marijuana is “why should it be illegal?”.  As far as we know, there are no serious medical issues with marijuana.  In fact, occasional marijuana smokers have no lasting brain damage or get any symptoms worse than those of cigarettes (Source A).  If cigarettes and alcohol are permitted to be legal, considering that they each take much more lives than marijuana every year, then why isn’t marijuana legal?


Considering the current economic climate, legalization of marijuana has actually come up as a sound financial option (Source B).  The money spent on enforcing marijuana use could very easily be saved with legalization. The people who use locked up in prison and the taxpayers have to foot the bill. Those taxpayers have to pay for food, housing, health care, attorney fees, court costs, and other expenses just to imprison these marijuana uses.  It seems to me that there are better ways the government could be using that money (to help with the recession, for starters).  It would also be to the government’s advantage to enforce a tax on marijuana, much like that on cigarettes and alcohol.  This measure would likely bring in high revenue for the government and help alleviate the current financial situation.

Looking at the teenage life in Shanghai, it is apparent that many high schoolers participate in the nightclub culture of Shanghai, even though they are underage.  Why would they do this?  Because it is easily accessible as well as the cool thing to do, which is a deadly combination.  The same problem exists for marijuana.  A latent dysfunction of marijuana prohibition is that it only served to increase interest in the drug.  Children (teenagers especially) tend to participate in activities that aren’t allowed because it makes them feel rebellious and dangerous.  However, if marijuana was legalized, that problem would less prevalent, and it would be likely that less teenagers would start to smoke cannabis.

Finally, the benefits of marijuana can’t be overlooked as a motive to legalize it.  For many years advocates of medicinal marijuana have been pushing for legalization, due to marijuana’s ability to be a powerful pain reliever (Source C), and also since it helps to stimulate appetite and relieve nausea in cancer and AIDS patients.  Considering that marijuana’s negative effects are negligible, it makes sense that cancer patients or anyone else who is suffering from severe pain should be allowed to use marijuana to ease their pain.  Marijuana is an effective painkiller, and has been deemed that “the adverse effects of marijuana are within the range of effects tolerated for other medications” (Source A).  So it definitely doesn’t make much sense to prohibit the use of marijuana from a medicinal perspective.

It seems clear to me that marijuana doesn’t need to be prohibited, and that legalization could actually help the country.  So why not try it?

Adams, Jill U. “Damaging Habit.”

Cohen, Andrew. “Time For Marijuana Legalization?”

Jones, Tim. “Across Midwest, Interest In Medical Marijuana Grows.” Jones, Tim.”

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May 06 2009

Profile Image of diana01pd2010

Intelligence Gathering Systems–An Overview

In my previous posts, I presented two diametric views on whether intelligence gathering systems violate privacy rights, then I argued that those systems do violate privacy rights by presenting the different shapes and forms intelligence gathering comes in and cases in which gathered information has leaked out.

In this post, I’ll continue to investigate the true nature of intelligence gathering systems and  how it relates to us today.

Numerous sources verified that intelligence gathering systems do collect data from a variety sources: “records management systems…police reports,  property pawn transactions, traffic citations, Internet, published material, court records, handouts, radio, [etc] (Source C). Many people are bothered by the fact that their information may be unknowingly collected. Michael R. Ronczkowski, on the other hand, argues in his book, Terrorism and Organized Hate Crime: Intelligence Gathering, Analysis, and Investigations, that these details are needed. He claims that “link analysis and corroboration of information are dependent upon details, e.g., telephone numbers for cellular phones and pagers, addresses, apartment numbers,”  and without these details, “valuable time is wasted. As the saying goes, time is money, but in homeland security and terrorism, time can save lives” (Source C).

But can these systems be effective even with these details?  “The Pearl Harbor and the Cuban crisis suggest that September 11 does not stand alone in showing us how enormously difficult it can be to synthesize intelligence findings and to overcome vagueness, ambiguity, misperception, and bureaucratic infighting in the decision- making process” (Source D). Not only are seemingly unnecessary details needed, scrutiny in synthesizing the achieved information is also required.

