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State Surveillance

Be it resolved state surveillance is a legitimate defence of our freedoms…


May 2, 2014

It is the debate of the moment. In a risk-filled world, are democracies justified in turning to large-scale state surveillance, at home and abroad, to fight complex and unconventional threats? Or is the emergence of the surveillance state and the awesome powers it derives from information technology a new and pervasive threat to our basic freedoms? For some the answer is obvious: the threats more than justify the current surveillance system, and the laws and institutions of democracies are more than capable of balancing the needs of individual privacy with collective security. For others, we are in peril of sacrificing to state surveillance and exaggerated terrorist threats the civil liberties that guarantee citizens’ basic freedoms. To engage this global debate our spring 2014 contest moves the motion:

Be it resolved state surveillance is a legitimate defence of our freedoms....

Debate Results

Pre-Debate Results

33% Pro 46% Con 21% Undecided

Post-Debate Results

41% Pro 59% Con

Con wins with
13% vote gain.



Michael Hayden

“It is the security practitioners, those rarely in the headlines but whose craft and energy quietly break new ground, who keep us safe or put us in peril.”

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Alan Dershowitz

“The state now is moving much more from reacting to violence to a proactive, preemptive, preventive mode of intelligence gathering.”

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Glenn Greenwald

“Surveillance equals power. The more you know about someone, the more you can control and manipulate them in all sorts of ways. That is one reason a Surveillance State is so menacing to basic political liberties.”

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Alexis Ohanian

“Every other country in the world looked at us as a role model for privacy and freedom. And we dropped the ball.”

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