BILL MOYERS: This week on Moyers & Company…

LAWRENCE LESSIG: In a world of terrorism the government's going to be out there trying to protect us. But let's make sure that they're using tools or technology that also protects the privacy side of what they should be protecting.

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BILL MOYERS: Welcome. We were warned. More than 60 years ago, George Orwell, in his novel 1984, described a society whose inhabitants were caught perpetually in the unblinking eye of Big Brother, an all-encompassing government gaze from which there was no escape.

Even earlier, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World invoked the vision of citizens bred for complacency, willing to be subjugated in exchange for the mindless pleasures of drug-induced, self-gratification. Just think, Orwell and Huxley wrote before Google, Facebook, Apple, Skype, Yahoo, and Microsoft; before smart phones, laptops, apps, and social media. And certainly before this age of modern global terror. Now we know our own government, through its National Security Agency, has been extensively engaged in the Internet surveillance of our emails and phone records, with the ability to single us out for scrutiny beyond what most of us could imagine. Big Government and Big Business have morphed into the Biggest Brother ever, not only watching and listening but also taking down names and numbers. Here’s Edward Snowden, the private contractor who worked for the NSA and leaked to the world what he learned on the job:

EDWARD SNOWDEN from The Guardian: Any analyst at any time can target anyone, any selector, anywhere. Where those communications will be picked up depends on the range of the sensor networks and the authorities that analyst is empowered with. Not all analysts have the ability to target everything. But I sitting at my desk certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone from you or your accountant to a Federal judge to even the president if I had a personal e-mail.

BILL MOYERS: As of now, only Snowden fully understands his motives and the full extent of what he intends to reveal remains unknown. The White House insists snooping is a counter-weapon against terrorism, a necessary if unfortunate intrusion. General Keith Alexander, head of the NSA, told Congress this week that the agency’s surveillance had helped prevent dozens of attacks. A large majority of the public agrees that the spying is necessary, but others see it as an unprecedented infringement on our civil liberties, a massive threat to a free society.

Lawrence Lessig also warned us. He was one of the first to see the promise of the new technology, and its peril. In 1999, he wrote this book, Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace. At Stanford University, in the heart of Silicon Valley, he founded the Center for Internet and Society, and he’s been involved with such advocacy groups as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Creative Commons. Now he teaches law professor at Harvard University and directs Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics. There, he began to turn from Internet policy to focusing on the corrupting influence of money in politics, which he sees as the true roadblock to American greatness. He’s written several books on the problem including, "Republic, Lost" and "Lesterland," and started the organization Rootstrikers to rally citizens from both the left and right to fight fire with fire.

Lawrence Lessig, welcome.


BILL MOYERS: So what do you make of these revelations about the government surveillance of our phones and emails?

LAWRENCE LESSIG: So I think it's terrifying, but the particular thing that for me that is most terrifying was when Snowden revealed that basically analysts have discretion to decide where and how they're gonna be spying. And it made you recognize that we haven't built a system yet that anybody should have confidence about, assuming what he's saying is true.

BILL MOYERS: Is the surveillance as we've learned about it in the last few days more extensive than you thought?

LAWRENCE LESSIG: It's cruder and more extensive.


LAWRENCE LESSIG: Cruder in the sense that, you know, in my dream of how it might be if we actually had a sensible system developing, you know, I kind of imagined machines that had well programmed algorithms for figuring out when and what they should be looking for and then a system for overseeing when humans got connected to make sure that the humans were doing the right sort of thing.

But when Snowden describes agents having the authority to pick and choose who they're going to be following on the basis of their hunch about what makes sense and what doesn't make sense this is the worst of both worlds. We have a technology now that gives them access to everything, but a culture if again it's true that encourages them to be as wide ranging as they can.

BILL MOYERS: It seems to me that we're just running a dragnet throughout the internet and bringing in almost everything online. Now, is that a false perception?

LAWRENCE LESSIG: Well, if what he says is true then they're bringing in everything they can. And of course they're applying very sophisticated algorithms to try to pull the needles from the haystack, the sort of algorithms that Google deploys to figure out what good ads to serve you versus bad ads that you wouldn't want to see. So they're obviously using technology in the most sophisticated way they can.

But the question is are there protections or controls or counter technologies to make sure that when the government gets access to this information they can't misuse it in all the ways that, you know, anybody who remembers Nixon believes and fears governments might use.

BILL MOYERS: Nixon at Watergate where there was a considerable amount of surveillance and invasion of privacy, criminal behavior on the part of the government.

LAWRENCE LESSIG: Right, and it's not clear there's criminal behavior now, which is an important distinction, right. We've now authorized through law the kind of thing which before you had to violate the law to be able to do.

BILL MOYERS: But President Obama has assured us that nobody is listening to our phone conversation or reading our email.

LAWRENCE LESSIG: Yeah, so he's very careful. And I have enormous faith in him.

BILL MOYERS: Why do you have faith in him? I ask that not personally but in terms of the office of the presidency. It's been my experience over the years that if you put a tool in the toolbox at the White House it will be used.

LAWRENCE LESSIG: Yeah, I don't mean that I have faith in him in the sense that I believe that he will or has created a system that protects privacy in the way that I think privacy needs to be protected. I mean, I think that's the very question. I mean more faith in his good faith, that he, what he's trying to do is to deal with the threats of terrorism.

But the issue isn't good faith in the sense that, you know, he's not somebody who's trying to defeat George McGovern in a presidential campaign. He is somebody trying to defeat Al-Qaeda or their equivalents. That's not enough, good faith is not enough. The question is what do you put in place to make sure that the system doesn't run off the rails?

And that's the, you know, that's the analysis since the Magna Carta about how we protect liberty, what do we put into place to check government officials to make sure that when they behave they behave in a way that respects our most fundamental values.

BILL MOYERS: But didn't you assume that once the Patriot Act was signed in 2001 we're being watched?

LAWRENCE LESSIG: In a sense yes, we're being watched. I certainly assumed that there were computers that were making flags whenever certain kinds of words or relationships were established. I was sure that was happening, especially internationally. But the question again is the difference between computers doing it in a well regulated sense and computers giving humans the ability to pick up and to listen.

Now, again the president has said that nobody's listening to telephone calls or reading emails of American citizens. Those two statements could be perfectly true and still there'd be something fundamentally important to worry about. Now, of course people don't even believe those statements are true. But put that aside for a second. You know, in the old days the thing you worried about was a government agent listening to the telephone call. That was the invasion.

But today when every bit of your life is out there in the ether somewhere, somewhere in the cloud and the, what intelligence is is using computers to sift through this and to put together patterns to figure out what you care about on the basis of all this information that's out there, privacy must progress to recognize why it's important that we regulate the government's use of all this public data as much as it's important that we regulate the government's ability to listen to my telephone calls.

BILL MOYERS: Google and Yahoo and other companies say they're not complicit in any mass eavesdropping exercise and that they have not given the government information beyond what was covered by federal court warrants. Does that comfort you?

LAWRENCE LESSIG: And they're very adamant that they're not exceeding legal requirements. But that doesn't give me much comfort because the legal requirements here are quite expansive. And you know, I think anybody who believes that a company, a publicly traded company is going to violate the law to protect privacy is naive about the proper loyalties of these companies.

So the question isn't whether they're living within the law or not. The question is what is the invasion the law is insisting upon. And that's the thing that we don't yet have a clear sense about. And we certainly don't have any reason to believe that infrastructures for protecting legitimate privacy have been built here even if the government's engaged in a very difficult task of rooting out terrorists.

BILL MOYERS: Talk a little bit more about what you referred to as the property loyalties of these companies.

LAWRENCE LESSIG: Well, these companies have a job to earn money for their shareholders consistent with the law, meaning they're not allowed to exceed the legal authorization and when the courts, when the courts and and federal prosecutors or federal agents come in they've got to do what those people say.

Now, they can fight it. You know, so Twitter for example has been quite aggressive in insisting to force the government to meet the burdens the government must meet before they get access to certain information Twitter has. And at certain stages Google has done the same thing.

So, but the question is whether this is, you know, a good way to convince the public in a public relations exercise that they're being as protective as they can be versus really actually protecting data from the government surveillance. And the reality is there's very little a company can do consistent with the law to resist the government when the government comes in and makes a demand.

BILL MOYERS: As I understand it the US law allows the government to demand that companies hand over online information about people outside of the country who are not US citizens if they are proven to be a potential national security threat. Government officials say, are careful, have been careful to say that any information on US citizens when they cast that metaphorical dragnet can be scrubbed out. Now, if they can be scrubbed out, the reverse of that is they can also be permitted to stay in. Is that a concern to you?

LAWRENCE LESSIG: Yeah, the scary fact is, you know, an obvious fact that it's cheaper and simpler, and this what Snowden said. It's simpler to gather it all and to have it all there and , for a period of time at last, but who knows how long that period of time is, and to go back to it and to use it as you need it.

And the reality then is that if we don't have technical measures in place to protect against misuse, this is just a trove of potential misuse. Now, that's the part that really frustrates me. Because, I wrote a book in '99 called Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace. My point from the very beginning has been we've got to think about the technology as a protector of liberty too. So code is a kind of law. And the government should be implementing technologies to protect our liberties. Because if they don't, we don't figure out how to build that protection into the technology it won't be there.

