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Security vs Freedom in the United States

The phenomena of freedom and security are urgent and topical issues in the United States of America in the current course of time. The target to defend the nation in the global scope roughly interferes with the obligatory need to protect private dimension in every person's life and to supply enough freedom for the citizens. The Americans want to feel secure and simultaneously free - is this dual target possible to come true in modern society? The current issues and events complicate this question even furthermore offering no certain solution.

The President of the United States of America proclaimed, "We don't have to sacrifice freedom in order to achieve security. That's a false choice" (Walton, 2013). It is impossible to provide consistent and efficient security without established and sufficient freedom in the country. The liberty is the basement for security. They are interdependent. Security is necessary exactly for the purpose of freedom - in order to provide liberty, it is necessary to be able to protect the nation. Therefore, it is impossible to abandon one of the phenomena and try to improve the other simultaneously.

The issue of security is especially urgent and crucial in the so-called post 9/11 period. This trend may be explained, first of all, by the obvious necessity to guarantee the citizens valid and running in the current course of time defense policy and, on the other hand, to provide efficient support and struggle against potential data leak.

There have been numerous and serious cases providing grounded and proved evidence of personal information of great significance leak. Suddenly, the citizens discovered that the USA government "has been working to spy on people via metadata from Internet companies and cellular records in two programs - 2015 Program and PRISM" (Kerr, 2013). Though, the authorities proclaim these surveillance programs and activities to be simply targeted at tracking down foreign terrorists and terrorist threats.

Being put in such a way, these surveillance programs seem to serve exclusively for the sake of the USA security and defense, but they obviously interfere with private data as cases of Edward Snowden and Charlie Rose vividly demonstrate.

Obama is eager to supply the overall protection for the country, and, at the same time, he demonstrates profound and decent respect for citizens' right for privacy, "The way I view it, my job is both to protect the American people and to protect the American way of life, which includes our privacy" (Kerr, 2013). Therefore, Obama looks for the optimal combination of security and liberty policy for the United States of America, and this search presupposes implementation of different programs and activities.

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This may be proved by the fact that the White House has supported and confirmed the legal status of these secret surveillance programs and their implication in the course of the country's policy.

Though, there is some mitigation in the whole surveillance program as well. It comprises the fact that, for instance, the phone numbers are not supposed to be connected to the surnames, or addresses, or database content, etc. In fact, this concerns the case of the 2015 Program that deals directly with the phone recording process. According to the case of PRISM, a spy program that deals with collecting data from different popular Internet companies serving clients all over the world like Facebook or Google. It is essential to admit that this program targets primarily at foreign nationals as well as at those citizens of the United States of America being warned about or being under certain suspicion. Still, is it enough to provide security and protection within the country? Moreover, is not it too much to violate privacy and liberty issues in the country, best known for its democracy and freedom concern? Obviously, it is a miscellaneous and complicated issue to attain instant and single consensus in the current course of time and in the current state of affairs.


The President of the United States of America clarified the issue in the course of dialogue with Charlie Rose in the following unequivocal way, "So point number one, if you're a U.S. person, then NSA is not listening to your phone calls and it's not targeting your emails unless it's getting an individualized court order. That's the existing rule" (Kerr, 2013). Still, the citizens of the United States continue to feel embarrassed and unconfident concerning the level of the privacy they have and the level of potential interference they may subsequently experience in case 2015 Program and PRISM may be ratified and implemented into full practice.

The President emphasizes the urgent need for US citizens to feel secure and protected in terms of terrorist activity. Moreover, it is particularly relevant and topical after 9/11 tragedy - and proclaims this noble reason to be a true cause of surveillance programs' implication. Besides, he states that all the programs are to be under proper control so that the surveillance will not go too far (Walton, 2013).

The citizens do not feel confident enough with these statements as they have already experienced the similar situation before when the companies previously involved in a certain surveillance program claimed to be honest with their customers and guaranteed transparent and espionage free policy towards them (Walton, 2013). Moreover, there were cases when the confidential and personal data had been collected by the NSA by means of spy programs even without proper reason or warrant. This may be considered illegal according to the policy details that have been recently proclaimed by Obama.

Obama promised to initiate and hold a national debate concerning security vs liberty dilemma as well as duties, responsibilities and possibilities of the NSA in terms of surveillance programs and data leak. This suggestion represents complete correspondence to democracy stances as well as liberty rights and privacy defense issues. Therefore, it may clarify and resolve the whole security vs liberty dilemma in case the NSA will keep to the rights and duties schedule.

