Welcome Heidi Boghosian (National Lawyers Guild) (Twitter), and Host Mike German (ACLU) (discusses the NSA)

Spying on Democracy: Government Surveillance, Corporate Power and Public Resistance

Heidi Boghosian’s Spying on Democracy is the answer to the question, ‘if you’re not doing anything wrong, why should you care if someone’s watching you?’ It’s chock full of stories about how innocent people’s lives were turned upside-down by public and private sector surveillance programs. But more importantly, it shows how this unrestrained spying is inevitably used to suppress the most essential tools of democracy: the press, political activists, civil rights advocates and conscientious insiders who blow the whistle on corporate malfeasance and government abuse.

Government spying is a hot topic in the wake of former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing disclosures, which are more startling with each new revelation (the latest from the Washington Post here), but Heidi makes clear the NSA isn’t the only culprit. The FBI partners with the NSA on its domestic programs, but also has its own long and recent history of spying on protest groups, political opponents, whistleblowers and reporters. And the Department of Homeland Security and State and Local police do their own spying.

These are issues the National Lawyers Guild, where Heidi serves as director, covers on a regular basis (as does the ACLU). Spying on Democracy covers the history of government spying and provides contemporary accounts of how police powers, aided by new technology, are once again being used to suppress First Amendment activity.

But Heidi’s book fills out a less discussed aspect of the surveillance state: corporations that increasingly spy on us (and our children) during the normal course of business in an increasingly wired world. Much of this data collection is just a product of how business is transacted in an electronic environment, but once collected the data becomes a valuable commodity. Indeed, spying has become a business model in itself, in a variety of ways:

-for data aggregators whose sole purpose is to collect and sell data, whether to other businesses for marketing purposes or to the government;

-for government contractors who work on behalf of federal, state and local law enforcement and intelligence agencies in the lucrative business of surveillance outsourcing; and finally,

-for private investigative agencies who spy for hire on behalf of private entities, such as major corporations who want to get the edge over competitors, labor, and citizens’ groups that protest their products or activities.

Rather than regulating these private spying outfits, the government leverages them, just as corporations leverage the government’s police power by portraying protests against their business practices as threats to security. The best example documented in Heidi’s book is the way private companies pressured the FBI into declaring environmental activists the number one domestic terror threat (despite the fact they’ve killed no one), and successfully lobbied Congress into passing the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act.

Heidi’s book will be a handy resource to people who have just recently become concerned about domestic spying in the wake of Snowden’s revelations, and for policy makers trying to understand the scope of the problem to begin charting a path for reform.


[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]

110 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Heidi Boghosian, Spying on Democracy: Government Surveillance, Corporate Power and Public Resistance”

BevW November 9th, 2013 at 2:48 pm

Heidi, Welcome to the Lake.

Mike, Welcome back to the Lake, thank you for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

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Heidi Boghosian November 9th, 2013 at 2:56 pm
In response to BevW @ 1

Greetings! I’m so glad to be here with all of you.

dakine01 November 9th, 2013 at 3:00 pm

Good afternoon Heidi and welcome to Firedoglake this afternoon. Mike, welcome back.

Heidi, I have not had an opportunity to read your book but would like to add my 2¢ to things. I am fairly open about my life in the online world but the key is that it is my choice what information about myself that I divulge (although I have to laugh sometimes at the ads that display, obviously based on what searches I have made)

How do we make the Government AND the businesses understand that there are limits that need to be observed? (one of my workarounds for when my life turns around will be to make a point of NOT shopping with businesses that market to me via data mining my searches)

Mike German November 9th, 2013 at 3:01 pm

Thanks Bev, and hello Heidi!

Heidi, as you document in the book, pervasive surveillance in today’s society is nothing new, though many (including many in Congress) are just seeming to wake up to the issue since the Snowden leaks this summer. Many of the abuses you write about, particularly the illegal targeting of protesters, have been well documented over the last dozen years, but those stories didn’t spark the reform efforts that are now underway. What do you think the difference is? Is the proof that the FBI and NSA really are collecting every Americans’ phone records made people realize that unregulated spying really will affect them made a difference?

Heidi Boghosian November 9th, 2013 at 3:05 pm
In response to Mike German @ 4

It seems that protest in general has been given a bad name in the mainstream media and I think that many Americans do not necessarily have a problem with targeting of protesters, especially in the post-9/11 climate. The recent revelations differ in their scope–most Americans have access to the Internet or use an IPhone or other personal device and that seems to be igniting more widespread concern.

Mike German November 9th, 2013 at 3:07 pm

Your book went to press before the Snowden leaks, so I thought I’d ask what your impression of the new revelations?

Heidi Boghosian November 9th, 2013 at 3:08 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 3

We can make businesses understand that there are limits to what is being observed, and what information is gathered, by letting our service providers know that we will take our business elsewhere, and that we do not appreciate their cooperating with government intelligence agencies. Especially with online forums we have many ways to express our displeasure with the private sectors’ policies.