The real risk of these intelligence gathering systems is that not only may the compilation of our information not be able to provide the promised national security, our information may also be stolen by or shared with other unexpected organizations. According to an article in The Washington Times, “a parade of journalists and government officials testified about how classified information makes its way into the news media on a frequent and almost routine basis” in 2007 (Source E).

Nonetheless, intelligence gathering systems, such as the FBI, have had many successful cases in which prevented more deaths from occurring (Source F). The media often only focuses on, however, the unsuccessful ones (such as the 9/11 attack).

The government is constantly adjusting the structure of these systems to optimize their uses. The adjustments include the passage of The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, which “empowered a new Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to lead the intelligence community and serve as the president’s principal advisor on intelligence matters” (source B) and enforced “protection of intelligence sources and methods” (Source A).

National security is the ideal product of these systems. Much, if not all, of their controversy surface when these systems fail to bring the citizens security. They have made mistakes, but they have also saved lives.

Works Cited

Source A: United States. Cong. House. Committee of conference. By Hoekstra. 108th Cong., 2nd sess. H. Rept. 108-796. GPO Access. 6 May 2009


Source B: “Intelligent Reform; Making Sense of Commonsense Intelligence Gathering.” The Washington Times 23 Apr. 2008: A17. Questia. 3 May 2009


Source C: Ronczkowski, Michael R. Terrorism and Organized Hate Crime: Intelligence Gathering, Analysis, and Investigations. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2004. Questia. 3 May 2009


Source D: Henderson, Phillip G. “Intelligence Gathering and September 11 – What the Lessons of History Show.” World and I Dec. Questia. 3 May 2009


Source E: “Media Leaks Hinder Intelligence Gathering.” The Washington Times 11 Mar. 2007: B03.Questia. 3 May 2009 <>.

Source F: “Federal Bureau of Investigation – FBI History – Famous Cases.” Federal Bureau of Investigation. U.S. Department of Justice. 06 May 2009


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Apr 22 2009

Profile Image of daisy01pd2010

“First they came…” The Undeserved Targets of 9/11

Snipers and Hijabs, 2007. by Halsey Institute. 

“They came first for the communists, 

                 And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.

Then they came for the Jews,

                 And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for the trade unionists,

    And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Catholics,

    And I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant.

Then they came for me,

    And by that time no one was left to speak up.”

       This poem was written by Martin Niemoller, a German pastor who questioned the failure of the German intellectuals of the time to recognize and prevent the rise of Hitler. It would be overly pessimistic of course, to parallel the happenings of World War II to that of today’s War on Terrorism. It would not be overly pessimistic, however, to recognize a development of similar patterns.

      On November 6, 2001, George Bush gave a speech in Warsaw, Poland, attempting to justify the invasion of Afghanistan; his speech did not fail to paint things in black and white, “You are either with us, or you are with the terrorists”. And at the time, the statement seemed so appropriate. Patriotism was on the rise; it held us together and comforted us during times of vulnerability. We established an “Us” and they established a “terrorist”. The diffusion of fear from the mass media quickly painted a picture for us. The enemy had a face, and although we did not know who- exactly, we knew that as long as we felt secure then whatever we must be doing was working and that it was all going to be okay.

     3000 lives were lost that historically tragic day, yet casualties continue to surmount on American soil. A new kind of terrorism is on the rise, and this time, we are our only enemies.  Like I mentioned earlier, it is not overly pessimistic to acknowledge a development of patterns. In 1798, the Alien and Sedition Acts were passed to “assure the fledgling republic’s safety against a foreign threat and its ethnic agents in the United States” (Source B) but were really aimed at persecuting domestic traitors who voiced against the government. While the threat seemed real enough, the Alien and Sedition Acts identified no traitors and thus made America no safer. The Espionage Act if 1917 also aimed at prosecuting and imprisoning domestic critics nine weeks after declaring war against Germany. One man was sentenced to prison for reading the Declaration of Independence in public and a minister was sentenced to fifteen years for declaring that the war was “unchristian”. Fear of the Japanese after the attack on Pearl Harbor led to the unjustified detention of Japanese Americans on American soil. Today, the repetition of history almost seems inevitable. Is it now a common expectation that the advent of war is synonymous with the departure of civil liberties?      

