Against moral absolutism: Surveillance and disclosure after snowden

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

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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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