Living With the Inevitability of America’s Vulnerability, Research Paper Example
Words: 5601Research Paper
Lately there have been many terrorist attacks including September 11th and the Boston bombing. This study looks at the effect that these events have outside the areas where these attacks occur. As a consequence, this survey looks at how people who live in southeast Georgia feel about their safety and security. The study attempts to define absolute security in terms of personal and national involvement, it asks whether national security offices are effective, and whether recently implemented security policies are useful and make people feel safe. It was found that the respondents define absolute security as an ideal that is not currently being achieved by changes to national security regulations and standards. Furthermore the people of southeastern Georgia believe that the national security agencies are not doing a good job of protecting us and that the NSA phone tapping and TSA airport scanning policies are not helping us be safe (Lederman, 2010). This study therefore proposes that the government examines its current policies and removes the ones that are not effective while strengthening the ones that are. It is important to use all of our resources in a way that is efficient and makes the population feel safe.
With the increased threats of international terrorism and the fact that we are creating our own homegrown terrorists, psychologists and sociologists have examined the influence of religious indoctrination, social networking, peer pressure, family dysfunction, poor mental health, school bullying and other contributing factors that can make our seemingly unsuspecting next door neighbor the next active shooter or homegrown terrorists. Each day we learn something new as we complete activities as basic as standing and waiting in line to go through a humiliating but necessary security check points at the airport (TSA, 2013). Modern day identity theft, internet scams, and NSA leaks that jeopardize our national security have recently been added to crimes that have been more conventionally committed such as burglary, murder, rape, and assaults (Rispman et al., 2010). Every day we read, see, or hear about increasing acts of violence: the idealists who detonate bombs at public events and churches, active shooters who terrorize our schools and other places that we used to believe safe. Now, more than ever before we subconsciously find ourselves thinking whether it’s it safe to attend events, send our children to school, use our credit cards, and whether people are monitoring our phone calls. Unfortunately, this list of security risks continues and we are constantly worried about our safety.
As a consequence of these security threats it is important to determine whether feeling safe is actually worthwhile. In the process of worrying about many things that could potentially happen in our daily lives, we are unable to live in the moment. When we live in constant fear, our quality of life is compromised. For example, many people are afraid to leave their homes immediately after disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and the September 11th attacks. By doing so however, they may not be protecting themselves as much as they are demonstrated that they are afraid. While it is okay to be afraid after serious disasters, it is essential to understand that just because an event happened once doesn’t mean it will necessarily happen again and impact the individuals that were afraid.
Although the concepts of “safety” and “fear” arise when we describe tragic events, it is important to define these terms. Many people have very different definitions of what “fear” and “safety” mean and this difference could be a direct consequence of an individual’s beliefs and experiences. For example, a person who lived in New York City during the attack on the Twin Towers who lost a family member in the attacks will likely have a different concept of safety compared to someone living in California, far away from the attacks while they occurred. Even though both the individual in New York City and California felt the impact of the Towers falling and understood the security implications and grave outcomes for the nation, the fact that one isn’t directly tied into the incident in some way would make them less nervous that the attack would repeat itself. Meanwhile, the individuals living in New York City with direct ties to the terrorist attacks may have been afraid to leave their homes following the attacks, pulled their children out of school, and fought for increased security measures in the city due to the belief that the attacks would repeat themselves.
Since we cannot definitively define “safety” and “fear”, it is instead important to view these terms depending upon the situation of the individual. An excellent way to judge the definition of these terms for a person would be by considering their reaction to sudden events. A good way to measure these emotions would be to conduct surveys that determine reactions to the necessity TSA security at the airports, how natural disasters and terrorist attacks that occurred both near and far away from them have impacted their ability to live a normal life, whether they have ever been personally affected by a terrorist act by suffering a death in the family, and whether they believe that additional security measures truly protects them or impedes their ability to live a normal life.
