Tactics like mass surveillance and torture do not only violate human rights, but are also ineffective.
Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google, when asked about Google’s privacy invasions in a 2009 interview, said, “if you have something that you do not want anyone to know, maybe you should not be doing it in the first place.” The same Eric Schmidt ordered his Google employees to stop speaking with CNET, an online magazine, after it published an article full of personal information about him, obtained, ironically, through Google searches. This reflects the mindset of those who argue that privacy does not matter because one should have nothing to hide. They care about their own privacy and would not want it invaded by the state or any other entity. In this article, I will argue against allowing states to use inhumane and privacy-shattering tactics like torture and mass surveillance because they are ineffective, dehumanizing, and disrupt ordinary innocent people’s lives.
First, tactics like torture and mass surveillance are ineffective. After the 9/11 attacks, the CIA developed the Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (EIT) program, which they theorized would induce the detainees into giving valuable intel through tactics like torture. The Bush administration constantly touted its EIT programs and claimed that it had produced effective results. But, according to Adam D. Jacobson, researcher at Human Rights First, oversight reports from the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and independent reports from non-governmental groups show that “the administration’s claims were exaggerated or entirely false” and that the torture programs were, in fact, counterproductive. Moreover, torture “undermines the very neurocognitive mechanisms requisite for recalling veridical information from memory” according to Shane O’Mara, professor of experimental brain research at Trinity College. Therefore, any information obtained from torture is likely to be false or inaccurate.
Furthermore, mass surveillance is also ineffective. Edward Snowden, a whistleblower now in exile in Russia, revealed that the US government was using the internet for mass indiscriminate surveillance. He exposed the NSA and the CIA’s spying programs to the American public. The track record of the programs that Edward Snowden revealed does not provide any evidence “that mass surveillance helps identify future terrorist attacks or mitigates these risks.” Also, too much surveillance can lead to a “lack of focus,” which, according to Edward Snowden, makes security agencies monitor everyone instead of just suspects, making them lose leads that they should have had.
Lastly, such tactics can be dehumanizing and can cause intrusions in innocent people’s lives. After a terrorist attack in Boston in which pressure cooker bombs were used, the FBI started suspecting civilians that had bought pressure cookers. A woman was paid a visit by law enforcement after she had been shopping for pressure cookers online. Moreover, FBI agents confronted a Saudi student for carrying a pressure cooker to a student dinner. Thus, mass surveillance leads security agencies to disrupt ordinary people’s lives and insult them by suspecting them of terrorism merely because of buying everyday items.
Therefore, states should not be using tactics like torture and mass surveillance. Purely from a civil libertarian viewpoint, they violate basic human rights. Other than that, they are ineffective in providing security as well as dehumanizing and intrusive in innocent civilians’ lives.