Elliott November 9th, 2013 at 3:08 pm

Welcome to the Lake, can we expect any relief from Congress?

bigbrother November 9th, 2013 at 3:11 pm

Hi Heidi, Mike and Bev Just watched Heidi on Bill Moyers for a good background.
I have to say that Diane Feinstein cannot be include in Patriots that protect our privacy as she has assisted NSA, FBI and CIA in intruding on our privacy. Funny as you say the Corporate sector can give the USG all they need to know so why all the extra surveillance? Money for consultants?

Heidi Boghosian November 9th, 2013 at 3:12 pm
In response to Mike German @ 6

The revelations are astonishing in their scope! Every day the newspapers and online news forums are full of new developments about ways that businesses and government entities are conducting surveillance. A local activist in Washington state asked for documents through Freedom of Information Act requests and by mistake was given information about Project Hemisphere which was then covered by the New York Times. Hemisphere used DEA administrative subpoenas, and pays AT&T staff, to partner with the DEA and access AT&T records dating back 26 years.

Heidi Boghosian November 9th, 2013 at 3:14 pm
In response to Elliott @ 8

I believe that many members of Congress are ashamed–deservedly–either at what they didn’t know (and should have asked more about), or at what they knew and didn’t protest. It seems that a few scrupulous members of Congress are daring to speak out and demand inquiries. Perhaps we will have the modern-day equivalent of the Church Committee hearings that we had after COINTELPRO was made public.

Heidi Boghosian November 9th, 2013 at 3:16 pm
In response to bigbrother @ 9

The revolving door between the Pentagon and the USG is well-documented. Facebook’s former security chief, for example, Max Kelly,left Facebook in 2010 for a job at the NSA in 2010. According to the New York Times, federal government intelligence agencies recruit technology experts, invest in Silicon Valley startups and award classified contracts to avail themselves of the latest software technology to handle large volumes of data.

Mike German November 9th, 2013 at 3:16 pm

And of course one of the more concerning of the Hemisphere slides was the explicit instruction to mask the source of the evidence through “parallel construction.” This is an example of where secret spying program actually do damage to the criminal justice system. How can defense attorneys fight back when the government agents and prosecutors are complicit in this fraud against the court.

bigbrother November 9th, 2013 at 3:17 pm

The Fourth Estate, our news/opinion reporting, which makes Democracy possible, has been muzzled by fear. Especially harsh the Obama administration has come down with charges bordering treason. The 80 year old National Lawyers Guild have any position on that constitutional travesty. Mike of ACLU too!

Mike German November 9th, 2013 at 3:18 pm

Two of the primary reforms after the Church Committee, the FISA Court and the Intelligence Committees in Congress clearly failed to protect the public interest and instead seem to have been captured by the intelligence community. How can we set up a more effective method of intelligence oversight?

eCAHNomics November 9th, 2013 at 3:19 pm

What is something new learned from recent leaks (besides alphabet soup of names and PP snazzy slides) that wasn’t already revealed by authors such as Bamford, or suspected. What is its significance?

Will anyone get fired over NSA surveillance state?

Heidi Boghosian November 9th, 2013 at 3:19 pm
In response to Mike German @ 14

Agree about the damage to the justice system. And the government granted immunity from lawsuits to telecommunications providers after news broke of the warrantless wiretapping program during the George W. Bush administration. This is further evidence of the close partnership and cooperation between the public and private sectors.

Heidi Boghosian November 9th, 2013 at 3:21 pm
In response to bigbrother @ 15

The National Lawyers Guild finds the Obama administration’s punitive measures taken against journalists (and also “information activists” such as Jeremy Hammond and Barrett Brown) inconsistent with long-held notions of a democracy. We’ve been actively involved in both of those cases.

Mike German November 9th, 2013 at 3:22 pm
In response to bigbrother @ 15

The ACLU has been quite outspoken in criticizing this clear threat to the First Amendment. See here: https://www.aclu.org/secure/tell-obama-protect-reporters

OldFatGuy November 9th, 2013 at 3:23 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 17

Will anyone get fired over NSA surveillance state?

Edward Snowden’s immediate supervisor????

bigbrother November 9th, 2013 at 3:24 pm

Can you describe the purpose and scope of the government Fusion center created in 2004 and the Hubs at telecoms that have download rooms for NSA that were created by Clinton in 1995. The hubs are where domestic downloads occur, cell, email, phone and other electronic communication.

Heidi Boghosian November 9th, 2013 at 3:25 pm
In response to Mike German @ 16

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has some excellent suggestions of what we can do to fight back and to establish more effective methods of intelligence oversight. Quite simply, we must stop the bulk collection of communications and records and as the EFF says, stop open access to Internet datastreams and impose serious consequences for any violations. We need to bring back the requirement that there exist probable cause to collect Americans’ communications or records, and we should purge all Americans’ data from NSA databases.

We need an open an complete accounting of all covert spying programs currently in existence, and we should fight against mandating engineers from creating “backdoor” ports of entry into communications software.