As stated above, people who have different connections to traumatic terrorist events are likely to have different opinions about safety measures that the country has taken to prevent its citizens. Although some measures can be seen as annoying and necessary, many people agree that some level of safety precautions need to be taken because America is often viewed as a target by terrorist communities. Unfortunately, America’s role in world politics isn’t generally viewed as positive by many foreign countries and many Middle Eastern region and their allies would likely support a war against the United States. As such, we must have some level of security, but there is constant debate on what level is appropriate. While New York residents and Washington D.C. residents are constantly reminded of the attacks of their important buildings, residents outside this area are less affected by the attacks. As such, it is necessary to determine how these people truly feel about the terrorist attacks in order to gain a greater understanding of how safety and potential terrorism affects American citizens outside of the areas in which major attacks typically occur.
Even though southeast Georgia was not a target for the September 11th terrorist attacks, the area still reports potential terrorist attacks and other security threats. Protection at schools, phone monitoring, gun safety, and TSA airport monitoring are all basic security concerns for the area. In addition, past terrorist attacks such as the Centennial Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta remind the inhabitants of southeast Georgia that terrorist attacks are still a plausible concern at large scale events. In this individual case, the bomber was a man named Eric Robert Rudolph, who does not appear to fit the definition of a person we would typically expect to commit a terrorist act. Since Rudolph was a Caucasian male, it is important for us to remember that terrorists are not necessarily of Middle Eastern decent and we need to watch out for all kinds of people that are capable of committing violent crimes.
It is a common belief that there is no such thing as absolute safety. However, it is important to understand that how safe we feel determines how we live our lives, which impacts the economy, our social habits, health, and sense of freedom. As a consequence, it is essential to determine how define absolute safety on both the individual and national scales. To determine how people outside of the sites of the September 11th terrorist attack feel, people living in southeast Georgia will be issued surveys concerning their safety will be interviewed. To accomplish this, they will asked to define what they believe absolute safety means for themselves and the country as a whole in addition to what level of safety they feel they are currently living in. I hypothesize that they will define absolute safety for themselves as meaning that no terrorist threats will ever occur and that there is no need for security precautions. I believe they will define absolute safety for the country as meaning that there will be increased security measures at the airports and monitoring of communication in addition to increase in other national defense procedures. Lastly, I believe that many of the southeastern Georgia residents believe that they are not safe despite the presence of these many safety procedures.
The second aim of this project is to determine whether individuals living in southeast Georgia are able to trust various government safety agencies and will be asked to rate their performance. First, they will be asked whether they are completely aware of the functions of the government agencies and then they will be asked how safe they make them feel. I hypothesize that most of the survey’s respondents will have heard of the government agencies that assist with national security and that many of them will believe that they are not doing a good job.
Lastly, the people issued the survey will be asked whether they feel if the security measures that are currently in place are unnecessary or annoying. This is an important question to ask because it measures the balance of safety and intrusion in our lives, which is an important concept to understand in a country that prides itself in Democracy. As such, the participants will be asked about several policies that the government recently enacted to protect the public and the respondents will decide whether they believe these policies to be annoying or unnecessary. I hypothesize that the respondents will think that these policies are unnecessary. Since I hypothesize that people both feel unsafe and are annoyed by certain policies, it may be essential for the United States government to review its current policies and remove the ones that aren’t making people feel safe and are impairing their quality of life in addition to strengthening the policies that work and do make people feel safe.
To determine what the respondents think “absolute security” means to them, they will be asked to define the term using one to two sentences. Then the will be asked to define what “absolute security” means for the country in one to two sentences. Next, they will be asked yes or no questions to determine whether they have heard of the National Security Agency (NSA), the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the Department of Defense (DOD), and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). They will be then asked to rate whether they believe that the agencies are doing their job using a rating scale of one to ten in which one means that the agency is maximally ineffective, a ten means that they are maximally effective, and a score of five means neutral or no opinion. Next, respondents will be asked if they have heard about the NSA’s ability to tap phones and the TSA’s ability to screen passengers using images that look under their clothing or to give a thorough pat down. The respondents will then be asked to determine whether they believe that on a scale of one to ten that this is helping to improve their safety, with a score of one meaning that they believe that this isn’t helping their safety at all and with a score of ten meaning they believe that these plans are maximally effective in helping their safety; a score of five will indicate that the respondent either has no opinion or is neutral about the topic.