      So who is the enemy? Hysteria after September 11th has left our country to resort to primitive out-lashes against people of color. Today’s immigrants, although about 12 percent of the total U.S. population, are somehow still not part of who “we” are when we define the “we” of America under feverish moments of patriotism. Helen Zia comments about the return of xenophobia after September 11th, “Will the real American please stand up? My Asian face is so unremarkable in the San Francisco Bay area. But elsewhere in America, in D.C. and the Mid-Atlantic states where I grew up, or even much of California, an Asian face still signals ‘foreigner’”(Source C). Then I guess it should come to no surprise that the U.S. law enforcement agencies immediately began the large-scale arrest and detention of Arab and Muslim Americans as primary suspects of terrorism while “real Americans” were taught to be on the look-out for any suspicious behavior for people with an olive complexion. The government’s and the media’s interpretation of the “enemy” however, established a racial divide within American borders; differences among Arab and Muslim Americans were cut deeper and deeper while prejudice in the public arena became not only more prominent but more accepted. Because once an “enemy” is established, the persecution of that “enemy” signifies a sense of security.

        Addressing America’s susceptibility to faulty intelligence gathering, Ira Glassler, who served for almost a quarter of a century as Executive Director of the ACLU, is reminded of the old joke about the man arriving home very late one night who comes across another man crawling around on his hands and knees under a lamppost. The man under the lamppost is drunk, and appears to be looking for something. The first man stops and offers help. “What are you doing?” he asks, “I’m looking for my keys,” says the drunk, “I’ll help,” says the man, “where did you lose them?” “Six or Seven blocks from here,” answers the drunk. “Then why are you looking here?” says the first man. “Because the light is better here,” responds the drunk (Source B).  Her analogy clearly illustrates our willingness to “look under the light”, or look for the most obvious, easy, inconsistencies. In reality however, evidence and truth from such intricate terrorist organizations would not be found so blatantly under the lights.

       So the streets lights are turned on. They are turned on where there is video surveillance on public streets, on wire-tapped phones, on inspected e-mails, and according to a minor section of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (ATSA), on any airport screener who does not hold US citizenship. Ramona Ripston comments on the loss of reason as the first casualty of war by profiling three U.S. residents who have worked tirelessly and waited for years to earn an American citizenship, only to be fired from their trained jobs because they weren’t lucky enough to be born in the country. She emphasizes the irony of the fact that the very people who struggle the most in order to keep America secure, were the same people who were classified as “enemies” because of “racial and cultural deviation” making it clear that citizenship requirements are unrelated to security measures. For the three profiled immigrants, the bottom line is, “I am an American and no one can tell me anything different” (Source D). On December 2002, the INS [Immigration and Naturalization Service] used the first stage of this program [special registration process] to round-up hundreds of Arab and Muslim men on minor immigration infractions, many of which were caused by the INS’s own bureaucratic incompetence. The agency detained a full one-quarter of all those who sought to comply with these new requirements at its Lost Angeles office…(Source A). Nadine Strossen and Timothy Edgar stress, “Now, we are in danger of allowing ourselves to be governed by our fears, rather than our values” (Source A).

     The current intelligence gathering policies prove not only to be ineffective, but a liability towards foreign relations. If we were to continue to demonstrate that the Arab and Muslim community- or even immigrants for that matter, were unequal and inferior, then not only are the American ideals being tarnished in the process, but such a division within our country further perpetuates the social inequality that ultimately endangers the country. By destroying chances of diplomacy, the reasons for terrorists to continue their violence and hatred towards America elevate. Ineffective means of gathering intelligence such as personal targeting is perceived as “secure”, yet as history and present day has proven time and time again, the targeting of dissent, the discrimination of individuals, the division of races, have not made us any more safe. As America destroys and perpetuates further social inequality and dissent, searching in vain for any signs of “terror” under the night lights, our hands end up empty of evidence to justify the tear of the American ideals of “freedom and equality” we are in this war to protect.


