Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially curtail its domestic surveillance

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Topic Overview

Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially curtail its domestic surveillance.

Overview of Words

Many of the words in the resolution are fairly standard for policy debate resolutions, while the key phrase “domestic surveillance” contains specific, field-contextual meaning, with the potential to strictly limit the scope of the resolution. In this section, we will examine the words “substantially,” "curtail," “domestic” and “surveillance” (and examine the contextual definition of the two words together, “domestic surveillance”).


“Substantially” exists to limit the scope of the resolution, but its inconsistent and generic definition set cuts against its limiting qualities. The word’s various quantitative definitions are inapplicable to any context but their original ones (a particular act, administrative order, court decision, etc.). On the other hand, the various qualitative definitions tend to be vacuous (important, critical to, etc.) without more exacting application.

Of the qualitative definitions of “substantially,” two directions emerge: “to a great or significant extent” and “for the most part, essentially.” The first definition is next to useless, but the second may hold affirmatives to curtailing most domestic surveillance--at least over 50% if quantifiable, but articulating “more than half” is also possible qualitatively, descriptively. Overturning Executive Order 123333 is obviously substantial, since it foundationally justifies most mass data searching.

Or do we even know what “most” would be? The secrecy itself, of domestic surveillance, may make it impossible to measure how “substantially” an affirmative curtails

We don’t know how big the U.S. surveillance apparatus is today, either in terms of money and people or in terms of how many people are monitored or how much data is collected. Modern technology makes it possible to monitor vastly more people -- yesterday's NSA revelations demonstrate that they could easily surveil everyone -- than could ever be done manually.

(Bruce Schneier, “What We Don't Know About Spying on Citizens: Scarier Than What We Know,” The Atlantic, June 6, 2013,

The lack of public information concerning the scope and extent of domestic surveillance makes it difficult to have a procedural debate on the parameters of domestic surveillance.


There are three categories of meaning for the word “curtail.” The first category worth noting is the necessity of a specific object of curtailment within the policy. In other words, rather than curtailing the program as a whole, affirmatives would have to curtail some component of the program: the funding, personnel and staff, some objective within the program. An example of such a definition would be the Government Accounting Office definition in this file, where “curtail” is specifically contextualized as meaning “reduction of budget authority.” This category of meaning is consistent with the way policymakers use the word. A program as a whole is “reduced” or “eliminated,” while components of the program are curtailed. Affirmatives can use this definition if they want to advocate fairly specific types of reductions in programs; doing so would limit negatives’ ability to find disadvantage links or counterplan ground, as well as limit their solvency arguments. Negatives, on the other hand, can run topicality violations distinguishing between curtailing components of a program and reducing or eliminating the general scope of the program.

The second category of meaning of “curtail” is reduction, or cutting back, while the third category is “curtail as complete elimination.” The second category is more consistent with traditional usage of the word than the third; normally, curtail is distinct from elimination. However, at least one definition of curtail in our file is “to end something before it is finished,” which implies elimination. The distinction between these is very important for the division of ground. If an affirmative eliminates all or nearly all surveillance, meaning virtually no surveillance is left after the plan, this allows affirmatives to claim a great deal of solvency--possibly more than even the literature base assumes, since most authors writing about domestic surveillance assume that at least some surveillance (perhaps what they deem to be legitimate surveillance) will be left after the plan. On the other hand, curtailing some (but not eliminating all) surveillance may allow affirmatives to dodge terrorism or other disadvantages premised on the need for continued surveillance. This suggests that the decision by affirmatives as to how much surveillance to curtail might influence negative strategy in myriad ways. It also means negatives can deploy topicality arguments in either direction, depending on the parameters of affirmative curtailment.


One question about “domestic” is how much activity and information-gathering must take place within U.S. borders. Executive Order 123333, authorizing the collection of information on Americans traveling abroad, is probably considered “domestic” within the scope of most operational definitions, because the targets are U.S. citizens, and the information is processed by agents of the United States within the United States. However, because it’s collected from out-of-country locations, and (more importantly) because the data might incidentally include information about foreigners, an affirmative to curtail 123333 may be extra-topical. Debaters will face such dilemmas when negotiating the parameters of “domestic surveillance” on this topic. Definitions of “domestic” range from “relating to a particular country” (meaning the information need only relate to the U.S. and not be in the U.S.) to “originating in the United States” (presumably meaning that the activity being monitored must take place in the United States. This will be a debate about limits and ground. If negatives can demonstrate that they are at a strategic disadvantage against affirmatives whose surveillance arguments go beyond U.S. borders, then they can probably persuade critics to limit the scope of activity to the U.S.

