NSA & CSIS, who's spying on me?

by annelaurenceb on February 24, 2015 - 7:18am

In the past years, technology has evolved up to a point where it had the power to enter in conflict with some humans rights. The issue of cyberspying by agencies such as the NSA and the CSIS affects the entire population, which is why I believe it is important to raise the awareness of the citizens on this subject.

In the United States, the NSA, the National Security Agency, has acquired over the years a power of control over many information regarding the population of the country. Recently, a judge has even allowed this organization to access some communication information coming from the citizens. As the plaintiffs were AT&T customers, the decision ruled in favor of the agency by saying that its priorities were of greater importance that an individual’s privacy. Even though it has been made clear that only potential dangerous information, such as information regarding potential terrorist activities, would be gathered, the NSA still has access to the content of their choice. (Reuters) Since 2013, attention was drawn to the enormous amount of $1.7 billion warehouse budget which was given to the NSA to collect and store different information from the US citizens. The NSA is continuously being attacked by hackers who wish they could find a breach in order to leak information to serve personal benefits, and their challenge is to keep the doors closed for these curious. However, the NSA is constantly searching and recruiting the best computer technicians to protect their enormous amount of information. (Associated Press)

In Canada, the equivalent of the NSA is called the CSIS, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, and it serves similar functions, although they are also a controversial subject among the population. Recently, the Canadian government has passed new regulations regarding the power the CSIS which expanded its power over the control of information. (Global Staff) Other new powers allowed to the country leaders could be to allow them to remove what they would consider as propaganda on any website accessible in Canada, if they believe this could later lead to a threat. This bill would have been put in place mainly for security measures regarding terrorism according to the government. (Global Staff) The civil liberty experts do not agree completely with the passing of this new regulation, since it is an incursion into people’s life if the government collect personal information for their use. (Montreal Gazette Editorial Board) Over the course of its history, there have been many controversial actions made by the CSIS, such as its relation with the CSE, the Communications Security Establishment, which was not very clear over the years and was needed to be clarified due to the amount of secret information shared by the two organizations. (Globe Staff)

By comparing the situation in these two countries, it is noticeable that for both countries, improvements are required in order to respect the rights of the citizens of both countries. I also believe that on some points, the Canada’s government tries to get along with the United States’ way of thinking, such as with the measures taken to support the defence against terrorism. Even though this may be a serious potential danger over both countries, the citizens must ask themselves what are the lines that the governments are allowed to cross to protect the country, and if it is necessary.

In conclusion, I personally believe that human rights should not be violated in the way they are when agencies such as the NSA and the CSIS have access to every information of every citizens, and that some others measure should be installed to control and prevent the potential terrorist activities.

Works cited

Associated Press. "Cyber-Attacks Rising in Utah, Likely Due to NSA Facility" The New York Times. The                      New York Times, 6 February 2015. Web. 18 February 2015.

Globe Staff. "CSIS's new powers: How the new legislation will affect security agencies". The Globe and Mail. The Globe and Mail, 2 February 2015. Web. 18 February 2015.

Montreal Gazette Editorial Board. "Who will watch the watchers?" Montreal Gazette. Montreal Gazette,             3 February 2015. Web. 18 February 2015.

Reuters. "Judge Rules for NSA in Warrantless Search Case" The New York Times. The New York Times, 10              February 2015. Web. 18 February 2015.


First off, I would like to begin by saying that you have chosen a very interesting and relevant topic. Developments in the past couple years including numerous leaks posted online on websites such as wiki leaks have provided us with insight into the inner workings of spy agencies such as the NSA and certain of their mass surveillance programs such as PRISM. As Canadians we are very much affected by this situation given our close relationship with the USA and international collaboration between intelligence agencies such as the Five Eyes alliance which comprises Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States as well as programs run by CSIS.

From your post, it seems that you have chosen to adopt a deontological perspective which requires that we abide by a set of universal maxims. In this case the maxim would be an individual’s right to privacy, this is a perfectly understandable point of view and one that coincides with article 12 of the universal declaration of human rights that states that “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence”.

It is clear that you recognize that mass surveillance programs may potentially increase the safety of the general populace. However, before dismissing the actions of agencies such as the NSA on the grounds that they violate human rights I would like to invite you to examine this issue from a utilitarian point of view. Utilitarianism is a teleological system where the morality of an action is determined by its end result. In the case of utilitarianism the desired end goal or “summum bonum” is to maximize ‘utility’ which can be defined as pleasure or lack of suffering. Applying utilitarianism to this situation, we can see that by implementing a mass surveillance program and perhaps infringing the right to privacy, which may in turn cause general discontent, we can potentially prevent much more serious harm caused by terror attacks and the like, hence minimizing suffering.

Really good choice of topic, as it is one of the hot subjects in today’s the news. You describe the situation with such a clarity and your arguments are well defended. The control for national security has become one of the top priorities for Western countries and terrorism must be contained at all cost. As you stated, the NSA and the CSIS are taking drastic measures to protect the population at the cost of freedom of speech. Your post clearly reflects a deontological approach since you believe that there are limits to the control of a government over its people. Indeed, the key principle of this theory is to treat people only as an end rather than a mean. In this case, the populations are used as an end to achieve a mean, which is national security. For a deontologist each person is unique and cannot be sacrificed for the benefit of another individual. Thus, everyone in society has the same value, which therefore prevents governments from restricting one's liberties for the greatest good.