Although the respondents will be allowed to freely define what they believe “absolute security” means for both them and the country, the responses will be divided by the researcher based on the responses that most clearly indicate that the respondent believes that absolute security is an ideal that we try to achieve and that absolute security has been achieved by implementing government policies. This will be an “either or” response and no middle group will be allowed during the sorting and analysis of these responses. Responses that fall outside the scope of this “either or” classification will not be considered although responses that include this definition with additional information on the topic will be considered during the analysis separate of the “either or” statistics.
The yes and no questions that ask whether the respondents have heard of government agencies including the National Security Agency (NSA), the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the Department of Defense (DOD), and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) will be followed up with the individual question that ask the respondent to rate whether they are doing their job or not. If the respondent has not heard of the government agency that is being ranked based on performance, their response to the ranking question will not be considered as a part of the analysis because it is impossible to rank a government agency that hasn’t been heard of with conclusive results. Lastly, the respondents will be asked if they have heard about the new NSA and TSA policies. If they have, they will be asked to decide whether these are making them safe or not. The performance of the government agencies in addition to the respondent’s belief as to whether the NSA and TSA policies are effective will be ranked on a scale of one to ten.
The ultimate goal of this survey is to determine whether people in southeastern Georgia believe that government agencies that are involved in national security are doing their job to keep us safe. In addition it will inform us of what people think of what is meant by security and the expectations we have of it. Lastly, it will indicate whether people support the policies that the government has recently issued and indicate whether we believe it makes us feel safe. As a result, two analyses will be conducted on the questions that are ranked from one to ten. Firstly, questions that are answered with a one to four will indicate a lack of support for the agency or policy and questions that are answered with a six to ten will be considered to indicate some level of support for the agency or policy. Next, this will be analyzed on the level of support for the agency or policy; a response of one to two will indicate low support, a response of three to four will indicate a medium low support, a score of five will indicate medium support, a score of six or seven will indicate a medium high level or support, and a result of eight or above will indicate a high level of support.
People will be randomly issued the survey in my neighborhood; it will be delivered to their mailboxes and be asked to return it to my mailbox. This particular method was selected because it is low cost and it more likely to have people return the surveys that contacting random people in southeastern Georgia would. This is also more effective due to the limited time available. Since I don’t expect a very high response level, I will issue 30 surveys in the hope that at least ten surveys will be returned to me. The respondents will be given one week after the initial distribution date to respond and if they don’t after this date they will be considered a non-response. Even if the survey is returned after this date, it will not be included in the analysis. All calculations and charts will be made using Microsoft Excel.
A total of 12 people responded to the survey. 66.6% of the respondents were female (8) and the remaining respondents were male (33.4%, 4). Two of the respondents failed to answer the first question regarding the definition of “absolute safety” in the first part of the survey and were therefore excluded from the analysis. One of these respondents failed to answer both questions in this section and the second only defined what “absolute safety” meant for them personally and not the country. As a consequence, it was concluded that this information would confound the data because the participants failed to understand how to answer the questions and were therefore excluded in an attempt to prevent bias. Eight of the ten respondents included in the analysis reported that they believed that “absolute security” was an ideal not a present concept (80%) whole the remaining two respondents (20%) included in the analysis reported that they believed “absolute security” is a concept that is present in America today as a result of all of the national security acts that the country is passing. Although the results for this section of the questionnaire were coded according to what was specified in the methods section, it is important to look at some of the other information that respondents included in their statements. Firstly, it should be noted that the people who responded to this section of the survey did not respond using the precise wording above. There were many variations of these words that were dichotomized to either agree that “absolute security” exists or that it doesn’t; any indication of agreement or disagreement was coded as such. In addition however, many of the respondents used their second sentence to express their dissatisfaction with the way that people are being treated in the name of security. For example, one female respondent cited that she believes that the options that the TSA provide while flying are unjust; we essentially either have the option to be seen naked or touched inappropriately. She expressed her displeasure at this because since there is no reasonable alternative to flying, we are forced to accept this treatment which we should be protected against. Another male participant noted that he no longer felt comfortable using his phone because it could be tapped by the NSA. Yet others felt that they should not have to go through the same security measures that are suffered by people who live in big cities in the North because they believe that they will never be a target of these types of crimes.