Two other things seem clear concerning the word “domestic.” First, surveillance of suspected foreign terrorists inside the United States would fall under the definition. Second, surveillance of suspected foreign terrorists abroad is not usually called domestic surveillance. This is clarified in a piece of evidence in this file from the Council on Foreign Relations, but it’s also intuitive—neither the target nor the activity are, in any way, domestic.


Contextually, surveillance is electronic, gathered for a purpose, typically to provide evidence of wrongdoing, and yields information that must be processed and analyzed in some way.

Why is surveillance contextually electronic? This is mainly a function of the policy literature on the topic. Although the constitutional protection against unauthorized searches did not originally contemplate electronic searches, there is simply no relevant topic literature on non-electronic surveillance. The topic paper was written mainly with National Security Agency surveillance in mind and, although police surveillance for non-terrorist crimes, and even corporate/private surveillance may fall into the broad parameters of the resolution, there is little on-point literature on the large-scale societal harms of such surveillance. However, within the scope of electronic surveillance is included both direct and indirect information-gathering. Direct information gathering would occur when the NSA or accompanying agencies do wiretaps, data-mining, and other searches directly. Indirect surveillance would be those instances when the NSA and accompanying agencies collect data from private corporations, as when the NSA receives data from Verizon or other telecommunications companies and then analyzes that data. Negatives might make the topicality argument that only curtailing direct surveillance is resolutional, a debate likely resolved at the standards level.

By now you may have noticed that “surveillance” carries very different meanings from dictionary to policy context. For another instance, prevention of bad acts seems intrinsic to the functional definitions of “surveillance.” This makes the word distinct from the kind of violations of privacy done by the corporate world in an effort to better understand consumer behavior. Thus, if a private company monitors your internet behavior, and the NSA monitors your internet behavior in the same fashion, it would be contextually accurate to call the NSA's behavior surveillance, but not the private company’s behavior.

Domestic Surveillance

Add the word “domestic” to “surveillance,” and the range of cases gets even more particular. The most limiting interpretations of “domestic surveillance” may well hold the resolution to ten or fewer topical plans. Why? First, because of the word “its” in the topic, which indicates possession of (that definition is in this file). Second, because domestic law enforcement agencies are unlikely to use the phrase “domestic surveillance” when referring to their own surveillance practices. Only the federal government practices both foreign and domestic surveillance, and therefore, only literature specific to NSA (or other agency) surveillance is likely to make the “domestic” distinction.

One very policy-particularized application of “domestic surveillance” in this file is the evidence specifying that, in the context of the Bush administration (and, by extension, the Obama administration), “domestic surveillance” has the attribute of occurring under a “blanket warrant,” an extremely broad warrant issued for a general search for wrongdoing, the kind of warrant issued by Section 215 of the Patriot Act, allowing “blanket warrants for federal authorities to obtain massive swaths of personal data, including bank, doctor and phone company records.” This gives law enforcement broad discretion to search unspecified places for unspecified things. Traditionally, general warrants are considered unconstitutional under the specificity requirements of the Fourth Amendment.

With few words and even fewer topic-specific words, this is a manageable resolution from a procedural standpoint, although lack of information about what, who, and how much domestic surveillance the government conducts make some limits murkier than others. The hyper-specific literature on the term “domestic surveillance” enhances that manageability.

Affirmative Strategies

Specific Plans

This section doesn’t attempt to list all potential plans and cases on this year’s resolution, but rather to provide a small representative sample. The parameters of “domestic surveillance” may limit the topic to only a few NSA/FBI/CIA surveillance cases; if teams and critics end up preferring broader definitions, then more applications of law enforcement and even other surveillance may be debatable. Here is a brief executive agency/Patriot Act/general law enforcement case list.

Racial profiling: At both the NSA/anti-terrorism level and the domestic law enforcement level, authorities use racial profiling on particular surveillance targets. Such profiling might be implicit, or even unconscious, but evidence exists of blatant profiling of Arab-Americans as a matter of policy in factions of institutions such as the FBI and even the NSA. Affirmatives can ban this repugnant practice, claiming not only racism as an impact, but also institutional credibility and law enforcement effectiveness, soft power, and international human rights credibility. Negatives may consider counterplan strategies that access those moral impacts, or kritiks of the paradigms or institutional methodologies that the affirmative uses to access them.

Drones: The proliferation of drones as mechanisms of surveillance on ordinary U.S. citizens is a stark symbol of the way the ruling classes deploy technology to erase privacy lines and diminish individual and group autonomy. Through restrictive regulations or even the outright ban of some types of drones, affirmatives can substantially curtail the use of drones in gathering information. Such plans would access myriad privacy, totalitarianism, biopolitical and other kritik-level impacts; there may also be good resource-shift and focus arguments if affirmatives want to improve the good work of police and government agencies while eliminating the “bad apple” of drones. Negatives have a wide array of choices against such affirmatives, from specific counterplans to retain particular drone-types to arguments about their effectiveness in stopping high-impact crimes or acts of terror.