One of the most bright and vivid exemplifications of the discussed dilemma in the current course of time is the Snowden case. This case demonstrated a sharp and complicated conflict between the excessive freedom that was provided for Snowden as former National Security Agency contractor and evident lack of security guaranteed by the state and authorities. Moreover, the case may be regarded as the persuasive illustration for one of the dual opposition: it either may serve the purpose of liberty and advocate the position of privacy significance and value of personal data, "private territory" that every individual has the right to possess, or propagandize the urgent necessity of increased and stiffened security in more global and even worldwide scope.

Edward Snowden claimed the main reason of his behavior and actions, "I don't want to live in a society that does these sort of things... I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded" (Perceptual Post, n.d.).These two sentences demonstrate the attitude of many Edward's contemporaries concerning current US policy. People just cannot believe anymore the government that guarantees the freedom and simultaneously breaks own promises. The potential threat of spy programs is within every media type. Nowhere feels safe enough.

Though, taking properly into account all the threats, which Americans face nowadays and the support of surveillance programs in terms of terrorist threat, the dilemma acquires new colors and shadows. There appear to be two threats at the same time: one is more local and interferes with liberty and privacy of US citizens while the other concerns more global scale and presents a real threat for life and well being of the USA. There is no need to ask what is more important. The question to be answered is as follows: are Americans ready to abandon their renowned democracy and privacy for the sake of global peace and anti-terrorist struggle?

Hardly ever there will be the unequivocal answer.

Snowden has been charged with "theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information and wilful communication of classified communications intelligence" (Perceptual Post, n.d.).

Snowden has already changed several asylums. Initially, he dwelt in Hawaii. Subsequently, the United Kingdom revealed Snowden's identity by means of the newspaper The Guardian, having received previously Snowden's consent for this action. At that time, the former NSA contractor dwelt in the Chinese Special Administrative Region. The revelation provoked scandalous aftermath and request for Snowden's extradition from the US authorities to Hong Kong. Consequently, Snowden left to Russia, though apparently, he did not consider this country to be his final asylum. It is expected that Snowden will move to the South American country.

Obviously, this whole asylum seeking process impacts the international politics and relationship between the mentioned countries. The case with the United States-Russia relationship is the most significant in the current course of time.

Initially, the profound dilemma concerns the choice of the country for the asylum. Snowden chose "a country with an unrivaled history of listening in to other people's phone calls, bedroom consultations or private discussions" (Wood, 2013). United States-Russia relationship was often complicated and miscellaneous. Now the question is: how will Snowden influence this relationship?

Providing the asylum for Snowden, Russia became as a true defender of human rights and liberty in the worldwide scope. This position is a profitable one for the country, especially in terms of its reputation and image on the global stage. Therefore, Russia is willing to "rescue" Snowden and, therefore, establish itself as a loyal and democratic state.

Wood (2013) even suggests the policy aimed "to use Snowden as a symbol of their commitment to universal values". Still, the President of Russia, Putin, assures that they will not allow Snowden to harm in any possible way their American partners while dwelling and being protected in their country. Nevertheless, Russia provided Snowden with the asylum - permanent or not, it is still unknown, but the fact that the President refused to extradite Snowden is enough to start talking about the potential decline in the course of the USA - Russia partnership. "Many in Congress are complaining that the Edward Snowden case is just the latest example of how the Kremlin is thumbing its nose at the White House" (Kelemen, 2013). It was easier to find consensus and proper solution in the course of negotiations with Dmitriy Medvedev, the US authorities consider. It is evident that to give a temporary asylum in Russia - more specifically, at the Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow - is not a proper and efficient solution in this case. It makes the case even more complicated and dangerous. Subsequently, Russia has three apparent variants to solve the issue with Snowden's asylum. They may decide on returning the former NSA contractor to the United States of America to face trial and all the consequences of the information leak and data theft he has been charged of, or on sending him to seek for the next possible asylum in another country. The third variant is granting Snowden with permanent asylum in Russia and subsequently, negotiating this case with the US partner. It is as well matter of liberty and security issues as it comprises confidence of Russia in the decision to protect Snowden within the national security scope as well as freedom establishing policy on the international scale as well as in the own country. How far is Moscow ready to move within Snowden case?