All 12 of the respondents reported that they were aware of the government agencies and all 12 also reported their opinions of their efficacy on a scale of 1 to 10. The average opinion regarding the Department of Defense was 6.83 with a standard deviation of 2.64. On the scale that rates the department as either favorable or unfavorable, 8 respondents viewed the department favorably, one respondent was neutral, and 3 respondents viewed the department unfavorably. On the scale that rates the department as either low support, medium low support, neutral support, medium high support, and high support, one respondent reported low support, 2 respondents reported medium low support, one respondent reported neutral support, one respondent reported medium high support, and seven respondents reported high support.
The average opinion regarding the Central Intelligence Agency was 7.0 with a standard deviation of 2.83. On the scale that rates the department as either favorable or unfavorable, 10 respondents viewed the department favorably and 2 respondents viewed the department unfavorably. On the scale that rates the department as either low support, medium low support, neutral support, medium high support, and high support, two respondents reported low support, one respondent reported medium low support, no respondents reported neutral support, three respondents reported medium high support, and seven respondents reported high support.
The average opinion regarding the National Security Agency was 4.83 with a standard deviation of 1.91. On the scale that rates the department as either favorable or unfavorable, six respondents viewed the department favorably, two were neutral, and four respondents viewed the department unfavorably. On the scale that rates the department as either low support, medium low support, neutral support, medium high support, and high support, one respondent reported low support, five respondents reported medium low support, two respondents reported neutral support, three respondents reported medium high support, and one respondent reported high support.
The average opinion regarding the Transportation Security Administration was 3.75 with a standard deviation of 2.17. On the scale that rates the department as either favorable or unfavorable, two respondents viewed the department favorably, three were neutral, and seven respondents viewed the department unfavorably. On the scale that rates the department as either low support, medium low support, neutral support, medium high support, and high support, four respondents reported low support, three respondents reported medium low support, three respondents reported neutral support, one respondent reported medium high support, and one respondent reported high support.
When asked about the recent policies that the TSA and NSA recently enacted, 10 out of 12 people reported that they had heard about NSA’s policy that phone taps will be allowed for the general public and all 12 respondents heard about the TSA’s new screening policies. The average opinion regarding the Transportation Security Administration’s screening policy was 5.50 with a standard deviation of 2.57. On the scale that rates the department as either favorable or unfavorable, seven respondents viewed the department favorably, two were neutral, and three respondents viewed the department unfavorably. On the scale that rates the department as either low support, medium low support, neutral support, medium high support, and high support, three respondents reported low support, no respondents reported medium low support, two respondents reported neutral support, five respondents reported medium high support, and two respondents reported high support.
The average opinion regarding the National Security Agency’s phone tapping policy was 5.20 with a standard deviation of 2.82. On the scale that rates the department as either favorable or unfavorable, four respondents viewed the department favorably, none were neutral, and six respondents viewed the department unfavorably. On the scale that rates the department as either low support, medium low support, neutral support, medium high support, and high support, two respondents reported low support, four respondents reported medium low support, no respondents reported neutral support, one respondent reported medium high support, and three respondents reported high support.
It is clear that out of all of the agencies critiques by the respondents, the ones that are rated the best are the Department of Defense and Central Intelligence Agency. It is likely that people report these departments more favorably because they are less likely to receive bad press that other governmental agencies. Major reasons why people might report that they do not believe that these departments are doing a good job is because we don’t frequently hear about them in the news (Kopczynski, 2013). In addition, people have a unique respect for both the Department of Defense and Central Intelligence Agency because average people don’t typically interact with their officers or workers. We usually have the impression that they are doing a good job protecting us because we don’t hear anything to the contrary and understand that they are working hard despite their lack of presence in the news. Since many defense functions that the Department of Defense and Central Intelligence Agency are affiliated with are government secrets, we have a lesser ability to criticize their actions because we don’t really know what is going on with these government workers.