Maryland v. King (or other court decisions): Maryland v. King is a 2013 United States Supreme Court decision holding that when officers make an arrest supported by probable cause, the officers are justified in taking and keeping a DNA sample from the arrestee. The decision was very close, and the dissent--by both ultra-conservative Scalia and the three liberal justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan, arguing that “categorically” and “without exception,” “[t]he Fourth Amendment forbids searching a person for evidence of a crime when there is no basis for believing the person is guilty of the crime or is in possession of incriminating evidence.” A range of privacy and constitutionality impacts is possible. Affirmatives may write similar cases for other court decisions, and the use of the Supreme Court as an actor potentially avoids many generic disadvantages, and renders most agent counterplans useless. Negatives can argue a variety of court-specific strategies, from legitimacy to hollow hope to court-stripping, and there are legal-specific kritiks such as Critical Legal Studies, or legal-specific links to arguments like capitalism and biopower.

Executive Order 123333: Originally implemented by President Reagan, Executive Order 123333 regulates many aspects of executive power to deal with enemies or threats, including assassinations and surveillance powers. Experts say XO 123333 is the fundamental document authorizing the expansion of data collection activities towards U.S. citizens. The Order has been used by the National Security Agency as legal authorization for the secret and systematic collection of unencrypted information flowing through the internet, emails, cell phones, and every other means of electronic information transmission. The affirmative can mandate that Congress render the Executive Order legally invalid, which Congress is empowered to do. The Supreme Court may be able to do the same. The main 1AC advantage would probably be totalitarianism, but separation of powers is also an important advantage to the plan. Negatives could counterplan with the agent the affirmative did not use; there is good literature on both sides of the question of whether Congress or the Judiciary are better equipped to check executive power, particularly of these sweeping executive orders.

Patriot Act Section 215: The National Security Agency's phone sweeping program, collecting numbers, dates, and durations of phone calls made in the United States, constitutes the very essence of unconstitutional domestic surveillance, and is embedded in Section 215 of the patriot act, a provision allowing the government to demand that private telecommunications companies turn over information about their patrons. However, Congress is currently fiercely debating the extension of the Patriot Act, with 215 facing immanent expiration. By the time teams start debating in the fall, the issue will probably be resolved, and if 215 survives, affirmatives may want to do what so many members of Congress want to do and ban the provision. The advantages of totalitarianism and privacy, and the symbolic significance of the Patriot Act for the international reputation of the United States, are both potential advantage areas. Negatives can certainly execute a well-researched strategy holding that 215's data collection does stop terrorism, including high-impact disasters with WMDs, but negatives may also consider the courts or even an executive order as alternative agents.

Section 702 of FISA Amendments Act: The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act enables the surveillance targeting of foreign persons located abroad. Section 702 provides for targeting and minimization procedures, adopted by the U.S. Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence, requiring a valid purpose for the surveillance. Several troubling allegations have emerged concerning the use of the section. We already know the Act is being used to target Americans abroad. Moreover, the U.S. appears to be sharing this information with British spies, and capturing mass collections of phone calls and emails "directly from the physical infrastructure of communications providers" (Nadia Kayyali, “The Way the NSA Uses Section 702 is Deeply Troubling. Here’s Why,” Electronic Frontier Foundation, May 7, 2014, Banning or amending this section would yield both international relations and anti-terrorism effectiveness impacts. If affirmatives broadly ban Section 702, negatives might consider going all in on the topicality argument that this is not domestic surveillance, given that the targets and activities are not U.S. citizens or within the United States, and the topic literature is quite specific about dividing foreign and domestic surveillance—as evidenced, even, by the title of FISA. If the plans are specific to only the targeting of Americans abroad, then many of the strategies against Executive Order 123333 may also work against FISA. The special advocate affirmative may even be a counterplan.

FISA Courtroom Special Advocate: Civil libertarians have called for Congress to amend FISA to provide for a special advocate on the court, “whose job it would be to represent civil liberties in court proceedings, and establish a process for declassifying the court's orders.” As of last year, “Those reforms are included in a Senate version of an intelligence reform bill, but not the House version now under consideration” (Denver Nicks, “Privacy Advocates Call for FISA Court Reform,” Time, July 10, 2014, A plan to do this would incur civil liberties advantages, and probably some international human rights credibility. Negatives could mandate that the Supreme Court rule that due process requires such a special advocate.