And what's frustrating to me is to hear a description of a system where we don't have any infrastructure in place really to protect the privacy. We have infrastructure in place to facilitate the surveillance. When there are plenty of entities out there, companies like, there's a company called Palantir who's built a technology to make it absolutely, make you absolutely confident that a particular bit of data has been used precisely as the government says it's supposed to be used. You can find out exactly who's looked at it and for what purpose it's been used at. So the point is there's a way to build the technology to give us this liberty back, this privacy back. But it's not a priority to think about using code to protect us.

BILL MOYERS: Is that sort of a burglar alarm?

LAWRENCE LESSIG: It's more of an audit trail. Like, the thing that you should worry about is that the government gathers all this data and, you know, they're gathering it for the purpose of finding out whether you, Bill Moyers, are a terrorist. Okay, let's say they figure out you're not a terrorist.

But then what else might they be looking at this data for? So let's say you say something that's particularly troubling to the administration and somebody wants to know is there something we can find out about Bill Moyers that might quiet him down? Now, we ought to be able to know what reasons and when they've actually looked and used this data.

And the point is these technologies of audit protection at least make it harder for the plumbers, the digital plumbers of the future to get around the protections and to violate the underlying core privacy. And that's where we should be pushing. We should recognize in a world of terrorism the government's going to be out there trying to protect us. But let's make sure that they're using tools or technology that also protects the privacy side of what they should be protecting.

BILL MOYERS: For the sake of my viewers who are younger than even you, the plumbers were Richard Nixon's burglars, secret operatives, spies who went into all of this privacy data about the people they considered their enemies.

LAWRENCE LESSIG: Yeah, we call them private contractors today.

BILL MOYERS: And they’re a lot of them aren’t there?

LAWRENCE LESSIG: That’s right.

BILL MOYERS: But the people who have to build that system that you're talking about and calling for are the very people who've built the present system.

LAWRENCE LESSIG: So far, but there are lots of other people who could be brought into this process who don't have a connection to a defense contractor, don't have a connection to the military, who have technical knowledge necessary to make the kind of evaluations that ought to be made here and can begin to insist on the standards, right. We have, like, a conception of bringing judges in to oversee warrant processes.

Well, I think we ought to begin to think about making geeks into judges, you know, people who have technical knowledge like others have legal knowledge who could sit there with the judge, lawyer, judges and say, "No, no, no, when the government says that there's no way for them to surveil without doing blah, blah, blah, that's wrong. They could be doing this instead."

I mean, we have two kinds of specialized knowledge here, lawyers and coders. And those people have to be in the same room as they listen to the government and the government says, "This is what we need to do to keep America safe." Let's force the government to prove that to both of these lawmakers, the lawyers and the coders.

BILL MOYERS: Because this technology makes it so much easier as you said to invade our privacy, that, you know, we're profiled all the time by advertisers in the name of commerce. What's the difference between that practice and the profiling being done by the government?

LAWRENCE LESSIG: Yeah, so I personally love the profiling that makes it so some ad company doesn't serve me an ad for tennis shoes and does serve me an ad for a great new book that I might have some real interest in, right. The purpose of that profiling is to narrow the the information that would be pushed into my sphere to that information which I want.

And I'm happy for that, right. But the same profiling information has other uses some of which are good and some of which are bad. I think we have to under, think a little bit more about what we mean by privacy, right. So my own view is if there are data out there that the government can use to build profiles or build or steer the government based on, you know, profile-like data, the way that advertisers try to figure out that if you're somebody who's crazy enough to have bought one of Lessig's books, then you might like to read one of Jeff Rosen's books, like, that kind of, that I don't really feel the privacy issue.

What I feel the privacy issue triggered is when that ties it back to me. Like, when you start linking it back to me so that I begin to suffer consequences, I can't get onto an airplane or I, you know, notice people watching me or engage, you know, that's the kind of thing that we need to, that is, I think, what the privacy here has got to be. So in my view in the future the world will be a great thing when big data is able to sort out all sorts of things we can't figure out right now. Like, you know, when it's able to figure out this is the fear of influenza we have to worry about because we see 17 cases in this part of the world and we see the airplane links that bring them over to New York, that's the use of big data that I think we should celebrate.

But the question is are we building at the same time infrastructures for protecting the misuse of that big data, the violation of privacy? And in my view the violation of privacy is drawing it back to an individual and interfering with that person's liberty without any good showing to a court or a judge that there's a good reason to do that.

BILL MOYERS: So when the video surveillance at the Boston Marathon caught these two fellas with their backpacks and then caught them subsequently responding as if they had just done something questionable, would you consider that an invasion of their privacy because they could no longer as we used to say disappear into the crowd, get lost in the crowd?

LAWRENCE LESSIG: I'm not troubled once we have these data that we narrow it down and properly track and follow people who we have good reason to believe have committed a crime. Now, we have to do that well. You know, one of the tragedies of what happened in Boston was this, you know, flurry of images that was sent out there tagging lots of people, lots of innocent people, tragically tagging people, who then subsequently suffered great loss, in a completely irresponsible way.

That's a misuse of that data. The proper use of that data is okay, we have these cameras out there. You know, we all recognize we're on camera all the time. And we ought to be able to go by, along in our life without having to justify what happens to have been caught on the camera unless there's a good reason you can show to a court and say, "This is the person we need to be able to track down because look, these three things link this person together with a tragic event that has just happened."

BILL MOYERS: But who do you trust to make those distinctions and to act honorably on the data that has been collected?

LAWRENCE LESSIG: Not the government as in the prosecutors or the investigators alone. And that's the insight that American law for hundreds of years has traded on, that we have prosecutors but we also have a neutral arbiter, the court, who's supposed to listen to the government's claim, "We need to go after this person. We need to break this person's privacy. We need to unlock this person's car and get--" and decides whether there's enough evidence here to justify the government's invasion.

It's the recognition of the need to build this check into the system. Now, law is an important check and the constitution's an important check. But we also have to think about the infrastructure, the technology, the code and whether the code that we're building here just creates this endless kind of candy jar for miscreants to go in and invade privacy or whether we're building code that actually has the capacity to also protect us even as it's facilitating the government to identify criminals engaging in criminal behavior.

BILL MOYERS: Let's talk about Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old who was a contract employee at the National Security Agency. Any thoughts about his motives?

LAWRENCE LESSIG: You know, he came out publicly, he explains his reasons, doesn't seem to be benefiting financially from this. He's going to suffer enormous personal costs for doing what he did. Those are the things that traditionally have marked somebody as the right kind of civil disobedient. And let's be clear. The penalties which he faces for what he has done are extraordinary.

Today these guys face life imprisonment, maybe the death penalty. So when somebody comes forward and explains him or herself in a very clear way about what's motivating it's hard not to be moved by that.

BILL MOYERS: Let me play for you some of the video of what Edward Snowden told Glenn Greenwald of "The Guardian."

EDWARD SNOWDEN from The Guardian: The greatest fear that I have regarding the outcome for America of these disclosures is that nothing will change. People will see in the media all of these disclosures. They'll know the lengths that the government is going to grant themselves powers unilaterally to create greater control over American society and global society. But they won't be willing to take the risks necessary to stand up and fight to change things to force their representatives to actually take a stand in their interests.

LAWRENCE LESSIG: Well, I think the thing he most fears is the most likely outcome. I think people have seen lots of crises, lots of scandals which we've not found a way to rise up and do anything about. Think about the Wall Street scandals which didn't produce an uprising. There was the Occupy Wall Street movement which was very important, but it didn't produce an uprising in ordinary people.

But part of the reason for that is I think ordinary people have lost the sense that there's a reason to try to engage politically because in the end they know how the cards will be dealt. And the cards will be dealt not according to what makes sense or what people actually believe, but where the power is. And here the power is both the literal power of the most powerful security state in the history of the world and also the power of enormous interests to support and continue that state.

BILL MOYERS: Here's one thing he said "I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions, [but] I will be satisfied if the federation," interesting word, "The federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant."

LAWRENCE LESSIG: Well I read that to be somebody who cares deeply and loves deeply the country who he has now embarrassed. And I think it's gonna take a lot for people to listen to that and recognize what he's done, but hear in that the kind of call to patriotism which I think it ultimately is. Because I think all of us have got to demand of our government that the government behave in a way that gives us a reason to trust it. And that's not to have a bunch of politicians stand up and say, "Trust us," that's not that government.

BILL MOYERS: There are people who disagree with you of course. The New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin says, "Snowden is no hero.” He's not even a whistleblower. “He is…a grandiose narcissist who deserve to be in prison." John Yoo, one of the architects of President George W. Bush's legal justification for torture says, "Snowden should go to jail, as quickly and for as long as possible."

LAWRENCE LESSIG: Yeah, but you can believe that he's violated the law and believe that people who violate the law should go to jail but also believe that what he did reveals to America something America doesn't understand and needs to understand to make this democracy work.

Which is that there is an enormous apparatus of surveillance that if it works the way Snowden says is not working to guarantee or protect the kind of liberties it needs to protect. Now, again we don't, you know--

BILL MOYERS: We don't know.

LAWRENCE LESSIG: We don't know.


LAWRENCE LESSIG: But the point is a free government depends upon institutions that give us a reason to trust them. And if anything this has brought out the fact we don't yet have those institutions in place.