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In any case, even permanent asylum in Russia does not guarantee Snowden participation in civil and human rights issues in the adopted state. Is he himself ready for this? Recently, Snowden proclaimed the following, "I am not here to hide from justice; I am here to reveal criminality" (Perceptual Post, n.d.). Moreover, many Americans consider Snowden to be a national hero. He claims that he loves and respects his country, and this is a direct and unequivocal reason for the activity he has commenced. The arguments comprise Snowden's concern about liberty of Americans, the obvious violation of their privacy rights and the urgent need to reveal the ugly truth about government and NSA surveillance policy, and its threats and potential consequences for the US citizens.

Kelemen (2013) presupposes that granting asylum - no matter, permanent or temporary - was politically relevant and consistent decision made by Putin to settle several more issues at the same time. Subsequently, the tension grows in the international scope while Snowden tries to attract attention towards the nationally relevant issues. More and more countries become involved into the whole process of liberty vs security justification in the United States of America.

The situation the USA has with Russia in the current course of time over Snowden case impacts other issues both countries are partners or counterparts in, for example, missile defense and arms control. The whole situation provoked the US President to refer to Russian position as to the consequence of "Cold War mentality". This negative allusion to the previous opposition of two states is unfavorable and even threatening in terms of current events and decisions.

Being temporary allowed staying in Russia as an asylum for at least a year gave Snowden the possibility to avoid at least for a certain period facing the trial in the USA. The decision made by Moscow coincided with the guilty verdict for Manning. The conditions and the way Bradley Manning had been treated shocked the whole world as horrible and inhumane.

Snowden's father commented upon this situation in the following way, "He was subjected to inhumane conditions. He was stripped of his clothes, kept for 23 hours a day in solitary confinement, his glasses were removed. That was unacceptable" (Gerstein, 2013). Therefore, how can we even talk about liberty in the country that permits such demeanor towards a person? There is no doubt that Manning is guilty and now he is convicted, but first of all he is a person. Moreover, he is a human being. That fact is supposed to be of the greatest concern and significance in the country with democracy and liberty and respect to human rights.

Still, there is an aspect of security defense that concerns overall state security that appears to apparently abandon freedom and human rights protection. There is no denial of the fact that Manning is guilty, though there is the possibility to treat him in a humane and adequate way in the course of the trial. Are barbarian methods considered to be most of all appropriate for the given situation? Was Snowden about to experience the same trial and trial conditions in case of his extradition by Russia? These are the most crucial questions that have been put forward after Manning's conviction.

There is one more point that makes the whole situation concerning Snowden case even more sinister and complicated. The obligatory condition for Snowden to perform in order to get the asylum from Russia was to stop harmful actions against the United States of America. This step was a wise and consistent decision made by Russian authorities in the global scope and in terms of international relationship. This appeared to be, at first sight, as the sufficient support for the USA as the partner and the symbol of respect to the US security policy. On the other hand, Russia revealed the constructive support for the refugee, Snowden, and, consequently, supported the side of liberty and defense of human rights as well as of profound privacy concern. Therefore, Russia did not apparently provoke international conflict, though simultaneously showed the ability to balance the opposition and demonstrated its strength and possibilities in the global as well local scope.

This wise decision was almost immediately followed by the shocking event, "the whistle-blower organization WikiLeaks announced on July 2 that Snowden filed 21 requests for asylum around the world, signaling his intent to find a more permanent home" (Katz & Rayman, 2013). This was a provoking and simultaneously a very brave step. It showed that Snowden was indeed ready to put everything on the stake in order to accomplish his aim. This was evident as well as the fact that it would not be easy for the USA to convict Snowden as relatively easy and relatively quickly as it had happened in the case of Manning.

The reaction of the countries provided in the list of the Snowden's request was quite different. Several countries responded immediately and refused Snowden's request for an asylum. These countries included, for example, Poland and Brazil. Such countries as Norway and, for instance, Ireland, proclaimed that the answer could possibly be initiated in case Snowden would physically be present on their country's ground.

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The other countries were hesitant and postponed their final answer as far as possible. Some of the countries have the bilateral extradition agreement with the United States of America, and, consequently, they simply cannot support Snowden even if they would consider the US national security policy inappropriate - as a priori, they are mutually tied to the agreements. Other countries, probably, comprehended the potential set of consequences in case they would provide the asylum for Snowden and his ideas as well as the possible threat for the future relationship with one of the most powerful countries worldwide.