Impact Areas

Privacy: All domestic surveillance affirmatives can potentially deploy privacy impacts. At the substantive level, privacy is linked to effective democracy, individual rights, community cohesion, self-actualization, and a variety of other qualitative but real arguments about living in a good society. At the critical/philosophical level, privacy is linked primarily to biopolitical freedom, biopower, and the similar family of arguments about the state’s ability to monitor and control the individual.

Totalitarianism: Government surveillance rips at the fabric of civil society and accountability, discouraging political engagement and punishing dissent. Surveillance creates the climate of fear useful to totalitarian leaders. Evidence is particularly passionate right now about these subjects, and history demonstrates that totalitarianism can cause massive loss of life alongside loss of freedom.

Racism: Profiling cases can emphasize the “original sin” nature of racism, which makes it categorically more important than whatever small nooks of intelligence needs racial profiling actually fills. Racism is unacceptable for countless reasons, but some of the most easily articulated are dehumanization, genocide, and human dignity.

Freedom to dissent: A subset of totalitarian impacts warranting its own specific mention, the closure of dissent space is a death-knell for democracy (and democracy, in turn, links to several substantive terminal impacts such as war and human survival). The idea that the government watches activists, monitoring their communications and tracking their activities and associates, discourages people from being activists at all. Without people willing to push the boundaries, democracy simply can’t survive.

Soft power: Perception of U.S. adherence to protocols of privacy, decency, respect for other countries’ citizens and modes of communication, respect for our own citizens’ rights, all factor into the rest of the world’s perception of the U.S. as a moral and political leader. When the U.S. was caught listening in on communications of leaders in Germany, Brazil, and elsewhere, this damaged U.S. credibility. The impacts include influence and hegemony, trade and economic policies, and the ability to collectively engage on a variety of issues facing the planet.

Effective Anti-Terrorism: Many scholars, former intelligence workers, and journalists assert that mass surveillance is simply ineffective, creates bottlenecks of resources and information flow, demands that agencies look for needles in haystacks, in general wasting a lot of time and money. Affirmatives wishing to sidestep or supplement privacy or other “moral” debates can emphasize that curtailing surveillance opens the door to better anti-terrorism strategies, including those premised on cooperation between the U.S. and key allies.

International human rights credibility: The United States can’t effectively demand that other countries respect human rights if we are a surveillance state. Our ability to criticize slavery, genocide, persecution of minorities, and in particular, totalitarian regimes like North Korea, is undermined by our insistence on spying on our own citizens

Separation of powers: Many affirmatives on the topic will curtail executive powers that many believe should be balanced more equally among branches—particularly the legislative branch with regard to the authorization of operations, and the judicial branch with regard to constitutionality determinations. Separation of powers is necessary to preserve democracy, ensure international peace, and effective governance.

Negative Strategies


Alternative Actors: Topic literature on domestic surveillance, American intelligence, and counterterrorism reveals strong differences of opinion about which branch or agency controls what policies and outcomes. Thus, there is plenty of literature saying the Executive Branch should have primacy in intelligence, but there is an equal amount of compelling literature saying Congress must be the primary actor. There is also evidence speaking to the ability of those two branches to work together, justifying permutations.

Courts, specifically: Since some lower courts have already ruled that warrantless surveillance is unconstitutional, and because having the highest court rule on its unconstitutionality is the best enabling mechanism to ensure that other branches of government ban it, negatives can argue that the Supreme Court is the best check on executive power or unconstitutional surveillance legislation. Also, because a Supreme Court ruling is less politically controversial than a congressional action, negatives can run the politics disadvantage and avoid the link with the counterplan. Affirmatives can respond that Supreme Court decisions are also political and will not avoid the disadvantage. Affirmatives can also argue that the Court cannot really control the executive, and that the Court risks backlash and loss of legitimacy by ruling on surveillance. Permutations would include Congress and the Supreme Court acting at the same time, Congress banning surveillance and the Court ruling against it, to ensure better solvency.


Terrorism: Although it sometimes appears as if the evidence against surveillance is more plentiful and passionate than the evidence for it, many policy experts believe it is critical in preventing terrorism. This argument works best in a utilitarian framework: If terrorists deploy weapons of mass destruction, this outweighs the impacts of the affirmative. The affirmative can link turn this disadvantage by pointing out the ways surveillance damages the war on terror, such as yielding faulty intelligence or alienating allies.

Politics: Since much of the surveillance state is wrapped up in either executive actions or congressional legislation, negotiating the curtailment of surveillance will have political impacts. The President may need to expend capital to get Congress to compromise on new versions of the Patriot Act or FISA. Congress might give the President a loss by negating an executive order. There is typically fierce opposition to decreasing the tools available to fight terrorism, and political discourse lacks the nuance to be able to inform the public, or particularly ideological public officials, that surveillance might undermine anti-terrorism efforts. Congress may demand concessions from the President in order to push through some reform in surveillance or, if the policy “belongs to” the President, Congress may use the decreased political power of a president rebuked on surveillance to push through some other undesirable policies. Affirmatives can respond with the usual answers to politics—running links the other way, reading solid uniqueness takeouts (including the numerous ways in which surveillance is likely to be curtailed over the next several months), and, of course, impact turning the politics scenarios.