Glasser, Ira. “More Safe, Less Free: A Short History of Wartime Civil Liberties.” It’s A Free Country(2002): 11-24. Abstract. (Source B)

Strossen, Nadine, and Timothy Edgar. “Racial Profiling in the War on Terrorism Has Violated Civil Liberties.” America’s Battle Against Terrorism (2006): 109-14. Abstract. Current Controversies. (Source A)

 Ripston, Ramona. “Casualities of War: Anti-Terror Hysteria.” It’s A Free Country (2002): 133-42. (Source D)

Zia, Helen. “The Return of Xenophobia- an Asian American Commentary.” It’s A Free Country (2002): 321-30. (Source C)

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Apr 17 2009

Profile Image of diana01pd2010

Privacy Rights in Danger

“The whole point of gathering intelligence is to learn what others don’t want you to know.”—Appeal-Democrat

Whether intelligence gathering systems violate privacy rights or not has been a long debated issue, especially in America where individual freedom and rights, as well as national security are highly valued. Though one may believe that since they have never done anything against the law, one has nothing to do with the intelligence gathering systems, one is wrong. Through investigating different aspects of these systems, I believe that intelligence gathering do violate privacy rights.

I used to assume that intelligence gathering systems only trace people with criminal records through the internet, for the sole purpose of national security. However, through reading a variety of sources online and in books, I learned that I was wrong in many different levels.

First of all, in this age, where computers can organize a vast amount of information with ease, these intelligence gathering systems function more efficiently by tracking down a large number if not all profiles at once. This means that they also involve collecting “records of tens of millions of people with no ties to terrorism” (Biskupic). And this most likely includes you.

Secondly, intelligence gathering is not only about the internet. According to Georgetown University law professor David Cole, “President Bush authorized the [National Security Agency] to eavesdrop—without warrants—on international calls and e-mails of those with suspected ties to terrorism when one party to communication is in [America]” (Biskupic) in 2006. Unfortunately, the situation did not get better as time passed. A Washington Post article that was posted in 2008, described the “new guidelines…that empower FBI agents…to recruit informants, employ physical surveillance and conduct interviews in which agents disguise their identities in an effort to assess national security threats. FBI agents could pursue each of those steps without any single fact indicating a person has ties to a terrorist organization” (San Diego Union-Tribune). These aspects of intelligence gathering systems may not be well-known, but surely they do exist.

Lastly, intelligence gathering is not a job restricted to systems such as FBI or CIA, but also supermarkets and shopping malls. Have you ever filled out a consumer survey? Or been to a store where “the best prices are reserved for those who fill out a form” that asks for your name and address (Lynch). The companies argue that these forms are made to “build relationships with customers” which will “allow retailers to target [the consumer’s] specific tastes” (Lynch). But what if these information are then taken by law-enforcement officials or worse, by criminals? That wasn’t wholly a hypothetical question there, because similar incidents have occurred. “26 million veterans’ Social Security numbers and personal information was stolen from a Veteran’s Affairs contractor’s home” in 2006 and information on 140,000 were given up by ChoicePoint corporation under the pressure of criminals (Fraser). There may be more transfer of information behind the scenes between companies and the government than we would like.

I believe that each of us is born with the right to know and chose who knows about us and what they know about us. Yes, some of us chose to open a Facebook account, or buy an item from eBay. But we did not choose to have the government or private companies gather these information about us for their own use by doing so. I see the ideal benefits to society in having these intelligence gathering systems. However, their power to investigate has been legitimized to a point where I no longer feel I have the control over my privacy. On the other hand, the power a government with a bad intention can have by acquiring all they are allowed to is unimaginable.

The Supreme Court and UN need to advocate stricter rules in these intelligent gathering systems to protect our privacy rights.

Works Cited:

Biskupic, Joan. “Gathering data may not violate privacy rights, but it could be illegal.” USAToday 5 Dec. 2006. 16 Apr. 2009 .