PeasantParty November 9th, 2013 at 3:27 pm


Thank you for sharing and promoting here at the Book Salon. I am interested in how you approached getting the info for your book, and if you experienced push back from members of Congress. Please share.

Heidi Boghosian November 9th, 2013 at 3:27 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 17

I cannot imagine that anyone will get fired, including Edward Snowden’s immediate supervisor. But hopefully awareness of how corporations are conducting surveillance and handling/storing our data will result in reforms.

bigbrother November 9th, 2013 at 3:27 pm
In response to Mike German @ 14

Rule of Law history rule of power inserted in place of constitutional law.

eCAHNomics November 9th, 2013 at 3:28 pm
In response to OldFatGuy @ 21

No. Snowden’s supervisor was the mole. Moles protect dupes. Dupes are predesignated to be scapegoats. Without them, op can’t be carried out by technicians because real perps must be protected.

Mike German November 9th, 2013 at 3:29 pm
In response to bigbrother @ 22

We’ve written quite a bit about fusion centers. https://www.aclu.org/spy-files/more-about-fusion-centers

eCAHNomics November 9th, 2013 at 3:30 pm

How do “reforms” get thru congress, who get “tipped” from communications corps that amount to less than cigar pocket change for execs of those corps?

Heidi Boghosian November 9th, 2013 at 3:31 pm
In response to bigbrother @ 22

Fusion centers were created to streamline and coordinate intelligence between several levels of law enforcement and private businesses. They are secret, and they are unregulated. Military units, federal and local law enforcement and private security companies work alongside to collect personal data on Americans.They mind public databases and other sources to gather information about us. They have been criticized by the Senate for waste. In a two-year investigation the intelligence was deemed of “uneven quality…oftentimes shoddy, rarely timely,” and at a cost of between $289 million and $1.4 billion from 2003 to 2012!

Mike German November 9th, 2013 at 3:32 pm

There is a pervasive belief that because the younger Americans are avid users of social media they don’t care about privacy (the ACLU’s Jay Stanley tackled the issue here: https://www.aclu.org/blog/technology-and-liberty/do-young-people-care-about-privacy ). What do you think, Heidi? How do we empower the next generation to assert their rights?

OldFatGuy November 9th, 2013 at 3:33 pm

We need to bring back the requirement that there exist probable cause to collect Americans’ communications or records, and we should purge all Americans’ data from NSA databases.

What about the data in corporate databases? It seems to me in a world where the NSA, FBI, etc. can’t store such data, they will simply partner with corporations to get what they want/need.

Some of this seems a bit like putting toothpaste back in the tube but we sure do need to do something because they (government/corporations) are out of control in terms of how much data they are collecting, sorting, analyzing, and storing.

Heidi Boghosian November 9th, 2013 at 3:33 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 24

I began writing the book mostly intending to focus on the targeting of protesters, given the work I’ve done at the NLG over the past several years. As I was writing, I realized how I could segment the book, in chapters, to cover different elements of society–from children, to journalists, to lawyers. I began to realize the scope of surveillance in many different forms.

No, I’ve had no pushback from members of Congress. One personal with a military background called the book liberal-biased in nature.

Heidi Boghosian November 9th, 2013 at 3:35 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 29

Hopefully enough people will feel sufficiently intruded upon that we may see the corporate-owned media having no choice but to begin to report on a mass sense of outrage.

PeasantParty November 9th, 2013 at 3:37 pm

Ha! Liberal in nature.

There is no ideology to mass spying on innocent citizens, unless you wish to call it Stalinism.

Do you have any idea why they intend to keep all the communications on innocent people?

spocko November 9th, 2013 at 3:38 pm

Hi. Tell me more about the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act.
Who wanted it? How much did they pay to get it and is there anything we can do about it?

Mike German November 9th, 2013 at 3:40 pm

And I think that now that Americans can see that the concerns about pervasive spying that the NLG and ACLU have long complained about are real, thanks to Edward Snowden, there is now sufficient public pressure for reform. There are more than 25 bills introduced in Congress in response to the Snowden leaks. As new info keeps coming out the pressure will mount. We just need to make sure we keep the pressure on our elected representatives to see these reforms through.

Heidi Boghosian November 9th, 2013 at 3:40 pm
In response to Mike German @ 31

In terms of the claim that younger people don’t care about privacy, and how we empower the next generation to assert their rights–I like Jay Stanley’s piece. He believes that they DO care about privacy, and I agree. It’s important to begin by exposing how corporations invest so much money into cultivating young persons to be loyal consumers in exchange for getting personal information in return, be it through online transactions or at amusement parks or other venues. The education process has begun in terms of exposing how business touts “convenience” in exchange for collecting and storing personal data, and as we continue to see the extent of this problem I think that parents, teenagers, and educators will start talking more broadly about the repercussions, about privacy, and about making choices about what to disclose and when to be wary about how our information is being used.

