MANCHESTER — Political analyst George Stephanopoulos says the controversy around the National Security Agency's widespread surveillance illustrates why the First Amendment has endured as one of the most important and relevant elements of the Constitution for more than 220 years.
Revelations about the NSA gathering data from phone and Internet have piqued public interest and opened a new dialogue about the right to privacy and national security.
"That's what I think is one of the healthy things that we've seen spring out of it — a real debate over how far the First Amendment should extend," Stephanopoulos told the New Hampshire Union Leader in an interview Tuesday. "What does privacy mean in a modern digital age? Where do you draw the line between making sure the government does everything it can to keep us safe and preventing it from going so far that we may have a kind of security but our freedom, our autonomy, our sense of privacy is so restricted that the price is too high?"
Stephanopoulos was the keynote speaker at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications First Amendment Award banquet Tuesday.
Stephanopoulos, who hosts the ABC political program "This Week" and is a co-host on the network's "Good Morning America," said in an interview before the banquet that current events in Washington make the First Amendment a very timely topic.
"The First Amendment, they say, is first for a reason. Everything flows from that," Stephanopoulos said. "We know that societies that respect freedom of the press, respect freedom of speech, do better across the board. They're safer. They're more secure. Their citizens are more engaged. They even tend to go to war less often. So I think it's something we have to preserve."
An adviser to former President Bill Clinton, Stephanopoulos said his years in the White House also gave him an appreciation for what it takes to keep the nation safe."Getting that balance right I think is one of the crucial jobs of policy makers, the press and the public," he said. "These revelations have sparked a healthy debate and caused people really to start to struggle with these questions. And you hope that leads to the kind of commonsense reforms that strike the appropriate balance."