One the other hand, the National Security Agency and the Transportation Security Administration performed poorly according to respondents. Due to the annoyances that we continually experience in the airport of the TSA security measures including scans, pat downs, and searches of our luggage that delay our ability to enter the airport and sometimes cause us to miss flights, we generally dislike the agency and its workers. Furthermore, a recent report on ABC News demonstrated that many TSA workers cannot be trusted. The news team performed an experiment in which they left their iPads with tracking capabilities in their airport to determine what actually happens to missing items in the airport. They found that in many cases, the TSA employees would take expensive items like the iPad home with them rather than attempting to find their owner or bringing them to the lost in found. Even when many TSA employees were caught in the act, they refused to admit they possessed the stolen iPad. After several return visits letting the TSA employee know that their “lost iPad app” showed the iPad at the TSA employee’s address, the employee continued to refuse its presence. The news team then set off their iPad’s alarm remotely, which in fact indicated it was in the employee’s house. This case demonstrates that people have reason to be dissatisfied with TSA; not only are their government policies interfering with our lives, many of the employees are dishonest and steal from us.
The National Security Agency likely performed poorly in this experiment because it has recently been in the news. Many people are concerned that the NSA will tap their phones and that it is a violation of their privacy. Even though the NSA promises that information gathered by the phone taps can’t be used without a warrant, it still allows them access to information without a warrant so it wouldn’t be difficult to obtain one using this evidence. The NSA also reports that it will only use information to report crimes that threaten national security, however other people believe the information will be used to go against our basic rights of speech. As a consequence, the people who answered this survey believe that the NSA isn’t really doing its job. While national security is important, it is possible that these phone tapping tasks may detract from aspects of national security that are really important. Since many phones exist in the United States, it would take a large amount of effort to actually use this information to catch criminals. As a consequence, it would be better to stop this act in order to give American citizens their rights back and to allow the agency to focus on other aspects of security that would more directly help the country. Otherwise, American citizens are wasting their tax money on a government program that isn’t really helping them feel safe.
Overall, southeastern Georgians don’t feel that the new NSA phone tapping policy and that the TSA airport screenings are making them safe. It is therefore important for the government to decide whether it is really worthwhile to keep these in place. It would be useful for the public if the government could provide statistics showing that national security has been enhanced by these two policies; without this kind of evidence, we cannot possibly believe that they are effective. Furthermore, these reports should be done according to geographic region. Certain areas with smaller populations are less concerned with terrorist threats and are rightfully so. People who live in suburban and rural areas that aren’t typically targeted by terrorists should have to live in fear like people who live in urban areas do. Once the safety and terrorism analysis is conducted by the government, it should remove certain safety policies from some areas and relocate them into areas where it is more needed. For example, TSA agents located in suburban southeast Georgia airports should be relocated to Atlanta because if any terrorist attacks were to occur in the state, it would likely be there where the population is dense. It is essential for the government to find ways to fix this problem that people don’t feel safe despite the increased security; if this security providence a hindrance to our needs and prevents us from being truly Democratic, it should be removed. However, it is necessary for the government to thoroughly analyze the advantages and disadvantages of these policies first.
Although this was a pilot study regarding the relationship between national security, terrorism, and concept of safety that people living in northeastern Georgia have, it would be useful to expand the study. Firstly, it would be better to use a more extensive and diverse population for the study. Only people in my neighborhood were issued the survey because it was easiest for me issue the survey and have them return it to me using this method. A study with more funding however would be able to reach a broader audience and therefore have a greater number of responses. In an ideal situation, a phone book could be used to randomly select 50 people from each zip code in southeast Georgia. The survey would then be mailed to them including specific instructions on how to return it to the sender and the benefits of participating in the study. If enough funding is provided for the study, they could receive a gift card as incentive for completing the survey which would significantly improve the response rate. If the incentive is provided, it is likely that at least half of the population issued the survey will respond to it which is a good response rate. Hopefully, this will lead to a total response of 500 people which would allow more question to be asked and more accurate information to be received on this topic.