According to Guy Goodwin-Gill, a legal adviser to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refuge previously and professor of international refugee law at Oxford University, the most crucial and predominant issue in the whole Snowden case is exclusively politics (Katz & Rayman, 2013). All the other aspects and presupposed reasons of the case are additional and not really so much significant.

Next significant aspect comprises the fact that Snowden has proclaimed himself to be "stateless". This demonstrates his profound discontent and disappointment with his motherland as well as his disrespect for the existing policies and politics in the USA. This issue appeared to be quite embarrassing and inconvenient in the political scope for the majority of countries, which had received Snowden's request for an asylum.

As Katz and Rayman (2013) emphasize, "Snowden's best choice for asylum is a country that's prepared to ruffle American feathers, like Ecuador". That is the reason why Snowden was expected to move for South America after flee from Hong Kong. The reason was considered to the recent renouncement by the country a trade pact with the United States of America. Therefore, economics and politics became interrelated and interdependent.

Though he did not choose Ecuador, he preferred Cuba. Subsequently, Snowden "got stuck in the transit zone of a Moscow airport because Havana refused to let him fly from Russia to Cuba" (The Guardian, 2013). It may be explained by the direct and strong preliminary impact of the USA on Cuba authorities.

There may be a lot of diverse solutions and proposals in the dilemma concerning liberty vs security. As to Snowden's case, it would be appropriate to send more and more requests for the asylum in case he is not content with the Russian one. Since he has it, he should act wisely and carefully. Besides, he may use Protocol Relating to the Status Refugees and Article 28 of the U.N. Convention as additional assistance.

Regarding the dilemma concerning liberty vs security issues in more global scope, there may be suggested the following solutions: to limit the access to the confidential data as much as possible; to reduce the possibilities of existing and future surveillance programs only to cases when there is an urgent need and criminal or political concern; the surveillance programs are to controlled by certain group of President's administration representatives as this may increase people's trust in his words, promises and transparency and efficiency of the NSA activity.

Besides, an appropriate proposal is to reduce the cases of use the surveillance program only if there is suspicion with certain evidence or proof or the warrant is available. Moreover, the surveillance policy should reconsider the treatment of foreigners in the USA as this issue cuts both ways: security demands prudency and protection while privacy concern makes it a global question and, consequently, may result in international conflicts. Therefore, it would be more appropriate and efficient to check the documents more carefully and increase the customs security.

Thus, the Snowden's case allows making the following conclusions: the dilemma concerning efficient co-existence of national security and citizens' liberty appears to be an urgent and even threatening issue in the USA that needs the adequate and relevant solution in the current course of time. It is too hard to separate national security concern (especially post 9/11 tragedy) from the privacy confidence and liberty respect if the activity does not correspond to the rules or standards as it appeared to happen after Snowden's revealed facts about the NSA activity in comparison to Obama's guarantees and promises.

Moreover, it is essential to mention the dual position of Russia in the case of Snowden's asylum request, and potential consequences of the confident data leak and information theft with consequent criminal flees and refuse to extradite him to the USA from several countries - and as well possible subsequent aftermath and impact of the Snowden case upon international partner and peaceful relationship. The politics appear to be number one concern within the whole Snowden case.

No freedom is possible without preliminary guaranteed and provided national security, and vice versa. Therefore, it is vital to create the more transparent as well as more efficient atmosphere to reduce the distrust and discontent of the Americans and to lower the international tension.


  1. Edward Snowden Case: A Timeline. (n.d.). Perceptual Post. Retrieved from
  2. Gerstein, J. (2013). Bradley Manning fallout complicates Edward Snowden saga. Politico.
  3. Katz, A., & Rayman, N. (2013). Snowden's worst-case scenario: What if no countries take him? World Time.
  4. Kelemen, M. (2013). Snowden case illustrates decline in U.S.-Russia relations. NPR.
  5. Kerr, D. (2013). Obama: NSA spying doesn't mean 'abandoning freedom'. NewsCenter.
  6. The Guardian. (2013). Edward Snowden got stuck in Moscow 'after Cuba blocked entry'.
  7. Walton, Z. (2013). Can we trust our government not to spy on us?
  8. Wood, A. (2013). Snowden case: What's in it for Russia? CNN.
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