Against moral absolutism

Surveillance and disclosure after snowden

Rahul Sagar

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    Now that the uproar provoked by the disclosure of the National Security Agency's (NSA) surveillance programs has lessened, and the main protagonists, Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald, have had a chance to make the case for their actions, we are in a position to evaluate whether their disclosure and publication of communications intelligence was justified. To this end, this essay starts by clarifying the history, rationale, and efficacy of communications surveillance. Following this I weigh the arguments against surveillance, focusing in particular on the countervailing value of privacy. Next I explain why state secrecy makes it difficult for citizens and lawmakers to assess the balance that officials are striking between security and privacy. Finally, I turn to consider whether the confounding nature of state secrecy justifies Snowden's and Greenwald's actions. I conclude that their actions are unjustified because they treat privacy and transparency as trumps. Consequently, their actions embody a moral absolutism that disrespects the norms and procedures central to a constitutional democracy.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)145-159
    Number of pages15
    JournalEthics and International Affairs
    Volume29
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

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    absolutism
    privacy
    surveillance
    secrecy
    communications
    national security
    transparency
    intelligence
    democracy
    citizen
    history
    Absolutism
    Surveillance
    Disclosure
    Values
    Privacy
    Communication
    Secrecy

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Philosophy
    • Political Science and International Relations

    Cite this

    Against moral absolutism : Surveillance and disclosure after snowden. / Sagar, Rahul.

    In: Ethics and International Affairs, Vol. 29, No. 2, 01.01.2015, p. 145-159.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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