Hegemony Good/Bad: Decreased surveillance may weaken our hard-power capacity, and that might be bad. Or, decreased surveillance may increase our soft power, and that might be bad. The opposite scenarios might be true: For example, decreased surveillance might strengthen our hard power (some affirmatives may even claim this in the 1AC, and negatives may argue that’s bad. It’s best to have good impact files both ways on hegemony good/bad, as well as the many hard power and soft power dynamics, when debating this resolution.

Cybersecurity: Cybersecurity is important in ways that transcend terrorism prevention. Surveillance of cyber activity is vital to make improvements in our overall cybersecurity, improvements that are currently underway but may require more data to reach completion. Loss of cybersecurity at the governmental level means we’re vulnerable to attacks from Russia or China; loss of individual cybersecurity may be bad for the same reasons surveillance totalitarianism is bad. Affirmatives can respond to this disadvantage by demonstrating that wide scale surveillance hinders, rather than helps, America strengthen its cybersecurity.

Organized Crime/Sex Trafficking: Deep surveillance is necessary to track organized crime, in particular the hard-to-detect network of underground human trafficking that occurs both globally and in the United States. The moral weight of sex trafficking makes it compelling as a juxtaposition to the moral weight of surveillance. Affirmatives can argue that sweeping data searches actually trade off with better techniques—surveillance or otherwise—for exposing and capturing human traffickers or other purveyors of organized crime.


Foucault/Biopower: Although it’s more likely affirmatives will deploy Foucauldian notions of biopower than negatives, space exists for both. Foucault argues that in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, power structures began to qualitatively change their methods of human governance, utilizing technology and methods that evolved from Enlightenment thinking. These became methods of managing populations, disciplining them, regulating their autonomy rather than just reacting to human action. Surveillance is a particularly comprehensive method of doing this. Discipline regulates the behavior of individual bodies within the social body--through the manipulation of space and time, movement and activity. Surveillance is a method of enforcing this management. The impact to allowing such methods of control is a level of totalitarianism beyond the political--a very personal totalitarianism that destroys any vestige of autonomy. Negatives, however, can utilize Foucault’s other argument about power--that it is diffusive, and not embodied exclusively in political institutions--to argue that banning surveillance by the government merely gives the illusion of less power, and that such power will manifest in other, more insidious, potentially violent and dehumanizing ways.

Feminism/Privacy Bad: Privacy, as constructed in traditional liberal discourse, relies on a distinction between the public and private spheres that is untenable and potentially oppressive. Relegating personal relationships to the private sphere has long been a tool of patriarchy to justify the intimate subordination of women—keeping them in the home, regulating their sexual lives or justifying sexual brutality against them, covering up domestic violence. This kritik can also, in a complimentary fashion, claim that patriarchy’s subordination of women is a root cause of the kinds of war, terrorism, brutality, and instability that makes surveillance appear desirable in the first place. Affirmatives can respond with a permutation calling for criticism of both patriarchy and surveillance; they can also argue that the tendency of surveillance to crush dissent undermines the solvency of the kritik’s alternative, which is premised on the ability to spread feminist consciousness through both public and private channels.

Capitalism/Marxism: Although there are many potential starting points for applying Marxist or anti-capitalist methodology to this resolution, the standard argument is that surveillance and the erasure of private life, rather than being the effect of security and militarism, is actually the byproduct of capitalism’s tendency to economically colonize every sphere of human life. Humans are reduced to data-subjects because doing so makes them easier to materially exploit. Ignoring this root cause makes it harder to struggle against capitalism, and more likely that the totalitarianism targeted by the affirmative will manifest in other ways. Failure to transcend capitalism results in terminal impacts (war, environmental destruction, genocide) greater than those claimed by the affirmative. Affirmatives have several options in answering this kritik: arguing the capitalism is good (saves environment, prevents war) and in particular that economic freedom checks totalitarianism; arguing that the anti-capitalist methodology breeds its own kind of totalitarianism; or deploying a permutation/link turn strategy arguing that preserving dissent and fighting against surveillance totalitarianism makes it more likely that anti-capitalist movements will succeed in their goals.