BILL MOYERS: I'm dubious that we'll get the kind of debate at the core of the political process that you're calling for and that Snowden is calling for because the lawmakers who voted for these secret programs have a political incentive now to defend them--

LAWRENCE LESSIG: Yeah, of course--

BILL MOYERS: --don't they?

LAWRENCE LESSIG: Of course they do. And, you know, the reality is, however, whatever Snowden might think or Glen Greenwald might think most Americans are not in that place.

BILL MOYERS: Yeah, there's no groundswell of anger at the government.

LAWRENCE LESSIG: No, and so I think that, you know, it's going to be a hard road to, a hard slog ahead for them and for Mr. Snowden in particular. But the question, you know, I hope that it opens up the right questions. And the right questions can't be, you know, should we give up the effort to try to identify terrorists before they attack, you know, that's just not a question that should be in the table. The question should be can we build an infrastructure for doing that that all of us has a reason to be confident in and gives us the confidence that the violations of privacy that people fear will not and cannot occur.

BILL MOYERS: You sounded a warning, back in 1998 when you testified before, 15 years ago, when you testified before the House Judiciary Committee. You begin by describing how the Russian people were technologically monitored by their government. Here's what you said.

LAWRENCE LESSIG testifying: The Russian people learned to live with this invasion. They learned to put up with the insecurities that technology brought. If they had something private to say, they would go for a walk in a public park. If they didn't want a call traced, they would make it from a public phone. They learned to live with this intrusion by adjusting their life to it. They found privacy in public spaces, since private spaces had been invaded by a technology.

And who could blame them? They lived in a totalitarian regime. The State was unchallengeable.


The last 20 years have seen an extraordinary explosion in technologies for invading people's privacy and for a market that feeds on the product of these technologies.

We are told that our E-mail can be collected and searched by our company or university, and so op-eds advise us not to put private matters into E-mail. Our credit card records become the source for direct marketers, and rather than object, we simply buy with more cash. We have responded to this increasing invasion as the Soviets responded to theirs. Bovine, we have accepted the reduction in private space. Passive, we have adjusted our life to these new intrusions. Accepting, we have been told that this is the way we have to live in this newly digitized age. Now I find this quite bizarre. For while this increasing Sovietization of our personal and private life occurs, we live in no Soviet State. While passivity dominates, there is no reason we couldn't do things differently. We accept these invasions and these restrictions on our freedom, though there is no Soviet army to enforce them on us.

We accept them, these reductions in the space of our privacy, even though we are the architects of the technologies that give effect to this reduction in privacy. And worse than accept them, sometimes we are told we have no choice but to accept them.

Technologies of monitoring and searching erode our privacy, and yet some will argue that the Constitution restricts Congress' power to respond. Technologies make it possible from a half-a-mile away to peer into one's home and watch what goes on there, or eavesdroppers to listen to the conversations in our bedroom, but we are told that the free speech clause of the First Amendment bars Congress from doing anything in response.

Congress, our Constitution is no Politburo. The free speech clause does not render us hostage to the invasions of new technologies. It does not disable you, as representatives of the people, from responding to these changes through laws that aim to re-create the privacy that technology has removed. Indeed, other values, themselves as essential to our democracy as free speech, should push you to take steps to protect the privacy and dignity that changing technologies may take away.

BILL MOYERS: What was it at that time 15 years ago that you saw seducing us toward this kind of torpor?

LAWRENCE LESSIG: You know, I was right in the middle of writing the first book, which was about technology and civil liberties. And what I saw in that intersection was the way in which the technology invited us into the internet with this promise of privacy and this promise of access but that the technology of the internet was going to change.

And as it changed it would surveil us more efficiently, it would control us more effectively, it would destroy lots of the fundamental values that we thought we would guarantee through this technology. And what I was frustrated with is people didn't seem to see the way in which the technology invited us in. And then it was a trap, and haven't developed the political response necessary, even the understanding necessary to resist it and to reinforce the type of liberties and privacy that is our tradition.

BILL MOYERS: It's obvious that we're creating a national security complex that is increasingly embedded in our way of life just would you say like the military industrial complex that Dwight Eisenhower warned against?

LAWRENCE LESSIG: Yeah, but we should remember the first version of Dwight Eisenhower's speech which was not the military industrial complex. It was the military industrial congressional complex. And they talked him out of, into getting, dropping the congressional from that story, but I think that's the most important one, the way in which the military industrial complex is in bed with Congress and makes it so hard for Congress to make any sensible policy so long as they're dependent upon both the military and the industry to fuel their political survival.

BILL MOYERS: Look at these facts. Booz Allen, the company for whom Edward Snowden was a employee or contractor, the company Snowden worked for made $1.3 billion last year, 23 percent of the company's total revenue from intelligence work.

A former director of National Intelligence, John McConnell, is now an executive at Booz Allen. He's gone through the revolving door. The chief intelligence official now, James Clapper Jr., used to work for Booz Allen. And earlier this year Booz Allen announced it was starting to work on a new contract worth perhaps as much as $5.6 billion over the next five years to provide intelligence to the Defense Department. Now, add that up, Larry, and what do you get?

LAWRENCE LESSIG: I, you get a good picture of the way government doesn't work today. You know, there are two very different revolving doors in Washington. The Defense revolving door is longstanding. You know, people go work for the government, they have private, they have security clearance all the way up to the top. They go into private industry, they have the same security clearance.

They're going between these two worlds. Part of the reason for that is the reality that government employees don't get paid much relative to what they get paid in the outside. So here's the contract. You'll have a couple bad years and then you'll have a bunch of good years and a couple bad years and a bunch of good years. But that's the way in which Defense contracting works or doesn't work.

Because the question is always are the policymakers focused on preserving this revolving door or are they focused on what the underlying security of the nation is? Now, my own bias is to think that many of those people are actually focused on the right thing. In the Defense Department, you know, soldiers, they go to work for the right reason in our government. Now, eventually they get out into the private world, but I think they were motivated by the right thing. The other revolving door which is Washington is the revolving door from Capitol Hill to K Street where—

BILL MOYERS: The lobby--

LAWRENCE LESSIG: --members of, yeah, the lobbyists, where lobbyists work, where members of Congress and their staffers in particular have a business model focused on their life after Washington, their life on K Street. You know, Jack Abramoff, who was the infamous lobbyist who went to federal penitentiary for his crimes but has become a pretty important reformer in my view after he came back, in his really great book, Capitol Punishment he describes the most successful technique he had. He said, I would walk into a senator's office and I would meet with the chief of staff and I would say, so what are you doing in two years? Chief of staff would say, well, I don't know, Jack. And Jack would say, well, I want you to look me up after you're finished.

And as Jack writes, from that moment on I owned that chief of staff and not a single dollar had traded hands. And so the point is when you've got a system where they're focused on how they're going to help the lobbyists once they're out of Capitol Hill how can they ever stand up to the lobbyists and do the right thing? And that's the corrupt system that I'm much more concerned about in being able to make judgments about the future of this country.

BILL MOYERS: Well, I, before coming here I watched a TED Talk you gave on this subject.

LAWRENCE LESSIG in TED Talk: Fifty percent of the Senate between 1998 and 2004 left to become lobbyists, 42 percent of the House. Those numbers have only gone up, and as United Republic calculated last April, the average increase in salary for those who they tracked was 1,452 percent. So it's fair to ask, how is it possible for them to change this? Now I get this skepticism. I get this cynicism. I get this sense of impossibility. But I don't buy it.

BILL MOYERS: What incentive do politicians and their staffers have to hold whether it's the intelligence agencies that are now privately contracted out to Booz Allen and others like that or any other corporation, what incentive do they have to change the system if they know they're headed for a fortune on K Street?

LAWRENCE LESSIG: Yeah, if they have an incentive it's a conflicted incentive. It's the sort of incentive that leads most people to have no confidence in the institution. You know, the latest Rasmussen poll found six percent of America thinks Congress is doing a good job--

BILL MOYERS: Six percent

LAWRENCE LESSIG: --Six percent. But at what point does an institution have to confess political bankruptcy, right, because we have no confidence in Congress, we have no confidence in Congress, right. In parliamentary systems there's a vote, no confidence in congress. Well, we, the people, need to have the same vote. And we have voted again and again, we have no confidence in this institution.

And what those members of Congress have to recognize is that they have a constitutional obligation to recreate a context, an environment, a system where we have a reason to trust them. And where they're spending their time, you know, four hours a day raising money from the tiniest fraction from the 1 percent to get back into Congress to get their party back into power, ordinary Americans look at that and say, "Why would I trust you? Why would I trust you?"

BILL MOYERS: There's a former member of Congress from Virginia who says that both parties have become telemarketing systems--

LAWRENCE LESSIG: Absolutely, I think--

BILL MOYERS: --dialing for dollars.

LAWRENCE LESSIG: Yeah, and that's not figurative, right. If you could get a camera into both where the Republicans do their work and the Democrats would do their work it would astonish Americans to see these people sitting in these cubicles with headsets on sitting there dialing and dialing and dialing people they've never met, but of course they pretend they know these people when they call them, begging them for money.

You know, it's like, remember the old image of the Skinner box, that, you have the rat, learning which buttons to push to get the food. Well, our congressmen live in a Skinner box. They live 30 to 70 percent of their time raising money to get back to Congress. And as they do that, they're only humans.