Mike German November 9th, 2013 at 3:43 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 35

I was once at a briefing with FBI leaders after the first Inspector General report came out showing FBI abuse of National Security Letters. The report said the NSLs were used mostly to rule out an individual’s involvement in terrorism. I asked why they would keep information that had already shown the person was innocent, they looked at me like I was crazy and said “what if we might need it later?” That’s the standard that substitutes for the 4th Amendment today.

Heidi Boghosian November 9th, 2013 at 3:45 pm
In response to spocko @ 36

The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act was drafted by ALEC (the well-funded conservative lobbying group–American Legislative Exchange Council) in association with the US Sportsmen’s Alliance. AETA defines “terrorism” very broadly; it can be read to encompass peaceful civil disobedience so that if there is a boycott of a puppy mill, and the puppy mill loses profits, individuals involved in the boycott can be prosecuted. It essentially protects corporations at the expense of political dissent, handing out very harsh punishment for expressing views that can harm profits. The NLG and many other groups opposed AETA on several grounds, but it passed with very little public comment or scrutiny. Several states have similar legislation, all enacted after 9/11.

bigbrother November 9th, 2013 at 3:46 pm

Senator McCain was on the communications committee which gave huge airwaves to conservative corporation who support the surveillance state approach to national security. Since everything is classified and secret the message to the public is it is OK, but we cannot discuss it as it is all SECRET. Is there a way to change that so Americans can be included and be an informed electorate?

Heidi Boghosian November 9th, 2013 at 3:47 pm
In response to Mike German @ 39

And recall that originally National Security Letters came with a gag order, so that individuals who received them were not allowed to talk about them or disclose the fact that they received them.

Mike, hasn’t that changed? Nicholas Merrill received one and challenged it.

Mike German November 9th, 2013 at 3:48 pm

And Ag Gag laws are also threatening First Amendment principles: https://www.aclu.org/blog/free-speech/ag-gag-not-just-about-animal-welfare

CTuttle November 9th, 2013 at 3:49 pm

Aloha, Heidi and Mike…!

One thing most people don’t really realize is that Narus has been spying on us for well over a decade now, and, that the GoI has been syphoning off all that data, ever since they were first installed in San Francisco and elsewhere…!

One of Snowden’s revelations was that in fact, the NSA does send the GoI ‘raw data’…! Any thoughts…?

Heidi Boghosian November 9th, 2013 at 3:52 pm
In response to bigbrother @ 41

In fact, the secrecy component is in large part why we’ve gotten to this advanced surveillance state. Obama has classified so many documents and raised the punishment for leaks (although the government can share “secrets” for things like the filming of Zero Dark Thirty–revealing a hypocrisy in how information is labeled and how it is revealed and for what purposes). Again, the more “leaks” that come out, and the more brave individuals who step forth to expose government and corporate malfeasance, hopefully we will start to see a sea change in how our elected officials respond to claims that we need to amass vast information and cede civil liberties to wage the perpetual “war on terror”.

Mike German November 9th, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Yes, we successfully challenged the automatic gag orders that came with NSLs, and Nick Merrill and the Connecticut librarians were extremely brave to fight back against this enforced silence. The statute was modified to require the FBI to make specific statements justifying the need for gags on NSLs but still includes them in the vast majority of cases. EFF recently won another challenge at the district court level: https://www.eff.org/press/releases/national-security-letters-are-unconstitutional-federal-judge-rules

PeasantParty November 9th, 2013 at 3:56 pm
In response to Mike German @ 39

Thanks. I am thinking they are using the info against us. Things like health/Insurance, and any other consumer purchases, plus utilities and the like.

bigbrother November 9th, 2013 at 3:58 pm

Lavabit was shutdown this summer with gag after he refused to give up his clients. The internet business is so threatened that Brazil is considering their own web. Many companies transfer business off shore to protect their user base. Jail time for offenders. Snowden said 1984 was mild by comparison.
The Police forces we pay to protect us seem to be turning on us with militarization. Oakland riots for one. Caging protestors in NYC for 2 and on and on.

Heidi Boghosian November 9th, 2013 at 3:58 pm

I know that Narus’s system, installed, as you note, in San Francisco resulted in “Hepting v AT&T,” the class action lawsuit by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. A few other countries are Narus customers and can track content from Internet and cell phone users as the content passes through routers.

spocko November 9th, 2013 at 4:00 pm

Fascinating. And I’m so glad you are up on that. I’ll be sure to contact you when Big Chicken comes after me. And I’m quite serious.
I and some writer friends are looking into the recent salmonella heidelberg outbreak that did NOT lead to a recall of contaminated chicken. (One out of ever 4 chickens coming out of the facility was contaminated with the antibiotic resistant strain of Salmonella called Heidelberg)

We are trying to get documents that show the public that both Foster Farms and their distributors have stepping over the line when it comes to public health. I’m concerned that by revealing this information I will get sued under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act or some food disparagement law or some AG Gag law.
Also any actions that I might take in protest will lead to some kind of overreaction (I’m of course thinking about the girl who filmed a downed cow from the road and was arrested just for filming a slaughter house)

Heidi Boghosian November 9th, 2013 at 4:01 pm
In response to bigbrother @ 48

After the Cold War, the military establishment in this country saw a steady decline in spending. With the events of 9/11, the US was able to re-coalesce and reinvigorate military spending. Without a doubt–military equipment was repurposed for civilian use. Why else would the wealthy drone lobby pressure Congress to allow drones over civilian airspace in the next few years? Texas Instruments and other companies began developing surveillance equipment and marketing it to the government.