“EDITORIAL: Going public with attack on privacy.” Appeal-Democrat (Marysville, CA) (16 Nov. 2007). Newspaper Source. EBSCO. Shanghai American School, Shanghai, Shanghai. 15 Apr. 2009-04-16


Lynch, Stephen. “Few laws protect your privacy from intelligence-gathering by companies.” 06 Nov. 2001. EBSCO. Shanghai American School, Shanghai, Shanghai. 16 Apr. 2009 .

Sherman, Fraser. “OPINION: Questionable Minds: America’s right to privacy? Who needs it?.” Destin Log, The (FL) (17 Nov. 2007). Newspaper Source. EBSCO. Shanghai American School, Shanghai, Shanghai. 15 Apr. 2009 .

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Apr 04 2009

Profile Image of evan01pd2010

Animal Rights


Edwin A. Locke asserts that “rights are ethical principles applicable only to beings capable of reason and choice.” Alone and in a philosophical realm this statement rings with veracity. However, in the context of Locke’s essay on why Animals Are Not Entitled to Rights, this statement cannot be tenable without the ambiguous ‘rights’ being defined. While filled with appeals to logos and ethos in argument, Locke appeals to the public’s fear of animals’ dangerous and feral natures, using, for example, a large picture of a hungry and wild lion biting into a dead gazelle. This prominent image illustrates the crux of Locke’s argument- animals are wild, cannot think rationally, and humans have rights because humans are rational beings capable of understanding morality. Later, Locke claims that it would be “a flagrant contradiction” giving animals rights because animals lack the capacity to grasp morality the way humanity can.

While Locke’s ethical argument is compelling, Locke neglects to acknowledge the vast differences between individual humans’ abilities to understand and act on a moral basis. Furthermore, Locke neglects to acknowledge the even vaster differences between the millions of Earth’s species in their capacities to feel emotion and possess intelligence. Still compounding the lapses in Locke’s essay’s logic, was Locke’s ambiguous and implicit definition of ‘rights,’ which he used synonymously with human rights. This ambiguous definition proved his essay partly ineffective to those who believe animal rights should not be equal to human rights, but question to what extent this inequality should reach. While I believe Locke’s assertion is valid that a relationship exists between an entity’s ability to choose and reason to the rights given to the entity, people’s ethical responsibility towards protecting life on Earth leads me to believe animals should be given one of the single most basic rights: the right to live free of unnecessary physical and/or psychological pain.

Diametrically opposed on the debate over animal rights, the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s Animals Should Be Entitled to Rights argues that animals need legal representation by maintaining that while “nonhuman animals are not people, that does not mean animals cannot be treated as persons in the eyes of the law.” The validity of this argument is demonstrated through differentiating people, human beings, from persons, government legally recognized entities. The Animal Legal Defense Fund asserted that animals, if not recognized legally, will be recognized and valued only as a concrete possession such as a chair or table. This argument’s persuasiveness is demonstrated by the strong pathos created from the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s poaching and animal cruelty references. Furthermore, this essay appealed to people’s ethics concretely by asking if it was fair that a living, breathing animal be recognized by the government only as a possession. Although the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s argument is lacking in logic, I found this argument more effective because it appealed to peoples’ good nature. While Locke’s argument also appealed to peoples’ ethics, his appeal was weaker- fallaciously based on the logical premise that all animals cannot reason or make choices.

Even though the genetic differences between the individual members of the human race bless some with a superior intellect, it cannot be assumed that with superior intellect will come superior morality. It cannot also be assumed that all humans will be able to grasp morality. In much the same way, some animals have greater intelligence than others and have shown emotion, intelligence and empathy- signs of morality. While Locke’s assertion that giving all animals the rights of humans would be “a flagrant contradiction” seems reasonable to some extent, it is our duty as global citizens to protect the animals of our planet by establishing animal rights laws prohibiting the unnecessary physical and/or psychological pain of animals. It would be unethical and immoral not only towards the world’s biodiversity and sustenance, but also to humanity not to protect the life on our planet- we only have one.

Animal Legal Defense Fund. “Animals Should Be Entitled to Rights.” Animal Rights: Introducing Issues with Opposing Viewpoints. Ed. William Dudley. Farmington Hills: Greenhaven Press, 2006. 15-20.