As they do that they learn what are the words they need to utter to the people on the other end of the line to get them to send that $1,000 or $2,400 check. And the point is they're not calling, they're not calling the average American. They're calling people of a very specific set of interests. And that's the core of the corruption that our system's built.

BILL MOYERS: So from your experience what's been the impact on everyday people of this kind of this kind of branding, fundraising?

LAWRENCE LESSIG: Well, I mean, there's impact in policy. Like, the things that Congress worries about are different from what Congress would worry about if Congress were not so focused on raising money. So for example, the Huffington Post did a fantastic little piece about this. They asked the question in the first quarter of 2011 what was the number one issue Congress spent its time working on, you know, on the floor of the Congress and in committees?

You know, we had a lot of issues at that point. We were in the middle of two wars, huge unemployment crisis. We had a debt crisis, we had a government that was about to be shut down in the summer. There were a lot of issues they could've been focused on. So what was number one? And the answer is the bank swipe fee controversy, you know, the question of when you use your debit card how much should the banks get, how much should the credit card companies have to pay.

And why was that number one? Because when a member of Congress stands on the floor of Congress and says, "Well, you know, I'm not sure. There's a lot of good arguments on one side, a lot of good arguments on the other side," millions of dollars rain down upon that congressman by these two powerful interests that are keying to try to sway Congress one way or the other.

And so the point is, you know, we have a system where Congress can't afford to address the most important issues like how much does it pay to talk about unemployment on the floor of Congress? How much money do you actually get for addressing issues that are important to America? And I think the really important thing here is to recognize it's not because they're evil. It's not because they're bad people. It's not because they're criminals.

LAWRENCE LESSIG: The kind of corruption we've got today is not bad souls. It's good souls, it's good people who are living within a system that forces them to behave in a certain way to succeed. And I think what we need to do is to say to those people, "We understand. But you are responsible for fixing this. And you could fix this. Without changing the constitution you could take the most important first step in fixing this. And if you don't, then you are responsible for destroying the most important democratic branch we've got."

BILL MOYERS: Here's a third term Democratic, Jim Himes, a Connecticut representative, member of the Financial Services Committee, a former banker at Goldman Sachs and one of the top recipients of Wall Street money. He says, quote, "It's appalling, it's disgusting, it's wasteful and it opens the possibility of conflicts of interest and corruption. It's unfortunately," he said, "the world we live in." Now, is he just being pragmatic and you and I are just being idealistic?

LAWRENCE LESSIG: He's correct. It is all of those things. It's a product of the world he lives in. But here's the difference. You and I can't change that world. He could. He and a majority in Congress and a majority in the House of Representative, majority of the Senate could pass legislation tomorrow which would radically change the way Congress raised its money.

So Jim Himes and other Democrats would not be begging to Goldman Sachs, his former employer, or other Wall Street banks for the money they need to run their campaigns, but they would be getting the money to run their campaigns from all of us so that they could begin to say, "What's actually in the interest of my constituents? What actually would help America here?"

As opposed to, "What can I not afford to do if I want to continue to raise the money I need to raise from Wall Street or the pharmaceutical companies or the doctors other every other major interest that has the capacity to veto any sensible reform in our American government?" They could change this tomorrow.

They should be sitting down and figuring out how do we put together the coalition that's necessary to make this right? And that coalition is not just Democrats. There are people on the right who are as disgusted by what they call crony capitalism which corrupts both our government and our capitalist system. They are just as disgusted, they are just as motivated.

And if we had a Congress and leaders in Congress who were willing to think about the fundamental reform this would take they could do it, they could do it tomorrow. But they are too comfortable maybe, they are too weak maybe. They are too small maybe. They are not the leaders that, you know, we romanticize from the past who were willing to say, "Okay, it may destroy my party, it may destroy me, but this is what I'm going to do."

I mean, I think of the person you worked for, Lyndon Johnson, who says to his staff, civil rights is the issue. And they say, are you crazy? You're gonna get destroyed. This will be the end of your presidency. The first move out will be the end. And he says, you know, what the hell is being a president for? Well, what the hell is being a member of Congress for if not to at least change the conditions under which all of us have a completely rational reason to say that institution is bought and I don't believe what they're doing?

BILL MOYERS: And yet you see the headline in the newspaper, Americans are not really concerned about, don't really care about the campaign finance reform. You've seen those polls and they're not riled up about it. So the anger isn't coming from below to pressure the candidates to do anything about reforming the system.

LAWRENCE LESSIG: Look, in July of 2012 Gallup did their annual, their quad-annual poll, what is the most important issue that the next president should address? Number two on that list, second only to jobs, was quote, corruption in Washington. Now, by corruption people were not thinking of Rod Blagojevich or Randy “Duke” Cunningham because those issues were nowhere in the press--

BILL MOYERS: That's endemic in human nature to--

LAWRENCE LESSIG: --that’s right. They were thinking about the issue that was in their newspapers every single day, the Citizens, consequences of Citizens United like these super PACs spending unbelievable amounts of money, seeing the candidates, Republican candidates, too, flinging themselves around the country to raise money to run their campaigns.

And they're thinking this system is deeply corrupt. That was number two. Now, no candidate, Obama or Romney, even mentioned the issue on their website. And I had a researcher look at that. I said, "Tell me the last time there was an issue that was on the top ten of this list that neither part even mentioned."

And he looked as far as he could find and there was not ever a time that an issue on the top ten list was not even mentioned by either party. So there's a wonderful convenient reality of our political parties that they don't want to talk about this issue. They constantly say it's not an issue America cares about.

But I think America doesn't care about it because they say, "What's the use?" Nobody's going to talk about it, nobody's going take it up. No one's going to do anything about it. I've got better things to worry about. So of course they don't care about it, they don't talk about it and they also don't participate, they don't vote, they don't get involved. Because they rationally look at the system and say, "The system is bought and I don't have the money."

BILL MOYERS: You have been putting forward a great big idea that you think might make a significant difference in this and radically change the system. It's called the money bomb.

LAWRENCE LESSIG: It, yeah, well, right, the money bomb is a mechanism for creating the political power that we need to force this change. The change is not such a huge change relative to what other states, even what New York is thinking about right now, just changing the way you fund elections. But the money bomb is let's figure out how much it would cost in the next two election cycles to win enough seats in the United States Congress to guarantee we get this change.

You know, I don't know what that number is, but we're hiring a group to calculate that number let's say it's a half a billion dollars. So then let's go around to 50 billionaires and say to them, "Okay, we want you to write, we want you to promise in Kickstarter-like way, that if we find 49 other people to write a check for that number over 50, you will write a check for that same amount."

So whether it's a $10 million check or a $50 million check, I don't know what the number is going be, but commit to us that you do that. So that by the end of this we've got a super PAC with the power to end all super PACs.

It would be for the purpose of electing representatives and a president committed to, we'd identify the package of reform they've got to promise. So you go into a district and you say, "Okay fine if this congressperson is not committed to that, we're going to take that congressperson off, take that congressperson--"

BILL MOYERS: You're going to punish him for not supporting reform?

LAWRENCE LESSIG: Right. Now, of course, you had Jonathan Soros on your show and Jonathan Soros gave us the pilot that demonstrated how powerful this idea could be. Soros ran a little super PAC called Friends of Democracy. They targeted eight seats. They spent about $2.5 million, not a lot of money, and seven of those eight seats flipped in the way they wanted it to flip.

They made money in politics the issue and in seven of those eight seats people came out and said, "Fine, that's right. This guy is corrupt in our view and we're going totake him out." Now, if you in 2014 went from eight seats to 80 seats and you won even 50 of those 80 seats on the basis of money in the politics so if you had $50 million in 2014 and you won 50 of those seats, that would terrify the United States Congress.

So when you came back in 2016 there would be a lot of people who would all of a sudden magically have become reformers in this fight and we would have a real chance to get a Congress committed to in 2017 their very first bill being the bill to enact the change that gives us a reason once again to have confidence in the system. Now, it's a huge fight.

And the reason that money bomb has gotta be so big is that the closer we get and the closer that K Street realizes that we might actually have a chance of winning, they're going to create all sorts of pushback. Because if we win lobbyists don't go away. We need lobbyists. Lobbyists are an important part of our system. But the value of lobbying services gets cut in half, right, because they are no longer the fundraiser-lobbyist. They are just somebody, a policy wonk giving a good idea about what they want. So you know, as John Edwards used to say when we used to quote John Edwards, there's all the difference in the world --

BILL MOYERS: The former John Edwards.

LAWRENCE LESSIG: --yeah. There's all the difference in the world between a lawyer making an argument to a jury and a lawyer handing out $100 bills to the jurors. And our lobbying system doesn't understand that difference.

BILL MOYERS: So the purpose of this PAC to end all super PACs would be to go to 20 billionaires, ask them to get $20 to 40 million to put themselves out of business in a way by backing candidates who want to reform the system including with public funding?

LAWRENCE LESSIG: Yeah, yeah. Now, the kind of citizen funding I think we need is not the old kind where the government sort of writes a check, you know, here's $50 million to run your campaign, but a kind where we empower citizens to exercise their choice about how to spend the money that they've got.

Now, you know, New York right now is considering, the governor is going to introduce a proposal for matching funds system to fund elections in New York modeled on the on the New York City model where if you give $100 it's matched six to one.