Heidi Boghosian November 9th, 2013 at 4:04 pm
In response to spocko @ 50

If you haven’t checked out Will Potter’s website Greenisthenewred.com, you must! He reports regularly on AG Gag laws. Will has also done many FOIA requests and is a wonderful resource. (We’re actually speaking together in DC on Nov. 21 at Busboys and Poets).

Mike German November 9th, 2013 at 4:05 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 47

It is troubling that the FBI is partnering with private companies so extensively. The FBI co-located agents with telephone company subpoena compliance reps, but the Inspector General found this arrangement led to a breakdown in the process, to where the FBI were using post-it notes and peeks over the shoulder instead of subpoenas and NSLs. Obviously the FBI partners with insurance companies, financial institutions and even universities, all with the idea that these are sources of data for their data mining programs. http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/counterintelligence/strategic-partnerships

Mike German November 9th, 2013 at 4:07 pm
In response to CTuttle @ 44

The information sharing agreements with foreign governments are troubling because the other governments aren’t limited to protect US persons. Because all of this sharing is happening in secret it is difficult to believe there is effective oversight to prevent abuse.

Heidi Boghosian November 9th, 2013 at 4:08 pm
In response to Mike German @ 53

And Mike, wouldn’t you say that a large part of the problem is the watering down of the Attorney General guidelines. Now, instead of needing probable cause that criminal activity is afoot before opening an investigation, agents need only claim a good faith belief that an investigation should open? There is too much discretion afforded individual agents. If they had to adhere to a standard of probable cause, perhaps the gathering of information from insurance companies, financial and educational institutions, wouldn’t be as widespread?

Mike German November 9th, 2013 at 4:09 pm

Heidi, your book calls the Occupy movement the “largest challenge to authority in this country since the Vietnam War protests.” In what ways do you believe spying and other abusive police tactics undermined that movement?

PeasantParty November 9th, 2013 at 4:09 pm
In response to spocko @ 50


This wouldn’t happen to be the Koch Chicken now in store freezers would it?

spocko November 9th, 2013 at 4:09 pm

Oh good Excellent. Thanks I will check him out. I’m working with some of the people at Food Safety News on the details.
I’m also trying to see where California Law conflicts with Federal law. There is a law in California about knowingly contaminating food (designed to focus on people spitting on food or terrorists). I’m wondering how a corporate person gets a pass for knowingly contaminating food, while an individual does not.

CTuttle November 9th, 2013 at 4:11 pm
In response to Mike German @ 54

Ironically, Israel is exempted from the ‘filtering’ that occurs with the Five Eyes…!

Mike German November 9th, 2013 at 4:13 pm

Exactly. Once the guidelines were revised to lower the evidentiary levels required to collect information and conduct investigations, agents could target people for improper reasons based on bias, or simply error. We recently published a comprehensive report on the FBI: https://www.aclu.org/unleashed-and-unaccountable
For an example of how a simple error can lead to years of investigation, see this FOIA our Northern California affiliate recently obtained on behalf of Antiwar.com: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/06/fbi-monitored-anti-war-website-in-error-documents

PeasantParty November 9th, 2013 at 4:14 pm



I discovered a link to the Contractors and Yellow Pages about two years ago. Poppy Bush’s Carlyle group bought it and now we know why since they also bought up Booz-Allen.

I think the AG watering down laws to fit whatever puzzle they wish to fix at the moment is pure TYRANNY! Congress makes the Laws, not the AG or some fluffer Nutter attorney writing OLC’s.

CTuttle November 9th, 2013 at 4:15 pm
In response to Mike German @ 56

Hey now, Mike, Occupy is most certainly alive and well, I’m an active participant in my local Occupy…! ;-)

Heidi Boghosian November 9th, 2013 at 4:15 pm
In response to Mike German @ 56

From the very beginning of the Occupy movement in this country, as early as August 2011, the FBI and federal authorities met with the NY Stock Exchange and deployed counterterrorism forces against OWS. And they did this even while admitting in writing that Occupy organizers explicitly called for peaceful protest.

There was extensive coordination between the FBI, the Dept of Homeland Security, and corporations. Many practices involved overly aggressive tactics designed to shut down the Occupy movement, including using agents provocateurs, conducting midnight raids on encampments in NYC during which journalists were kept at a two-block distance and credentialed City Council members were kept from observing.Journalists were arrested. Corporations were warned about “civil unrest” and were told that “even seemingly peaceful rallies can spur violent activity.”