Locke, Edwin. “Animals Are Not Entitled to Rights.” Animal Rights: Introducing Issues with Opposing Viewpoints. Ed. William Dudle. Farmington Hills: Greenhaven Press, 2006. 21-26.

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Apr 04 2009

Profile Image of diana01pd2010

Do Intelligence-gathering systems violate civil liberties?


Hello there. Based on the knowledge that you are here, I can safely assume that you use the Internet. But while you enjoy its service, are you aware that it may be used by intelligence-gathering systems to gather your information?

These intelligence-gathering systems (such as the FBI and TIA) seem to have gained legitimacy after 9/11; but experts still argue whether they’re an violation of privacy rights.

John Allen Paulos (a mathematics professor and an author) and Jeff Carley (a chief technology officer for a company that develops network security products) offer diametric views on this issue in each of their articles.

John Allen Paulos begins his article, “The Total Information Awareness System Violates Privacy Rights” by claiming that “what people want most from the state is protection, not freedom” (123). Paulos then brings up the event of 9/11 and the creation of TIA. He describes the system as one that costs up to $200 million, and is made with the ability to track down people’s “emails, prescriptions, book purchases, housing…and more” (123), surely with a goal to raise paranoia and distrust in the system among the readers.

The mathematical approach to the problem Paulos then presents accentuates Paulos argument that the TIA System doesn’t protect but harms the innocent people. “For the sake of argument”, he assumes that the TIA system has a 99% accuracy rate. In a community with 300 million people, in which 1000 are future terrorists, the system can identify 990 future terrorists. However, the system has a 1% chance of being wrong for the 299,999,000 non-terrorists as well, which means that 2,999,990 innocent people will also be investigated by the system (124).

Paulos acknowledges the flaws in his made-up scenario; however, he claims that this “scrutiny without interdiction…is likely to lead to little, if any, increase in security” (125). Paulos concludes that “the proposed Total Information Awareness program is not conducive to a feeling of safety, much less to a feeling of freedom”, thus a violation of the citizens’ privacy rights.

While Paulos uses a strong appeal to logic, Jeff Carly uses extensive appeals to emotions and a much more melodramatic tone in presenting his view in his article, “The Total Information Awareness System Does Not Violate Privacy Rights”, in which I found more effective.

Before reading these articles I assumed that people who are against these services claim that we value freedom over protection from the government; while the advocates claim that we value protection more. Paulos went against this rule. And so did Carly, who calls Americans “freedom-loving people” (143). The irony presented in these choices the authors make show that both of them acknowledge the other side of the argument and deliberately use what was originally against them to support their own argument.

On the other hand, contrary to Paulos’ one sentence acknowledgement of the incident of September 11, 2001, Carly dedicates his opening paragraphs to crediting the “critical information” the passengers on Flight 93 on 9/11 had, which incited their heroic acts of stopping the third hijacked plane (143). This presumed anecdote, along with the other choices Carly makes in his article, strongly appeals to the readers’ fear (for example, “because our enemy has chosen to hide among us” (145)) and patriotism, (for example, “we must win this war” (146)).

The numerous repetition of the sentence “War is like that.” amplifies the significance and emergency of the situation. Carly finishes his argument by offering practical safeguards that ensure the readers that the TIA system will not violate privacy rights, and claiming the necessity of the TIA system to the nations defense system in this “new kind of war” (146).

Though Paulos’ math proof is impressive, Carly’s argument entranced me more because of its numerous appeals, practical proposals, and confident tone. However, I believe that neither a hypothetical scenario nor proposed formulas presented in each of the articles tell me enough of the current situation of this system for me to decide whether it violates civil liberties or not. I’m still on the search for an answer.

How about you?

Sources cited:

Carley, Jeff “The Total Information Awareness System Does Not Violates Privacy.” Espionage and Intelligence Gathering. Ed. Louise I. Gerdes. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven P, 2004. 143-146.

Paulos, John A. “The Total Information Awareness System Violates Privacy.” Espionage and Intelligence Gathering. Ed. Louise I. Gerdes. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven P, 2004. 123-125.

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