My own version of the system would be basically hand out vouchers or coupons to every single voter, right. So if every single voter got a $50 voucher you say the first $50 of your taxes we're going send back in the form of a voucher. And you can give that voucher to any candidate who agrees to fund his or her campaign with vouchers only plus maybe contributions of up to $100. Now, that $50 alone would be $7 billion in the system. So that's real money.

But the point is it would be real money coming from all of us rather than from the tiniest fraction of the one percent. So it's like the voting system where all of us have a vote, all of us would have a voucher. And we could begin to produce a Congress which is once against concerned not only to respond to a large number of us in the voting booth but also to respond to a large number of us in the funding booth.

BILL MOYERS: What percentage of Americans are contributing most of the money for the rest of us?

LAWRENCE LESSIG: Well, if you look at the number of Americans who give the maximum amount to any congressional candidate, that number's at about, in 2010 was at about 140,000 people. So that means 0.05 percent of America gives the maximum amount to any candidate. And of course it's that kind of person that the congress people are calling when they're sitting there with their headsets on dialing for dollars. So what I try to get people to recognize is how tiny that number is.

And it turns out that's the same number of people who happen to be named Lester, right. So it's, basically we've created Lesterland where Lesters are the people that congress people call to fund their campaigns and then they turn around to the rest of us and they try to get us to vote for them. But in the process of talking to the Lesters to fund their campaigns the Lesters have their influence. And it changes the agenda and what's on the table for Congress to even consider long before we get to vote.

BILL MOYERS: You're a good lawyer. What's the best argument against your reform?

LAWRENCE LESSIG: Well, there's a lot of arguments about unintended consequences. I get that there are risks. But, you know, the question isn't what's the risk free thing we can do.

The question is what is the thing that minimizes the probability that we are going to face catastrophic consequences from failing to address the issues we all know we need to address, the tax code, the climate change, having a health care system that actually cures people, financial reform on Wall Street which we have not really, really begun at all.

I mean, these are all important issues that if we can't address our nation is sunk. And so I understand we need to worry about what the consequences of this might be. But we also need to act vigorously to change a system which any rational soul has got to believe is corrupted.

BILL MOYERS: Is Citizens United, the Supreme Court decision enabling corporations and labor unions and others to contribute unlimited amounts to influence the election, an impediment to what you want to do?

LAWRENCE LESSIG: Yeah, there's no doubt that Citizens United has made the problem worse. But what I fear is that we focus too much on Citizens United. Look, that was the biggest gift this movement has ever received. The Supreme Court gave us a gift. Citizens United has motivated millions of people to care about this issue who two, three years ago never would've even thought about the issue.

Okay, so that's great. But the thing to recognize is on January 20th, 2010, the day before Citizens United was decided, this democracy was already broken, right. Citizens United may have shot the body, but the body was already cold, right. So it's not enough to start a reform movement focused on the idea of fixing the Supreme Court's mistakes.

Because if we do we still have not addressed the fundamental problem in the way in which Congress funds its elections. So of course I hope the Supreme Court fixes its mistake. I actually believe within the next ten years that issue will take care of itself--

BILL MOYERS: Without a constitutional amendment as some people are advocating and working for as we speak?

LAWRENCE LESSIG: Yeah, maybe it needs an amendment, but here's what I know. Before we will ever have the votes necessary to pass an amendment out of Congress we have got to produce a Congress that's elected with clean money. So the long term strategy might require a constitutional amendment, not an easy task.

But the short term strategy has got to be to change the way we fund elections that doesn't require a constitutional amendment so that we can begin to fill Congress with people who are committed to the right sense of reform.

They have the power to change the system and we ought to say to them if they don't exercise that power then shame on them. And shame on us if we don't kick them out when they don't.

BILL MOYERS: Larry Lessig, this has really been an interesting conversation for me and I appreciate very much your joining me.

LAWRENCE LESSIG: I'm grateful you would have me, Bill.

BILL MOYERS: The Edward Snowden NSA story is still developing and God save any of us who draw the moral before the tale is told. At our website,, you can stay abreast of what is happening next. Also with 38 million Americans collectively owing more than a trillion dollars in student loans, we’ve gathered a collection of contributors to ponder the question, “What’s the Best Way to Solve the Student Debt Crisis?”

That’s all at I’ll see you there and I’ll see you here, next time.

Big Brother’s Prying Eyes

June 14, 2013

Whatever your take on the recent revelations about government spying on our phone calls and Internet activity, there’s no denying that Big Brother is bigger and less brotherly than we thought. What’s the resulting cost to our privacy — and more so, our democracy? Lawrence Lessig, professor of law and director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University and founder of Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society, discusses the implications of our government’s actions, Edward Snowden’s role in leaking the information, and steps we must take to better protect our privacy.

“Snowden describes agents having the authority to pick and choose who they’re going to be following on the basis of their hunch about what makes sense and what doesn’t make sense. This is the worst of both worlds. We have a technology now that gives them access to everything, but a culture if again it’s true that encourages them to be as wide ranging as they can,” Lessig tells Bill. “The question is — are there protections or controls or counter technologies to make sure that when the government gets access to this information they can’t misuse it in all the ways that, you know, anybody who remembers Nixon believes and fears governments might use?”

Few are as knowledgeable about the impact of the Internet on our public and private lives as Lessig, who argues that government needs to protect American rights with the same determination and technological sophistication it uses to invade our privacy and root out terrorists.

“If we don’t have technical measures in place to protect against misuse, this is just a trove of potential misuse…We’ve got to think about the technology as a protector of liberty too. And the government should be implementing technologies to protect our liberties,” Lessig says. “Because if they don’t, we don’t figure out how to build that protection into the technology, it won’t be there.”

“We should recognize in a world of terrorism the government’s going to be out there trying to protect us. But let’s make sure that they’re using tools or technology that also protects the privacy side of what they should be protecting.”

A former conservative who’s now a liberal, Lessig also knows that the caustic impact of money is another weapon capable of mortally wounding democracy. His recent book, Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress — and a Plan to Stop It, decries a pervasive “dependence corruption” in our government and politics that should sound a desperate alarm for both the Left and the Right. Here, Lessig outlines a radical approach to the problem that uses big money itself to reform big money-powered corruption.

Producer: Gail Ablow. Editor: Rob Kuhns.
Intro Producer: Robert Booth. Intro Editor: Paul Desjarlais.
Photographer: Alton Christensen.

Learn more about the full production team behind Moyers & Company.

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  • Gene Ogorodov

    Lessig’s testamony before Congress was very telling. It shows that he actually believes the American propaganda. This Stazi-esk state was first seen in the 1970’s. It didn’t end; it evolved into something more tyrannical. The US has been a privatized totalitarian state since the late 1940’s. We didn’t beat fascism we adoped it. So long as the National Security State continues Americans will live under Corporate despotism. I do not ask for change (I don’t believe that the US will ever abandon fascism); I only wish that people would be honest with themselves.

  • Bonnie Hayskar

    Right on, Mr. Lessing. Right on. The rollover in Congress needs to be just that. Roll ’em over and roll ’em out. It is the only way to clean out the muck we are wallowing in. Let’s get the sledge out.

  • TEHelms

    As a former analyst I can tell you we looked for things that matched that was actionable intelligence. We had so much info that going on wild hunts just wasn’t possible. We never looked for individuals on our end..again, just too much and not worth the effort.

  • Eugene Spuglio

    IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776

    The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

    When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and
    to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent
    respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. This is what the Government would try to stop.

  • Jeff Healitt

    Good interview. I noticed the things Professor Lessig says (beginning at minute 40 of the interview) that Congress could do to fix the system “tomorrow”, are the same type of unselfish decisions that Edward Snowden has made to address the problem.

  • Thom

    Bill, the probleem with LESSIG is that he is like Joseph McCartjy. As McCarthy assumed as truth that there were commies in the army, Lessig assumes as truth that there are terrorists out the (al-Qaeda) out to get us. THERE WAS NO PROOF OF EITHER.


    Come on. This guy is on an anti-Communist rant.

    Just take his works and everywhere he uses words lile “terrorists” or “terrorism” or al-Qaeda or the like SUBSTITUTE THE WORD “COMMUNISTS” and you have presto changeo Joseph McCarthy.

    Your show tonight should have been an Edward R. Murrow exposure of McCarthyite Terrorism Surveillance Scandal of the government and the Transnational Capitalist Class.

    That is was not, is, regrettably, a blot on your otherwise magnificent journalistic career. why don;t you interview SNOWDEN?

  • Richard

    I think it’s hard for people who are innocent to stand up against something that will never be a burden to them. If the government is interested in snooping into my boring, so-called online life,it’s hard for me to say no when giving up my privacy could prevent another 9/11.Besides, can we, with a straight face, say our privacy is important. Look at how much we give up willingly to Facebook, etc.

  • Anonymous

    Richard you have so much blind trust in your government, what if you were one of the blacks that were innoculated with diseases in the early part of the century. The Tuskegee syphilis experiment[1] was an infamous clinical study conducted between 1932 and 1972 by the U.S. Public Health Service to study the natural progression of untreated syphilis in rural African American men who thought they were receiving free health care from the U.S. government. Or the Japanese internment. Japanese American internment was the World War II internment in “War Relocation Camps” of about 110,000 people of Japanese heritage who lived on the Pacific coast of the United States. The U.S. government ordered the internment in 1942, shortly after Imperial Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor.[2][3] The internment of Japanese Americans was applied unequally as a geographic matter: all who lived on the West Coast were interned, while in Hawaii, where 150,000-plus Japanese Americans comprised over one-third of the population, only 1,200[4] to 1,800 were interned.[5] Sixty-two percent of the internees were American citizens. What is to stop your government from lying to you on what they are doing with anyones private information. If history is my witness, I would be petrified of some of the actions of my government. We are the big war monger starting all the wars in the world , even if we have to lie about it (weapons of Mass destruction in Iraq). Some would call these americans innocents with nothing to hide, unfortunately the government has many innocent sacrificial lambs on the alter of conquest and solidifying power. Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it.