There is no doubt that the government saw the Occupy movement as a threat that needed to be silenced.

PeasantParty November 9th, 2013 at 4:17 pm
In response to CTuttle @ 59


I don’t even think that most Americans know that all their communications are being sent directly to Israel.

Mike German November 9th, 2013 at 4:17 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 61

Yes, this is the problem of “secret law” that Sen. Ron Wyden keeps talking about, where the Justice Department or FISA Court secretly re-interprets the law in a way no objective reading of the statute could allow.

BevW November 9th, 2013 at 4:19 pm
In response to Mike German @ 65

Speaking of Sen. Wyden.
Mike, Heidi, who are you watching as the next individual that will be the face of the surveillance push back? Elizabeth Warren was the focus for the economy and consumers and is now in the Senate pushing back.

spocko November 9th, 2013 at 4:20 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 57

The USDA issued a “Warning Letter” about Foster Farms Chickens (which includes all Safeway fresh raw chicken. Foster Farms is the provider for Safeway’s private label)
They say that the chicken is safe to eat as long as it is properly handled and cooked fully. They have pushed the burden onto the consumer.
(If you always use a thermometer on your chicken and treat your chicken like a level 5 biohazard you should be fine.)

I’m trying to get the levels of contamination for the chicken AFTER the non-recall, but what we do know is that “FSIS personnel collected 150 various product samples at Establishment 6137A. As of October 5, 2013, a total of 38 samples (25.33 %)tested positive for Salmonella Heidelberg.”
And that did NOT trigger a recall. What we don’t know is what the threshold is. Moving the burden to the consumer gives them an out, they could be shipping 100 percent contaminated under this theory.
I was going to compare this to Russian Roulette with your food, but it’s not really Russian Roulette when all the chambers are loaded.

Mike German November 9th, 2013 at 4:21 pm
In response to CTuttle @ 62

Of course, and since my office is on McPherson Square in DC I had a front row seat to the DC Occupy actions. But the movement was (is?) certainly a target of unnecessary surveillance, arrests and police violence. Do you think this had a suppressive effect?

CTuttle November 9th, 2013 at 4:22 pm
In response to Mike German @ 65

Isn’t the make-up of the FISA court itself a big part of the problem, considering that Roberts has selected all rabid Right Wingers…?

Heidi Boghosian November 9th, 2013 at 4:23 pm
In response to BevW @ 66

I’m not sure what one individual will be the face of the surveillance push back. I expect Leahy will play a role.

PeasantParty November 9th, 2013 at 4:24 pm


CTuttle and I, along with a large group of folks here at FDL did close live work with OWS. We are still in touch with some of them. It is not dead at all. They are still working on helping people save their homes, and aid for Hurricane Sandy was a big deal.

bigbrother November 9th, 2013 at 4:24 pm

Heidi I have a very good feeling about your book…that it is chock full of details on how the surveillance is implemented and how that violates our Law and Bill of Rights protecting our privacy. It galls me that all my financials, Credit, Bank and medical are no longer my private data as well as the rest of the world. Is it true we will get a detailed education by reading your book? The research must have been arduous.

Heidi Boghosian November 9th, 2013 at 4:25 pm
In response to Mike German @ 68

I believe that “over policing” has the effect of suppressing dissent. Police at mass assemblies in this country are routinely clad in riot gear and carry so-called “less-lethal” munitions and engage in false mass arrests. It’s becoming increasingly challenging to attend a protest and not fear that police will over-react.

Mike German November 9th, 2013 at 4:25 pm
In response to BevW @ 66

I think one of the more encouraging things about the congressional reaction to the Snowden leaks is that there are many champions for reform from both parties. People as ideologically diverse as Sens. Mike Lee, Rand Paul, Ron Wyden, Mark Udall and Pat Leahy, and Reps. Justin Amash, John Conyers and even the father of the Patriot Act, Jim Sensenbrenner.

spocko November 9th, 2013 at 4:26 pm

I read a fascinating article about a surveillance command post that had both NYPD and Wall Street types monitoring all the cameras in the Occupy area.

I watched “Person of Interest” and thought it was crazy SciFi until I read about the extent of the surveillance that corporation and governments actually have. (I also read Cory Doctrows books Little Brother and Homeland as almost non-fiction now. BTW, Cory’s book Little Brother about the a fictional SF surveillance state is free to download.

Heidi Boghosian November 9th, 2013 at 4:27 pm
In response to bigbrother @ 72

Thanks. The book is intended to be a general primer, so I hope that “lay readers” (i.e. non experts in the area) will find it a useful introduction to the field. I could have gone into much more detail on each subject but tried to keep it from being too dry. Fortunately, Mr. Snowden and the Guardian came forth with their revelations just as the book came out, perhaps attracting more attention than it otherwise might have.

PeasantParty November 9th, 2013 at 4:28 pm
In response to Mike German @ 68

In the New York OWS movement, as Heidi said; NSA and FBI infiltrated as agent provocatures/(sp). OWS did more for the people in NY than the shelters, and more on the Jersey Shore than FEMA!

