Topic Analysis: November 2013 and broadening your impacts

Resolved: The benefits of domestic surveillance by the NSA outweigh the harms.

After gaining a working knowledge on the topic and beginning to construct arguments, you want to start considering impacts. Impacts explain what the result of an argument is, the effect that argument would have on the world, or even why the argument matters within the resolution.

I urge you to think outside of the box. For this topic, there is going to be a lot of debate about privacy rights, slippery slope government doctrines, and free speech. But is there a broader debate available? I think so.

First, I’d like to offer that although the resolution is about domestic surveillance, the benefits and harms considered in the round do not have to be domestic. There is no clause within the resolution that orients the values that must be considered in the debate.

Therefore, let’s look to the impact of surveillance programs on foreign trade. Check out the article at

The article outlines how PRISM, a foreign surveillance program, undermines the UK’s trust in free trade negotiations with the US.

‘Privacy campaigners in the U.K. argue the revelations about the PRISM surveillance program will make a free trade deal much more difficult to achieve.

Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch in the U.K., says PRISM has undermined the whole cause of free trade.

“People may well not see the U.S. as a place they can trust to do business with and that has got to have massive repercussions for the global economy,” Pickles says.’

PRISM is not domestic surveillance. One could argue, however, that if the US is willingly to use warrantless surveillance and other data mining practices on its own citizens, other countries have real reason to be concerned about their citizens’ privacy rights. The impact here could be loss or the diminishment of free trade deals and diplomatic relations, ultimately affecting the US economy and soft power globally.


Second, there are many other domestic impacts besides the basic values of privacy and rights.  A tip I provide in Beyond Resolved is to look at opinion pieces for impact ideas. Opinion pieces are generally not evidence you want to cite, but rather the place to begin research. Always prefer a credible and reviewed source over an opinion piece. The author here, however, is a Communications researcher and therefore may have some weight in the round.

Brannon writes, “The power of the axis of information which includes the federal government, Verizon, Facebook and Google frankly scares the living hell out of me. The U.S. Government should protect Americans from the excesses of corporate America, not encourage them. The cozy relationship of the National Security Agency and Silicon Valley is a dangerous to democracy as the alliance between the Treasury Dept and Wall Street.”

Here, rather than scrutinizing the US government’s surveillance program, Brannon points out another major actor in the NSA – communications companies. Through this observation, you can access impacts about corporate power and influence in Washington, corporate influence on elections, and the inability of individual citizens to protect themselves from the decisions of corporations.


As you continue to research, keep looking for new and novel impacts. It will make your life more interesting as a debater and make your arguments more challenging in round.



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