If more people are issued surveys, this study could look into more about the population who responded to them. Demographics including gender, race, age, and income can be included to determine which specific groups of people hold what opinions about government agencies, their policies, and their overall concept of safety. Furthermore, a larger scale study would allow more questions to be asked on the actual topic of safety. It would be useful to work with psychologists who could help develop questions that would identify feelings of safety in survey form that are outside the scope of sociology. Since safety is an abstract term that is highly dependent on the individual, psychology could help define this more rigidly. This would also get rid of the need to ask the respondents for their definitions of “absolute safety” according to their personal and national definitions. Although I believe that the coding system was an effective way of studying this relationship for this particular sample group, doing so may be difficult for a larger sample size. A larger group would have more categories that their definitions could fit into which would make this kind of question on the survey far more difficult to analyze.
A larger scale survey would allow for a greater degree of statistical analysis as well. Due to the low response rate for this survey (12 out of 30), it would not have been meaningful to compare groups on the basis of demographics. In fact, no demographics were collected although gender was assigned to the respondents based on their names. It would have been interesting to conduct a t-test to determine whether there was a difference of opinions between the two genders about the various government agencies and their sense of safety due to their policies, however these results wouldn’t have been meaningful due to an uneven number of male and female respondents and a small group response overall. Therefore, this type of study should be considered in the future.
The ultimate goal of this type of survey would be to gain a greater understanding of the safety views of the people living in southeastern Georgia. However, this information could be easily applied to people living in geographic areas with similar demographics. It is also possible that the information determined in this study could be applied to people who live far from the cities that were directly impacted by the September 11th terrorist attacks and other recent terrorist acts like the bombing of the Boston Marathon. To determine whether this is true, it would be useful to conduct brief surveys of people living in various geographical regions of the United States and then making this comparison.
As the study is conducted however, it only reflects the opinions of the people in my neighborhood which could potentially be applied to people in the southeastern Georgia area overall which means that it only has internal validity at the moment. However to expand the study, external validity must be proved; conducting the aforementioned studies to accomplish this would be necessary in doing so. Information such as demographics and distance from large cities in which terrorist attacks have occurred in the past would be useful markers in indicating similarity between areas.
Similar questions that may be useful to expand this study is the relationship between people’s religion and their likelihood of committing terrorist attacks. From a sociological perspective, it is important to understand a lot of issues that we have with security are self-made. For example, the average person is more likely to believe that a dark-skinned bearded man is a terrorist in the United States even though a lot of the more recent terrorist attacks have been by Caucasian men. It is important to understand the root of this discrimination and dispel it so that people will have a clearer idea of their security situation. This is related to this study because it will allow government agencies that many people have low opinions of such as the NSA and TSA to understand that there is actually little connection between race and terrorist and it is inaccurate to say that one race or religion commits terrorist acts more frequently than the others (Krattenmaker, 2012). Unfortunately, terrorism is a universal thing and we must treat it as such. People of all genders, races, and religious should be searched at the airport equally.
Kopczynski P. (2013). NSA collection of US phone records violates constitutional rights, ACLU says in court. Reuters. Retrieved from http://rt.com/usa/nsa-bulk-colleciton-court-case-179/
Krattenmaker T. (2012). Column: Use ‘terrorist’ label carefully. USA Today. Retrieved from http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/opinion/forum/story/2012-06-10/terrorism-white-race-religion-muslim/55503084/1
Lederman G. (2010). National Security Reform for the Twenty-First Century: A New National Security Act and Reflections on Legislation’s Role in Organizational Change. Journal of National Security Law & Policy, Vol. 3:363.
Ripsman, Norrin M., and T. V. Paul. (2010). Globalization and the National Security State. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
TSA. (2013). TSA Pre-Expedited Screening. Retrieved from http://www.tsa.gov/tsa-precheck/tsa-precheck-expedited-screening
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