"The Rhetoric of Surveillance in Post-Snowden Background Investigation Policy Reform" Sarah Young PhD Defense

Committee chair: Peter Goggin; members: Shirley Rose and Greg Wise.  ::  ABSTRACT: In June 2013, United States (US) government contractor Edward Snowden arranged for journalists at The Guardian to release classified information detailing US government surveillance programs. While this release caused the public to decry the scope and privacy concerns of these surveillance systems, Snowden's actions also caused the US Congress to critique how Snowden got a security clearance allowing him access to sensitive information in the first place. Using Snowden's actions as a kairotic moment, this study examined congressional policy documents through a qualitative content analysis to identify what Congress suggested could "fix" in the background investigation (BI) process. The study then looked at the same documents to problematize these "solutions" through the terministic screen of surveillance studies.

By doing this interdisciplinary rhetorical analysis, the study showed that while Congress encouraged more oversight, standardization, and monitoring for selected steps of the BI process, these suggestions are not neutral solutions without larger implications; they are value-laden choices which have consequences for matters of both national security and social justice. Further, this study illustrates the value of incorporating surveillance as framework in rhetoric, composition, and professional communication research.

Sheila Luna
Friday, Sep. 16, 2016, 10 a.m.
Language and Literature (LL)
Tempe campus

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