Schmitt: Policies rooted in equality, or those that break down the distinction between enemies and allies, lead to worse forms of violence because they attempt to universalize the notion of “humanity” itself. It is better, this kritik says, to create clear “lines in the sand” designating some people as allies and others as enemies. Those lines contain war to specific parameters, where the erasure of those lines enables large-scale warfare against anyone deemed a threat to the entire humanistic order—“ontological damnation.” Affirmatives can answer this kritik by arguing that the so-called specific lines between enemy and ally are the true source of the otherization the negative fears; that a permutation is possible that preserves both the friend-enemy distinction and the embrace of liberal internationalist principles; and that Schmitt's role as a jurist of Nazism makes his call for the designation of enemies deeply dangerous.



Curtail means to cut the budget for something

Government Accounting Office, June 29, 1978

"Program Curtailment Control Act of 1978 Explanatory Statement," (accessed 5/24/2015)

The review procedure is triggered by an Executive branch decision to "curtail" a program which has been made subject to the bill. The definition of "curtail" (subsection (a)(3)) requires that the Executive branch decision result in a reduction of budget authority applied in furtherance of the program. As noted above, the level of budget authority for this purpose would be the amount so specified in an appropriation act. The reduction relates to the use of funds "in furtherance of the program."

Curtail means to cut back

City of Austin, January 23, 2012

"City of Austin Comments on Draft Lakes Buchanan and Travis Water Management Plan and Drought Contingency Plans," (accessed 5/22/2015)

The terms “cut back” and “curtail” are used interchangeably throughout the document. Consider adding the phrase “cut back” to the definition of curtail, e.g., “Curtail is also herein referred to as cut back.”

Curtail means to end something before it is finished

Cambridge Dictionaries Online, 2015

"Curtail,", (accessed 5/25/2015)

Curtail: to reduce or limit something, or to stop something before it is finished: He had to curtail his speech when time ran out.

Domestic Surveillance

Domestic surveillance contextually means ordering private companies to turn over their data on citizens to the NSA

Council on Foreign Relations, December 18, 2013

"U.S. Domestic Surveillance," Council on Foreign Relations Backgrounder, (accessed 5/25/2015)

What is the domestic surveillance controversy under Obama? Two NSA surveillance programs were exposed in press reports in June 2013. First, a Guardian report disclosed a classified Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) order instructing Verizon, one of the largest U.S. telecommunications firms, to hand over phone records of millions of Americans to the NSA. Another secret program, code-named PRISM, accessed troves of communication data—audio/video chats, emails, photos, and other media—from several U.S. technology companies, according to the Washington Post. Subsequent leaks revealed details on additional programs that gave the NSA extensive electronic surveillance tools, both domestic and international, allowing the government to track and tap into conversations of suspected terrorists, civilians, and even friendly foreign heads of state.

Domestic surveillance is the collection of data authorized by the issuance of a blanket warrant

Matt Fleischer, Fund for Investigative Journalism grant recipient, September 11, 2013

"How 9/11 Turned the U.S. Government into Spies: A Brief History of Domestic Surveillance," Takepart, (accessed 5/25/2015)

Shortly after the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania, then-President George W. Bush authorized the NSA to conduct broad domestic surveillance of the ilk that had previously been banned for decades. Bush’s newly built spying regime was bolstered a short time later by the passage of the Patriot Act. One Patriot Act passage in particular—Section 215 —allowed the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court to authorize blanket warrants for federal authorities to obtain massive swaths of personal data, including bank, doctor and phone company records. Under Section 215, the government does not need to prove any terrorist activity to request these documents, only to show that the information is “relevant” to an ongoing investigation.

Monitoring terrorists abroad is not domestic surveillance

Council on Foreign Relations, December 18, 2013

"U.S. Domestic Surveillance," Council on Foreign Relations Backgrounder, (accessed 5/25/2015)

The Bush administration maintained that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was an outdated law-enforcement mechanism that was too time-consuming given the highly fluid, modern threat environment. Administration officials portrayed the NSA program as an "early warning system" (PDF) with "a military nature that requires speed and agility." Moreover, the White House stressed that the program was one not of domestic surveillance but of monitoring terrorists abroad, and publicly referred to the operation as the "Terrorist Surveillance Program."


Domestic means relating to a particular country, 2015

"Domestic,", (accessed 5/25/2015)

Domestic: of or relating to one's own or a particular country as apart from other countries: domestic trade.

Domestic means originating in the United States

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, 2008

"Domestic," The Legal Dictionary, (accessed 5/25/2015)

A domestic corporation of a particular state is one that has been organized and chartered in that state as opposed to a foreign corporation, which has been incorporated in another state or territory. In tax law, a domestic corporation is one that has originated in any U.S. state or territory.

Domestic means endemic or local

Burton's Legal Thesaurus, 2007

"Domestic," The Legal Dictionary, (accessed 5/25/2015)

Domestic: endemic, home, homemade, local, national, native, native grown, not foreign, not imported.