  • Anonymous

    I find this attitude lazy, un-American view of our fundamental liberties – that many Americans have died to protect.

    I also believe it is disingenuous, as we all know just how much abuse can take place in a Totalitarian state – and massive surveillance of our private communication is a first step.

    We all should be more than alarmed at what is taking place, and we should fight for our liberties much like our American predecessors did – and not become so complacent about it.

  • davidp

    Look and listen to Philip Agee on Youtube and see what the CIA did in other countries. This goes back decades.

  • Anonymous

    Naomi Klein The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. It is petrifying what kind of dictatorships we will support if they only fake not to embrace Communism. Actions always speak louder than words, at least how it relates to history, go ahead Richard put on your blinders, your government would never imprison or torture the innocents of society. What do you have to worry about, the billions spent on Homeland Security and Fema camps are out there to protect you.

  • John Eadie

    I admire your shows Bill Moyers, but whoever wrote “there’s no denying that Big Brother is bigger and less brotherly than we thought” is assuming that there *can be / ought to be* a big brother. THIS IS WRONG.

    Somebody missed reading those English novels. It’s as Wrong as letting the whole NSA thing just glide by. I am a Canadian, an uncertain cousin, but believe in the US per-se and am appalled. Terrorism be damned. Leave it to certain police forces, and limit their access. Unnecessary unlimited citizen monitoring is happening in the UK, Canada, and the USA. It is WRONG. Wrong everywhere. It will make people learn how to hide.

  • Anonymous

    You don’t care? Perhaps, when the USA turns into a modern day version of East Germany and we can call the NSA STASI, you might begin to care. Only then it will be too late.

  • Gaston Olvera

    This was a very intelligent discussion about the implications of the NSA revelations and its impact on the political discussion. Lawrence Lessig brings up good points about the revolving door in government and the impact of money in the political process towards the end of the discussion.

  • ElisianTime

    I am not certain I watched the same show as Thom, below, but I was happy to hear that there is programming code that can be implemented to give us an “audit trail” that shows who is accessing our information if we demand it. So, CONGRESS, I demand it!

    In talking with friends tonight I mentioned that we might be the last generation to have experienced privacy. I found Lessig’s comments to be measured and proportional to the surveillance society that has become the new normal. I trust government less than corporations- but in a corporatocracy there is little difference, except corporations have to hire mercenaries to fight their wars–oh wait! I forgot about Kellogg Root Brown. 😉

    Snowden appeared to have acted with conscience, and he seems to have sacrificed much. Conversely, I was struck by the fact that Gen. Alexander from the NSA lied. He lied, and he is still lying, and that is not ok! I don’t want him heading up anything.

    Finally, the argument that Snowden has put American’s at risk because now the terrorists (whoever they are) know we collect data, is a bizarre overreach… and just a bit too dramatic. Incredibly, just last week intelligence officers in the FBI showed infrared surveillance cameras that caught one of the Boston bombers on the boat he was hiding on. They showed the equipment and explained in detail how they were able to detect small features like hand movements on the infrared cameras they operated from their helicopter. Now that was a rhetorical display of power that revealed techniques and technology of specialized surveillance. I’ll bet the display interested terrorists (who in my NM town happen to be the corrupt police).

    Please keep up the good work, Mr. Moyers. I have relied upon you for over 30 years and you have never disappointed. Thank you!

  • Fred

    Mr Lessig seems to believe that it’s OK for the NSA to collect endless data on innocent Americans. But that in itself is a violation of the Constitution.

  • Bob B

    all this…(ALEC….NSA…..NRA…..congress…..Monsanto…..IRS) brings me back to what i’ve been saying for many years…..”I live my country but……I fear my government”

  • Richard

    Wow, is that what’s happening? Why would we call the NSA STASI? Wouldn’t we still call it NSA? And why would it be too late? Wouldn’t we still have the power to change it. Are you saying that if they can monitor us, our democracy is over? As for doing something about anything, when was the last time we were able to do more than tweet our anger? Did we fix the banking problem? Are we able to take congress from the hands of the lobbyists and give it to the people?

  • Richard

    Americans have died to protect the privacy rights we freely give up to Facebook? How would you fight?

  • Richard

    Blind trust? I don’t think I said that. All those things you say are true, but no one could stop them then and no one could stop them now.

  • BrainImplant

    Remarkable show Mr. Lessig and Mr. Moyers. Remarkably bright, and clear. Thank you both.

  • BrainImplant

    “It will make people learn how to hide.” I would also say that this cyberworld will also make people compliant, rigid determinists, less creative, and philosophically empty.

  • Anonymous

    Thats why the the founding fathers attempted to create a system of checks and balances, because they understood the abuses of a monarchy, unfortunately whatever they drafted still morphed into something outside of its original intention. Someone has to attempt to protect those that cant protect themselves. Once they control all our data whats to stop them from shutting down all our bank accounts. It happened to Argentina in the 1970s, or steering off any select group into internment camps. (Today they claim its muslims, yesterday it was russians, they always invent a new evil empire, now it appears to be their own citizens). The government spent billions on new prisons and FEMA camps, they may decide to use them one of these days. You could on one of those lists despite your protest of innocence. It happened in many other parts of the world. The less they know about you and your private life the better.

  • Richard

    They close bank accounts now. What do you mean by “control all the data”?

  • Anonymous

    Democracy is over, they sold it off to the highest bidder. Its a wall to wall police state, and they are bringing all their left over armanent back home to control their own populous. Super PAC money controls every piece of legislature, federal, state and county. There are 50000 new laws on the books every year now. We are 5% of the worlds population and we incarcerate 25% of the worlds prison population, higher than China, Russia, the whole planet. We spend more on military armaments than the entire world combine. Don’t agree with your government , go ahead and protest, you wont get very far. They can crush us all like bugs

  • Anonymous

    What one or two of these frontline programs on PBS (on government secrecy and the untouchable bankers), you might learn something, they can articulate these new developments better than I can), its been going on for a long time. They want to go to a paperless money system, so that can trully control all transfers of money.

  • Richard


  • Mike Scanlan

    There is one glaring omission from Lessing’s argument about campaign financing. How can we have a free flow of ideas when corporations have completely taken over mass media? They control the “narrative” and then allow all sides to debate that narrative.

    Lessing knows politicians are completely dependent on the whims of the media. No politician can escape it.

    I am one of many who has succeeded in avoiding political ads for the last 2 elections. I have boycotted television and cable.

    But it is impossible to avoid the media, save cutting myself off from the Internet.

    Mike Scanlan
    Santa Fe, NM

  • Anonymous

    Straw man argument. NSA is not face book.

  • Richard

    That’s what you say! Where’s my aluminum foil hat?

  • nolikelessig

    This is the same Lessig who believes Obama has moral courage.

  • Anonymous

    Obama said, “You can’t have 100 percent security and also then have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience” — a stupid statement if there ever was one. Leaving aside that “security / privacy” is a false binary opposition, if the White House were determined to deliver 100 percent security, it would work at least as hard on rational gun laws as do the anti-abortion pols on successfully blocking every avenue to abortion. It would have reduced speed limits on highways. It would demand much more stringent Food and Drug Administration regulations with respect to things like pesticide use, meat inspection, drug testing, etc., etc. Global warming would have been stabilized by now. It would long ago have put in place a universal medicare program – one that favors ALL citizens equally rather than the health insurance industry.

    And, most important, if the White House were serious about delivering maximum security, it would cease manufacturing a steady supply of terrorists by interfering in the political and economic affairs of Muslim countries. Instead, what Americans have is a horrendously expensive and Orwellian surveillance system fueled by military and political paranoia – a system which is entirely out of proportion to the threat terrorism poses.

    Since the likelihood of an American being a victim of terrorism is minuscule compared to any and all of the threats enumerated above, you really have to wonder who’s provoking all this anxiety among military and political elites. Given the type of data – data that violates the private lives of Americans – it seems clear that it’s not “terrorists,” but rather American citizens themselves: Journalists and their anonymous sources? Potential whistleblowers? Leakers? Occupy Wall Streeters? Environmental activists? Other loud and justifiably angry citizens?

    Getting “terror” in much needed perspective: “We read with horror of terrorist attacks around the world, mostly in far-flung places that regularly endure suicide bombings, improvised explosive devices, and the like. We breathe a sigh of relief that we don’t have to live with such violence, while we spend billions of dollars annually to prevent such attacks occurring here. But every year, about twice as many people are killed in the United States by guns than die of terrorist attacks WORLDWIDE. Americans face a one in 3.5 million chance of being killed in a terrorist attack, but a one in 22,000 chance of being murdered.”

  • susanpub

    Oh, how many times have I said that until we have
    publicly funded elections, we will never have democracy or real freedom?