They know, just like Heidi said above that the movement was peaceful and structured all their programs/actions to meet that goal.

Heidi Boghosian November 9th, 2013 at 4:29 pm
In response to spocko @ 75

You’ve probably read some of Pam Martens’ reporting on the Wall Street/NYPD connection. She’s done great work: http://wallstreetonparade.com/

Mike German November 9th, 2013 at 4:30 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 71

I didn’t suggest it was over, I was just asking what the effect was of the police efforts to suppress it.

CTuttle November 9th, 2013 at 4:31 pm
In response to Mike German @ 68

In all my Occupy actions here, I can only gripe about being surveilled…! During one of our anti-gmo marches, I made a point of posing with my Occupy sign for the Cop, that had about $3 grand in photography equipment on him…! ;-)

PeasantParty November 9th, 2013 at 4:33 pm


Your book sounds incredible. Writing for lay people is the perfect answer to all of this for non-tech people. I am so glad you are here at the Salon for all of us, but for that piece of info specifically. My 80 year old Mom needs the primer.

Elliott November 9th, 2013 at 4:33 pm

And doesn’t Ray Kelly have a nice job all lined up for him – not payback, nuh-uh, no way

Heidi Boghosian November 9th, 2013 at 4:34 pm
In response to Mike German @ 79

Right. I think that the Occupy movement changed us (for the better), and that it’s still alive. But there’s no doubt in my mind that it was too potent a force–and that the government and corporations knew this–to be allowed to thrive without a massive coordinated effort by the powers that dominate to diminish its potentially broad-ranging impact on our society.

And while technology certainly facilitated much of Occupy’s success, it also made it easier for law enforcement to spy on and monitor activists across the country.

bigbrother November 9th, 2013 at 4:35 pm

NYC has a new progressive mayor who participated in Occupy. Will that help to slow down the surveillance?

Mike German November 9th, 2013 at 4:37 pm

There are a couple of areas where privacy advocates have had some success, notably with the TSA naked body scanners, which were modified to show only a stick-figure image, and in surveillance drones, where the public push-back has been considerable. Any insight into why the public reaction against these surveillance techniques was so much stronger than others?

bigbrother November 9th, 2013 at 4:38 pm

Does your website have any details?

Heidi Boghosian November 9th, 2013 at 4:38 pm
In response to Elliott @ 82

When Ray Kelly assumed office in 2002 as police commissioner in NYC, he made it a priority to weaken longstanding court-imposed restrictions on spying on political groups. He persuaded a judged that “the entire resources of the NYPD must be available to conduct investigations into political activity and intelligence-related issues,” clearing the way for the Intelligence Division to “go out and find the groups, conduct surveillance, and penetrate them.”

Before the RNC in NYC in 2004, NYPD detectives traveled to more than ten states to “hang out with the loosely organized anarchists, direct action provocateurs, libertarian clowns, conscientious protesters, and potential killers setting their sights on Madison Square Garden.” (Quotes from Christopher Dickey’s book “Securing the City: Inside America’s Best Counterterror Force–the NYPD.”

Heidi Boghosian November 9th, 2013 at 4:40 pm
In response to bigbrother @ 84

Much remains to be seen in terms of Mayor DiBlasio. I think the first test is how he responds to the removal of the judge in the recent “stop and frisk” case. Obviously, the choice of a police commissioner will be telling.

CTuttle November 9th, 2013 at 4:42 pm

Didn’t Kelly also set up a NYPD Tel Aviv bureau too…?

maadcet November 9th, 2013 at 4:43 pm

I just got on. My question could have been asked by someone. But I am going to do it anyway. Did you discuss the blackmailing aspect of current or future powerful, politicians, judges etc.

Heidi Boghosian November 9th, 2013 at 4:45 pm
In response to Mike German @ 85

It’s easy to be outraged and to understand how one’s privacy is violated when you see your scanned body image on a screen at the airport, or when you hear reports of unmanned aerial vehicles killing a civilian by remote control.

Less easy to come to terms with is data aggregation, collected without our knowledge and without any tangible or visual way to understand it. Perhaps if Americans could see an online profile containing an array of differently-amassed personal information on themselves it might make it easier to mount collective push-back.

It’s not unlike comprehending a “war” against a specific country over a specific issue and trying to make sense of the perpetual war on ideology that is being marketed to us, probably starting with the “War on Drugs,” and continuing with the “War on Terror.”

Mike German November 9th, 2013 at 4:46 pm

The government regularly defends its expansive surveillance programs by saying that we need to balance the needs of security with civil liberties, and that these programs are the only way to protect national security and prevent terrorist attacks, but it’s hard to see how spying on animal rights protesters and National Lawyers Guild attorneys that you document in the book improves security. What makes them targets?

Elliott November 9th, 2013 at 4:48 pm
In response to CTuttle @ 89

oh I’d completely forgotten that one

PeasantParty November 9th, 2013 at 4:49 pm

Whew! Kelly definitely doesn’t believe in the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence.

