When I started at the Naval Academy in 1998, I never expected I’d be in a war. Even after the attacks twelve years ago, I still never thought I would be a “boot on the ground.” When I joined the submarine service and spent a long year studying the operations of nuclear reactors, I still never saw myself carrying a M4 in Afghanistan. But in 2011, that is exactly where I found myself.
I have since resigned my commission and I’m a proud veteran. I still struggle with a lack of identity after leaving the service and during a fit of nostalgia, I re-read my Naval Academy application essay. The tone is of a naive seventeen year old, but there is a strong sense of wanting to serve my country back then.
Which, I finally realized, is why the NSA surveillance bothers me. While the United States has its issues, I valued the ideals and freedom enough that I was willing to fight, as a submarine sailor, in Afghanistan, to protect them. So when I hear that the NSA has betrayed the public trust by unconstitutionally spying on Americans, it undermines the very principles I swore to protect.
For me, it’s all about consent. I do not give my consent for the NSA to search or seize my data. I do not give my consent for the NSA to collect the metadata of every phone call I’ve ever made. It’s not a question of whether I have anything to hide, but a matter of unwarranted intrusion and a right to privacy.