It’s no understatement to say that the degree of partisan polarization in our current Congress is, arguably now more than ever before, enormous. For this reason, it is all the more curious and remarkable to find cross-sectional ideological alliances forming in response to major legislative challenges facing our country. The recent debate spurred from revelations regarding the breadth and scope of metadata collection programs under the National Security Agency (NSA) presents us with an instance of just this sort of surprising political association. On both sides of the aisle, there are passionate proponents as well as fervent detractors. Though the respective reasoning may differ, there is no clear partisan divide in this debate. How frequently in recent congressional history can you find top-ranking Republicans uniting with equally powerful Democrats to support or protest a particular element of our legislative fabric? To me, this peculiarity indicates that there is something deeper than partisan ideology coloring our disparate reactions to the contested NSA programs, suggesting that this topic is worth investigating.
The subsequent questions raised by these issues are natural: what is the proper balance between fundamental rights to privacy and the legitimate security need for data collection, and how can we best strike this equilibrium? Historically, to what degree has Congress been involved in monitoring and authorizing these NSA programs? Constitutionally, how involved should Congress be? By analyzing voting data, transcripts of debates, and the actual policy-output that has resulted from executive and congressional action, I intend to answer these, and other, pressing questions. This history will ultimately assist me in formulating an argument regarding our nation’s efforts to strike the proper balance between the fundamental rights of our citizens as well as the inherent security needs of our nation.
There is so much history being made around us, domestically and internationally, and I am looking forward to, in some small way, contributing to the important conversations that must take place as a result!