Fletcher in the News

Professor William Martel Weighs in on NSA’s PRISM Controversy

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William C. Martel is Associate Professor of International Security Studies at The Fletcher School, Tufts University.

Are We Doomed to a National Surveillance State?

In the week since the UK’s Guardian newspaper broke the news that the US National Security Agency is monitoring the phone and web records of tens of millions of Americans, sales of George Orwell’s "1984" have skyrocketed.

A sudden interest in this 1949 dystopian classic — coining the phrase “Big Brother is watching you” — may indicate Americans are not quite as sanguine about government snooping as recent polls suggest.

Edward Snowden, who leaked the extraordinary details of US government eavesdropping, has certainly gained some global free-information cred. The revelations about the NSA's far-reaching PRISM surveillance program have vexed some of America's closest allies….

… William Martel, associate professor of international security studies at The Fletcher School at Tufts University in Massachusetts, is more of an optimist.

“I am persuaded that there is a way to balance our civil liberties with our security,” he said. “This should be built on several steps: It must begin to resonate within the executive branch, and will absolutely require the active involvement of the legislature.”

Martel concedes that he is willing to “cut the government a fair amount of slack given what Al Qaeda and other extremists want to do to us,” but does not want to grant carte blanche.

“I am uncomfortable with the argument that those who have nothing to hide have nothing to worry about,” he said. “I don’t like the fact that government agencies may be casting such a wide net.”

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