Where do all these types come from? Are they trained or brainwashed to think this is supporting American values?

Mike German November 9th, 2013 at 4:49 pm

I think this highlights why the Snowden leaks were so important. The excessive secrecy around these programs is designed to keep Americans in the dark, so they don’t have the evidence necessary to challenge these unconstitutional programs. Classification reform and whistleblower protection are necessary foundations to any efforts to reform the intelligence community.

Heidi Boghosian November 9th, 2013 at 4:50 pm
In response to maadcet @ 90

This is an excellent question and hasn’t yet been raised. There are many ways that the gathering and storing of personal data can be mishandled. (The most general, perhaps, is that there are a lot of inaccuracies in data that is stored and we have no way to know that or to correct it). It’s also troubling that we cannot anticipate how government officials or corporate employees may use stored data. Something that is lawful now may come into disfavor five or ten years from now. (Or different sets of data may be combined to form stereotypical profiles of Americans, segmenting them by political beliefs or other categories). And certainly–as J. Edgar Hoover used the fact that he had amassed personal files on elected officials and others to intimidate them–it seems likely that there is great potential for abuse by the holders of data against current or future politicians, judges and others.

BevW November 9th, 2013 at 4:51 pm

As we come to the last few minutes of this great Book Salon discussion. Any final thoughts?

Heidi, Thank you for stopping by the Lake and spending the afternoon with us discussing your new book, and your work on documenting the surveillance on US citizens.

Mike, Thank you very much for Hosting this great Book Salon.

Everyone, if you would like more information:

Heidi’s website (NLG), Twitter, and book

Mike’s website (ACLU)

Thanks all, Have a great weekend.

Tomorrow: Jed Morey / The Great American Disconnect: Seven Fundamental Threats To Our Democracy; Hosted by Alexa O’Brien

If you would like to contact the FDL Book Salon: FiredoglakeBookSalon@gmail.com

RevBev November 9th, 2013 at 4:53 pm
In response to Mike German @ 95

And greater pressure on journalist; scary.

PeasantParty November 9th, 2013 at 4:54 pm


When the NLG was trying to help all those caught up in the dragnet across the country during OWS, did they find judges that were willing to go NSA without hesitation?

bigbrother November 9th, 2013 at 4:55 pm

Thank you all we need transparency no doubt. Have to read this book.

Heidi Boghosian November 9th, 2013 at 4:56 pm
In response to Mike German @ 92

Animal rights and environmental activists–and groups such as the National Lawyers Guild that support these and other activists–are easy targets. First, they can be labeled “fringe” or “leftist” groups. The government hired a public relations firm to come up with the term “eco-terrorists,” years ago and has strategically marketed these as potentially violent groups. They are the obvious critics of ill-advised corporate and government policies and they’ve succeeded in helping raise awareness of harmful practices. I also think that the fact that they are successful make them an attractive target for infiltration and spying.

The Guild was spied on for over three decades. The FBI tapped our phones and rummaged through our members’ garbage. We had at least one known infiltrator working in the organization. The FBI tried to label us a “subversive” group, but failed. Many of our members had been Communists or defenders of individuals targeted by the House UnAmerican Activities Committee. If they could spy on us, they would find out who we represented and make our jobs more difficult.

CTuttle November 9th, 2013 at 4:56 pm

That is the very reason why I suspect AIPAC holds such an inordinate amount of sway over all our Congressional Critters, and why they pay so much fealty to their every whim…! 8-(

Heidi Boghosian November 9th, 2013 at 4:57 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 99

There were many brave judges across the country who stood up for the First Amendment even in a climate that makes it challenging to do so. I have hope that this trend will continue!

BevW November 9th, 2013 at 4:57 pm
Heidi Boghosian November 9th, 2013 at 4:57 pm
In response to BevW @ 97

Thank you all so much!

Mike German November 9th, 2013 at 4:59 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 94

When your job is to secure the public from threats it is natural to over react. That’s why it is so important to have strong legal restrictions on police power, and sufficient transparency to ensure effective public oversight. Unfortunately, in the wake of 9/11 the response was to loosen the rules and allow secret police intelligence. Pricilla Lewis wrote an interesting paper about how when people are afraid they tend to seek more authoritarian leaders. It is pretty frightening: http://www.usintheworld.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/CatoAnthologyChapter.pdf

PeasantParty November 9th, 2013 at 4:59 pm


Thank you again. I will do what I can to get the book and spread the word. This has been an excellent Book Salon.

Thanks Mike, and as always our Bev!

CTuttle November 9th, 2013 at 5:00 pm

Mahalo Nui Loa, Bev, Heidi, and Mike, for another excellent Book Salon…!

Please keep on, keeping on…! *g*

Mike German November 9th, 2013 at 5:01 pm
In response to BevW @ 97

Thanks Bev, and congratulations on the book, Heidi!

Elliott November 9th, 2013 at 5:04 pm

Thank you so much for coming !

and thanks Bev

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