  • susanpub

    I don’t give up information to Facebook, Twitter, etc. & I don’t want my information trolled by my government & I don’t like my emails trolled by Google, either (don’t be evil, my a**)

  • susanpub

    I have always LOVED this – thanks for reminding people.

  • susanpub

    Are you really not getting what these people here are saying?

  • susanpub

    I really think you are expecting too much of Richard. Save your typing fingers.

  • Anonymous

    LMFAOF! at the fools who are blaming ObamaSama for these crimes. Bush destroyed the constitution with the Patriot Act and made every American Citizen a criminal for supporting terrorism. Your Tax dollars go to fund the largest terrorist org in the history of civilization, the name of this terrorist group is the CIA. The Federal Gov is the enemy of every American Citizen.

  • Kathleen Patricia Kinkel

    LOVE THIS!!!

  • hpesoj

    You should consider, if you have not already done so, inviting the creator of the hit show “Person of Interest” as a guest.

  • Bob

    Please interview Ellen Hodgson Brown about her book Web of Debt.

  • B

    Very thoughtful man. However, I find Lessig a bit naive about the endless possibilities that will always exist for information-collectors to abuse the information they have. Also, I find Lessig’s faith in the judicial system, in an age of growing government influence, a bit too high.

  • B

    “These are good people [Congress].” Umm, ok. I have no need to demonize, but we will get nowhere while our standards for moral courage are so low.

  • Anonymous 9

    Bill how many times has the government requested information from the comments made on your blogs?

  • Robert Weixler

    Lawrence Lessig and Bill explore how we can protect our privacy when Big Government and Big Business morph into Big Brother.

    I believe that unless we take control of our governement, we will alllow our society to be destroyed.

  • Number 6

    What if agents of this new Big Brother apparatus decide to target someone with malicious disinformation deliberately created and added to your supposed electronic footprints? For example, they could make you appear to be a terrorist or child predator. Anybody targeted this way would be guilty until proven innocent.

  • Anonymous

    while much of what lessing said was spot on, i think he accepts an amount of corporate spying, that i find intolerable…i do NOT like that amazon, ebay and other sites puts together what i buy or search in an effort to sell me more stuff…

    i also don’t like that disqus was foisted upon me by huffington post few years back without my permission…i didn’t understand it would collect my comments across sites until it was too late. so, i continue to use it. the damage is done.

    lessing’s acceptance of corporate data collection and outdoor cameras is part and parcel of teaching us being spied on is “no big deal”. it is big deal.

    bill, i wish you’d be harder on your “guests”.

  • Anonymous

    wait…what if it intrudes in to your REAL life.
    yes, i can say with a straight face that privacy is important. i give up NOTHING on social media, because i don’t participate in it…with the exception of disqus…which i joined like a good sheep when huffpo changed over from their own comment hosting. had i actually known what disqus was i wouldn’t have signed up…so signed up. of course, my bio is EMPTY.

  • Anonymous

    so you just resign yourself to it?

  • Anonymous

    giving up privacy on facebook is a CHOICE. the nsa drag net is not. how do i fight? by not joining social networks.

  • Anonymous

    that is exactly what i thought about much of lessings interview. he allows for some kinds of surveillance…when there should be NONE.
    and bill never called him out on it.

  • moonoverparis

    This is a brilliant interview. One of the best I’ve seen. Thank you very much for sharing it. I was riveted, and pleased to hear the exploration of possible solutions to our broken, corrupt system. Carry on Lawrence Lessig! Let’s do this thing!

  • Richard

    Thank you for thinking I might have the potential to learn something. Are you sure Mastercard and Visa aren’t behind the paperless money thing? I love paperless transactions.

  • Richard

    Wow, way to drag people through the mud. Way to be open minded to other opinions. Isn’t that a cornerstone of democracy?

  • Richard

    To what?

  • GT

    The thing I find perplexing about Snowden is his escape to the “Special Administrative Region” (Hong Kong) of the People’s Republic of China, a champion of civil liberties and an enemy of the surveillance/police state??? Maybe Snowden can go to work exposing their abuses, e.g. Tibet, the fate of dissidents, sweat shops, horrendous pollution, slave labor, and of course the government internet censors.

    Thank-you Bill for all the work you do exposing our government/corporate abusers of civil and human rights and not skipping the country.

  • Anonymous

    We keep rewarding their bad behavior, by reelecting them term after term! We could change this situation by voting all “435” out in 14, with the hope that when they begin to feel the power, they just may have a glimmer of who put them in office!

  • US Patriot

    They are telling me that we need to trash the USA Constitution and our fundamental rights and protections from government abuse and engage in a perpetual Global War on Terror at a cost of $1.283 trillion plus … because 2,996 American were killed in 9/11 attacks 12 years ago, and in order to protect us from some vague current terrorist risk.

    Yet … 40,000 deaths are caused by aspirin and painkillers every year in the USA !

    I don’t buy that the security risk is anywhere near worth this cost.

    As of March 2011 … Total War Funding by Operation
    Assuming an annual level of the current Continuing Resolution (H.J.Res. 44/P.L. 112-4) and based on DOD, State Department/USAID, and Department of Veterans Administration budget submissions, the cumulative total appropriated from the 9/11 for those war operations, diplomatic operations, and medical care for Iraq and Afghan war veterans is $1.283 trillion including:
    • $806 billion for Iraq;
    • $444 billion for Afghanistan;
    • $29 billion for enhanced security; and
    • $6 billion unallocated (see Table 1).1

    The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror …‎
    by A Belasco – 2011 – Cited by 234 – Related articles
    Mar 29, 2011 – 48/P.L. 112-6) Congress has approved a total of $1.283 trillion for military operations, base security, reconstruction, foreign aid, embassy costs, …

  • A Qui Tam Relator

    It sound as if we need protection from our own tyrannical government not from some made up idea about terrorists, our own government has become the new or old terrorists. The American People must wakeup from this dream world that our media has lulled us into. WAKE UP AMERICA while you still can or have your childern live in a communist, fascist, dictatorship in thier lifetime. Is that what the American People want to do ?

  • Godric

    Thank you, Bill for this excellent run down. Haven’t finished it yet (transcript), but I will.

    There’s one overriding factor (in my head) that I’ve seen very little discussion of in print media or on NPR (net print, don’t watch much TV). I too can’t help but believe President Obama does what he does to stop terrorism, in “good faith.” But he might have been hoodwinked. Or he might think the thing is gonna come any way you look at it, so let’s get our team enmeshed in the project.

    Though I don’t use any encryption programs, I feel quasi informed enough to ask how all this enhanced NSA capability is going to deal with THAT problem. As soon as I searched [well, when finally the right words/names dawned on me and I searched] I encountered an article that went over this difficulty…the slim chances the planned computer cluster at UDC under control of a Cray XT5 supercomputer will be able to decrypt terrorist communiques in a timely fashion…or even in a whole month after the project’s completed. So if it won’t be able to, why is this center in the works? Or, why does it seem obvious to me we’d have much better chances trying to reign in corporate tyrants which the world out there identifies with us? Though I respect the phrase “inverted totalitarianism,” it does seem as though we could be moving toward one congomerate of machines as Big Brother rather than to a large geographical area that would accept a human in this role.

    “Even in its simpler 128-bit format, computer experts agree, attempting to crack an encryption by trying all the possible combinations one after another –i.e 340 by 1036– would take several billion years, even with the fastest computers available today.” [link below]

    This sentence below gives away the actual difficulty.

    “To be on the safe side , the agency has adopted a policy of simply combing all communications networks to collect and store as much data as possible, convinced that whatever encrypted message can’t be cracked today will surely be cracked some day in the future.”

  • Naima

    I remember, not so fondly, as an activist and member of several national Pan-Africanist groups, our concerns about Cointelpro. Of course, the government vehemently denied what we now know was true. I also remember sitting in a meeting and being warned about the coming era of “Big Brother” when the government would be able to spy on us from the OTHER side of our television sets! How unlikely we thought that was!

    For these reasons I do not participate in any social media sites!

  • ccaffrey

    “…what kind of dictatorships we will support….” I believe that Ms. Klein’s brilliant book and subsequent follow-ups show not only what dictatorships we will support, but those we will help put in power, by means which include helping overthrow duly elected heads of state. A dead giveaway is whether our govt/military refers to them as “freedom fighters” or “rebel forces”. We need to wake up from our patriotic “we are the saviors of freedom everywhere” dream and realize that we are engaging in actions against other nations that inspire hatred of us and generate new acts of violence unrelated to some fundamentalist religious agenda. As long as our own troops are home, do we care the absolute shambles we’ve made of Iraq? Our use of depleted uranium and phosphorus weapons in both the Gulf War and the George W vendetta have skyrocketed cancer rates among the people we “liberated” and caused horrific birth defects never before seen in the medical books! They HAVE no infrastructure, nor did we employ any of their people for that work! But, “mission accomplished”, it’s on to the next war contract. I’m with you, if people don’t wake up, and soon, particularly about us ceding functions of government to corporate interests who pledge allegiance to NOTHING but their bottom line, we can kiss this country goodbye.