Surveillance is the systematic monitoring, gathering, and analysis of information for the purpose of decisionmaking, risk-management and the exercise of power

Amnil Kalhan, Associate Professor of Law, Drexel University, 2014

“Immigration Surveillance,” Maryland Law Review, Vol. 74, (accessed 5/21/2015)

As conceptualized by John Gilliom and Torin Monahan, surveillance involves “the systematic monitoring, gathering, and analysis of information in order to make decisions, minimize risk, sort populations, and exercise power.”

Surveillance is conducted to gather evidence of a crime

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, 2008

“Electronic Surveillance,” The Free Dictionary, (accessed 5/20/20150

Electronic Surveillance: Observing or listening to persons, places, or activities—usually in a secretive or unobtrusive manner—with the aid of electronic devices such as cameras, microphones, tape recorders, or wire taps. The objective of electronic surveillance when used in law enforcement is to gather evidence of a crime or to accumulate intelligence about suspected criminal activity. Corporations use electronic surveillance to maintain the security of their buildings and grounds or to gather information about competitors. Electronic surveillance permeates almost every aspect of life in the United States. In the public sector, the president, Congress, judiciary, military, and law enforcement all use some form of this technology. In the private sector, business competitors, convenience stores, shopping centers, apartment buildings, parking facilities, hospitals, banks, employers, and spouses have employed various methods of electronic eavesdropping. Litigation has even arisen from covert surveillance of restrooms.

Surveillance is collection of data for a purpose

Black’s Law Dictionary, no date

“What is SURVEILLANCE?”, (accessed 5/24/2015)

Surveillance: Observation and collection of data to provide evidence for a purpose.

Topicality: Substantially Means 90%

  1. Substantially cannot be less than 90%

Words & Phrases, 2005, Vol. 40B, p. 329

N.H. 1949. -The Word "substantially" as used in provision of Unemployment Compensation Act that experience rating of an employer may transferred to' an employing unit which acquires the organization, -trade, or business, or "substantially" all of the assets thereof, is 'an elastic term which does not include a. definite, fixed amount of percentage, and the transfer does not have to be 100 per cent but cannot be less than 90 per cent in the ordinary situation. R.L c. 218, § 6, subd. F, as added by Laws 1945, c. 138, § 16.-Auclair Transp. v. Riley, 69 A.2d 861, 96 N.H. l.-Tax347.1.

  1. Violation: The affirmative curtails one surveillance program but leaves several others intact; clearly not a reduction of 90% of the totality of programs

  1. Superior Interpretation: Limits: A restrictive definition of substantially is the only way to limit the topic and accompanying research burdens for the negative; holding the affirmative to a standard of eliminating nearly all surveillance prevents them from claiming small advantages from minor reductions

  1. Topicality is a voting issue for reasons of fairness and jurisdiction

Topicality: Substantially Means the Plan Can’t Condition Curtailment

  1. Substantially means without qualification

Don Blewett, chair of California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board, January 29, 1976

“Young v. Laura Scudder’s Pet, Inc.,” Decisions of California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board, (accessed 5/25/2015)

"Substantially: Essentially; without material qualification; in the main; in substance; materially; in a substantial manner. Kirkpatrick v. Journal Pub. Co., 210 Ala. 10, 97 So. 58, 59; Gibson v. Glos, 271 I11. 368, I11 N.E. 123, 124; McEwen v. New York Life Ins. Co., 23 Cal. App. 694, 139 P. 242, 243. About, actually, competently, and essentially. Gilmore v. Red Top Cab Co. of Washington, 171 Wash. 346, 17 P. 2d 886, 887."

  1. Violation: The affirmative qualifies the curtailment of data by conditioning it on something indeterminate in the 1AC (explain)

  1. Superior Interpretation

  1. Predictability: The affirmative leaves the negative with a probabilistic solvency scenario, with no predictable causality scenario that we can research or find evidence for

  2. Effects: The effect of the indeterminate action will result in the curtailment of data, meaning the initial action isn’t topical. This justifies plans that ban the entire government because the net effect will be that the government can no longer collect data, and so on

  1. Topicality is a voting issue for reasons of fairness and jurisdiction

Topicality: Curtail Does Not Mean End

  1. Curtail means to reduce or impose a restriction on

Oxford Dictionaries, 2015

"Curtail,", (accessed 5/23/2015)

Curtail: Reduce in extent or quantity; impose a restriction on: civil liberties were further curtailed
  1. Violation: The affirmative eliminates rather than reduces the scope of domestic surveillance

