Gathering Intel: The Fine Line Between Patriotism and Misconduct

Recent events surrounding the release of government documents concerning intelligence gathering has had nearly everyone discussing the validity or criminality of the actions of the government. One side of the issue states that gathering information is the only way that the government can protect its citizens, even if that means spying on ordinary people. The other side of the issue has stated that the government has gone too far, that they are over stepping their authority and that intelligence gathering must only be limited to those who are known to be a threat.

So Which Side Is Right?

This is a constitutional issue and it will take many great court battles to prove which side is going to come out the winner. On one hand, the Constitution protects the people from an overbearing government; it is the reason why the citizens have the right to bear arms. At the time of the creation of the Constitution, the founding fathers believed that if the government became so corrupt that it could not be fixed, the citizens must have access to arms to fight for their freedom and their country as they did in the revolution against England.

The other side of the issue will tell you that the government has the constitutional authority to protect its borders and the only way that it can do so is to spy on everyone and everything. They will tell you that terrorists have the ability to communicate digitally now and that this must be addressed by tracking all digital transmissions. They will tell you that spying is their first line of defense and that as citizens of this great country you should be grateful that they are willing to go to such great lengths.

One side will tell you that the Constitution guarantees that a person is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. The other will tell you that there are no restraints when it comes to fighting a war, and that this is a war on terrorism.

This is a situation that both sides must watch and watch careful because if either side goes too far with their agenda, the consequences could be devastating.

An Honest Look at the Situation

Every citizen in the United States knows that there is a potential threat for terrorist acts upon our soil. The increase in home security services since the 2001 terror attack is proof that American citizens are well aware that there is a threat. There has also been an increased need for security in public areas such as crowded cities and airports. Reference for information of new security measures being taken by all levels of people, from personal reasons, to business or political reasons. People want to feel protected.

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However, these same citizens feel very uncomfortable about being under surveillance themselves when they have no known association with any terror group. They are also the same people who complain when they are inconvenienced by long lines at security checkpoints.

Friend or Foe?


Many of our allies have now begun to doubt our sincerity as a friendly nation when it was revealed we were monitoring calls of world leaders and had listening devices in their private offices. Creating angst among our allies could prove to be very damaging in the event of another real terror attack.

Gathering information may be very necessary to protect our country, but one must also question how relevant this is and if the real reason for information gathering is to protect the citizens. The government has stated that this information gathering has potentially stopped many attacks on our soil. Yet, one must think back to last year at the Boston Marathon and wonder why intelligence gathering was not being taken more seriously on a known terror suspect.


The greater picture is that of keeping our country intact. But we must hold ourselves to a higher level of decency. We must approach gathering intelligence by moral and ethical means. And we must give transparency to our allies at the same time that we ask expect it from them.


Author Debbie Nguyen understands the paranoia and distrust that spying can have on people, since she grew up in a war-torn country. She also understands that in our modern and global environment, it is an unpopular necessity for our welfare. See some of the tactics used at so that we can all sleep better at nights.

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