  1. Superior Interpretation: Ground: Arguments that retention of existing data collection is bad are solvency arguments the negative should get to make. Their interpretation also strips us of the elimination counterplan, or disadvantages based on the curtailment of some, but not all, surveillance

  1. Topicality is a voting issue for reasons of fairness and jurisdiction

Topicality: Curtail Means End

  1. Curtail means to stop something before it is finished

Cambridge Dictionaries Online, 2015

"Curtail,", (accessed 5/25/2015)

Curtail: to reduce or limit something, or to stop something before it is finished: He had to curtail his speech when time ran out.
  1. Violation: The affirmative reduces, but does not eliminate, domestic surveillance

  1. Superior Interpretation: Fair division of ground: The affirmative gets to say surveillance is bad; the negative gets to say surveillance is good or at least not bad. Allowing the affirmative to retain surveillance means they don’t have to defend the elimination of the practice, meaning the negative can’t run terrorism or other topic-specific disadvantages, because there is no topic literature specifying the specific amount of surveillance necessary to achieve policy goals

  1. Topicality is a voting issue for fairness, jurisdiction, and education

Topicality: Its Means Exclusively

  1. Definitions

  1. Its means belonging to the subject

The Free Dictionary, 2015

"Its,", (accessed 5/25/2015)

Its: The possessive form of it. Used as a modifier before a noun: The airline canceled its early flight to New York.
  1. The possessive pronoun is exclusive--it doesn't belong to anyone else but the subject

English Language and Usage, July 29, 2012

"'Its as a possessive pronoun," English Language and Usage Stack Exchange, (accessed 5/25/2015)

That shell is not mine. Nor is it yours. It belongs to that snail over there. That shell is its, not mine or yours.
  1. Violation: The affirmative curtails a joint operation between the U.S. and another country or countries.

  1. Superior Interpretation:

  1. Extra-topicality: The affirmative claims advantages from a nontopical portion of the plan. This justifies claiming advantages from funding mechanisms, or even adding completely non-germane provisions to the plan, such as “curtail domestic surveillance and ban the death penalty”

  2. Ground: Non-US actors is negative counterplan ground; their interpretation also strips the negative of foreign actor disadvantage ground

  1. Topicality is a voting issue for reasons of fairness and jurisdiction

Topicality: Domestic Must Be Within America

  1. Domestic means within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States

Nuclear Regulatory Commission, January 1, 2002

Code of Federal Regulations Title 10 Energy: Revised As of January 1, 2002, (accessed 5/23/2015)

DOMESTIC: The term "domestic" means within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.
  1. Violation: The affirmative curtails surveillance of events or individuals who are outside of the United States

  1. Superior Interpretation

  1. Limits: There are hundreds of possible countries and millions of potential cases where the government can spy on U.S. citizens abroad, or noncitizens

  2. Each word has meaning: The affirmative moots the word “domestic” in the resolution

  1. Topicality is a voting issue for reasons of fairness and jurisdiction

Topicality: Domestic Must Originate In

  1. Domestic means to originate in the United States

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, 2008

"Domestic," The Legal Dictionary, (accessed 5/25/2015)

A domestic corporation of a particular state is one that has been organized and chartered in that state as opposed to a foreign corporation, which has been incorporated in another state or territory. In tax law, a domestic corporation is one that has originated in any U.S. state or territory.
  1. Violation: The affirmative curtails surveillance that originates outside the United States—even if later processed in the United States, the origin point is foreign

  1. Superior Interpretation

  1. Fair research burdens: Forcing us to defend data collection both inside and outside of the United States would multiply our research burdens by the number of countries in which data could be collected

  2. Each word has meaning: The affirmative moots the word “domestic” in the resolution

  3. Ground: It’s negative ground to argue that the most significant data collection occurs outside the United States, either as counterplan or solvency/meet-need ground

  1. Topicality is a voting issue for reasons of fairness and jurisdiction

Topicality: Surveillance Must Be For A Purpose

  1. Definition: Surveillance is the collection of data for a purpose

Black’s Law Dictionary, no date

“What is SURVEILLANCE?”, (accessed 5/24/2015)

Surveillance: Observation and collection of data to provide evidence for a purpose.
  1. Violation: The affirmative curtails domestic collection of data that initially have no purpose—only later is a small fraction of that data surveilled for intelligence content

  1. Superior Interpretation:

  1. Fair Ground: The affirmative can claim that most of the data collection they curtail has no consequences, meaning they don’t have to debate topic-specific disadvantages or case turns

  1. Effects: The initial action of the plan is not topical; their fiat only covers the initial collection of the data and not what is subsequently done to pare down the data. Effects topicality skews research burdens and allows the affirmative to claim advantages from non-topical portions of the plan.

  1. Topicality is a voting issue for reasons of ground, fairness, and education

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