  • ccaffrey

    9/11 WAS likely preventable. You might want to check out this research done on History Commons, detailing and documenting the number of Presidential level warnings given by our own intelligence network, first to President Clinton, with him relaying the threat information to Bush during the transition, but with increasing frequency and urgency trying to get the Bush Administration to pay attention. (If it’s any consolation I think Cheney and Rumsfeld and their minions were the “ignorers-in-chief”, with Condoleeza Rice following orders. They had Bush focused on “avenging Daddy by getting Saddm Hussein”.) It served it’s purpose and is textbook Shock Doctrine. Look at the Constitutional rights we have ceded since then.

  • Anonymous

    It’s hard NOT to re-elect them when you are given fiat “choices” like the one we were “offered” last election….Obummer vs. Myth…REALLY?! Tell me again how the game is not rigged….

  • Anonymous

    The INTERESTING thing to me is that NO ONE is talking about the actual language of the Constitution in all this…Here’s what it has to say: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers (aka data) and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures (wait for it….) SHALL NOT BE VIOLATED….”

    It seems to me that this direct prohibition is, intentionally, an absolute one, with the only exception being the warrant process (which requires a Judge). Also knowing how parsimonious our founding fathers were with their language, it also seems to INCLUDE corporations in this prohibition.

    It also seems to me that our governments actions over the past 30 years in de-facto changing the US Constitution, by GUTTING the rights and protections therein, WITHOUT going through the approved process for changing the Constitution (it’s called an Amendment and was most recently done in 1992) constitutes acts of war and treason against the Constitution.

    Here is a good definition of treason:Oran’s Dictionary of the Law (1983) defines treason as “…[a]…citizen’s actions to help a foreign government overthrow, make war
    against, or seriously injure the [parent nation].” In many nations, it
    is also often considered treason to attempt or conspire to overthrow the
    government, even if no foreign country is aiding or involved by such an
    Now, why do I call it treason? EACH member of Congress is a Citizen. Each member of Congress ALSO swore an oath to “protect the Constitution of the United States of America from ALL enemies, foreign and domestic…”
    Acting intentionally to change the rights and protections of the Constitution while (most carefully) AVOIDING the approved and sanctioned process (and the PROTECTIONS of that process) is by definition an illegal act of war against the Constitution. Their OATHS of protection to the Constitution make that act of war TREASON.
    So…Can we now CHARGE them and put them all in prison at Leavenworth for their crimes?! This would also have the added benefit of barring them from ever “serving” in any government office.

  • ccaffrey

    While I am a big fan of Lawrence Lessig’s work, particularly in the area of getting dark money out of politics, I was a little surprised that he spoke of Palantir as if they were basically just non-partisan tech geeks who could “fix” the type of data-mining allowable and build in protections from abuse. I’m also interested in how much vetting the CSA did of Palantir and my fear is “maybe more than we think”. It was just 2 years ago that Palantir was part of Team Themis, hired by Chamber of Commerce lobbyists to come up with ways to sabotage protest campaigns by the unions and certain progressive groups such as ThinkProgress. That information can be found here:

    On the day this program aired, Truthout also published this scathing article about Palantir. (which included a link to the aforementioned article). But I’m sure that must have been a separate division of Palantir right? Or maybe they forgot to include it on the curriculum vitae when they were applying for the contract, or the CSA thought that was irrelevant. I would suggest that we bring the federal courts to bear on this matter…oh, but wait, there are all those vacancies yet to fill, and the backlogs to deal with. This whole thing stinks to high heaven!

  • Anonymous

    It comes down to perception on what shall not be violated. There is no literal meaning of the constitution, one side says it says one thing, and another side can see it differently. You can’t just post a phrase from that doc and expect it to stand on its own in some literal sense.

    You are seemingly over the top on this issue.

  • Anonymous


  • CandleLight

    People…now that we KNOW what the problem is, and how deep it goes…what are OUR NEXT STEPS?

    Belly-aching online, and marching around demanding “change” simply won’t fix this problem this time.

    Let’s talk about real solutions, that can bring about real change or we’re all doomed to live in 1984 now and forever.

  • Anonymous

    I would be a little over the top IF you don’t remember the history of The Constitution. This set of documents was written primarily to protect the Citizens from abuse by what is ostensibly their government. I would also note that these fiat laws were passed outside the allowed mechanism for changing the Constitution….and THAT is the real problem as these traitors have intentionally short circuited the inherent protections of the amendment process.

  • Anonymous

    They were not.

  • Betty Kreeger

    You first – tell us your plan. No plan? Go figure, or you would have posted it instead of belly-aching about belly-aching.

  • Anonymous

    Great repugnant con “response”….Denial is NOT JUST a river in Egypt.

  • Anonymous

    And Obummer CONTINUED that destruction of rights and protections by signing NDAA (the “new and improved” Patriot Act) and the Monsanto Protection Act (after +350,000 Voters asked him NOT to)…Bottom line: With VERY few exceptions, NONE of them are working for you or your (inconvenient) rights.

  • Anonymous

    Let’s put the same question in a different venue: How would you react if an FIBBER or CIA type showed up at your door with no notice and demanded your phone records for the past year so that they could track all the calls you’ve made (or received), who they were to, and how long they were….with NO probable cause and NO warrant (basically with no legal right)….I, also, have committed no crimes and have nothing to hide, yet my response to such an event would be EXTREMELY impolite (at best).

  • Kat Hay

    Thanks for the heads up about Palantir, which had somehow snuck by me while I was distracted by my life. Indeed your “one relevant question” is right on the mark. It’s this pervasive and insidious linkage between our government and corporate interests that poses the primary threat to our democractic aspirations.

  • Anonymous

    Oh I agree. However Bush did the first NDAA and as far as I am concerned any violence used against Monsanto is fine. That is one evil PoS corporation that needs to be destroyed.

  • Bernie album

    I have watched every previous program since the beginning but this one is the crowning jewel. We need a potlical party to adopt Lawreence Lessig’s recommendations to be a party platform. If the Democratic Party doesn’t have campaign fiance reform & overturning Citizens United as Party platforms I call for a 3rd independent party that will.
    Let it be a 96% party movement that includes former conservatives, liberals, Republicans,Democrats, and members of the Tea Party or Green Party. Giving each American voting citizen a voucher is a terrific idea but I am open to other ways to reform campaign fiancing.
    When and where can we meet for our 1st Party Convention to form our articles of incorporation and elect a board of directors and party leader?

  • Anonymous

    Great repugnant liberal no-response! But keep capitalizing and spewing your emotional rants.

    I am not a con, but a progressive. You are so emotional and all over the map, you remain pretty clueless. Good luck!!

  • ccaffrey

    You have a life? How wonderful for you! Really! : )

  • ccaffrey

    Well we got a whole brand spankin new group of Tea Party folks in 2010, at the state and federal level, AND brand new gerrymandered districts! It’s not a question about old or new, it’s a question of who they are accountable to and represent! Every voter in the country ought to be involved in the Move to Amend actions to get corporate and dark money out of the electoral process, AND be petitioning for laws that prevent the revolving door of legislators and their staff in and out of Congress and corporations. Also, many people don’t know that you can amend your state constitution to determine what body does the redistricting. Many have opted for independent redistricting boards that aren’t controlled by the party in power.

  • Anonymous

    We have our govt out there fomenting distrust of America, fomenting unrest in other countries, creating this intense dislike of America. After creating certain threats to our safety & security as a nation, they begin snooping on Americans when WE are not the problem -as much as they’d like to convince us that we are. They are doing WAY more than the “big brother” dance. They are creating the problems which they are then asking us to allow them this latitude in combatting. This is my definition of not only “insanity” but “satanic”, too.

  • Bill

    I joined the Green Party

  • Anonymous

    “GOP wants the not blessed by $$$, Americans to
    “die quickly” if they get sick.”

    Follow the DEEDS, not the words of the GOP. As was said eons ago: By their deeds, we shall know what path NOT
    to take & the Path that is taken blossoms GREEN in the direction where G*D,
    Mom placed the PUMP in our hueman body leaning Left – for a reason, this GREEN
    doorway to already proven global ‘interdependent’ healthy for inclusive

    What the RePublican Right of the GOP emphatically want:

    Multi-National Corporate Sickness Care!

    Building industries based on sickness care
    that would be accepted as “suffering as He suffered for you”. The American Cancer Society was established
    in 1937, the same year that cannabis was outlawed, for the Treatment of Cancer
    – ONLY.

    As this Divided_Union and yet to be USA entered into for the G0P protected

    CASH C0W industry of Corporate FREE MARKET Barons to finance the

    “Born-Again” Christian_Right Reich’s that can never be wrong as

    GLOBAL Armageddon Warrior’s of the King James Bible!

    like poverty is seen as “Not accepting the All Mighty” as their Lord
    & Savior as in the “Anointed” George Walker Bush that
    commandeered that LocoMotive, society being fueled by petro-chemical global
    cartels and fanatical Missionary Religionist that are of global
    multi-religionist sects with the common cause of bringing their god’s corporate instilled Armageddon about.

    Insurance Cartels as Life & Death GOD’S!

    With ABSOLUTELY no governmental oversight
    causing SICKNESS to become a CASH-COW industry for bottom line Prophets of FEAR.
    Insurance Cartels are daily denying coverage for the “slightest infraction
    of the Letter of the Law” while consistently
    loosing paperwork, delaying necessary
    treatments by the Insurance Cartels and
    their “Anointed” doctors.

    Corporation’s TO BE THE NEW government!

    Yes, this is also FACT in deeds;
    multi-national U.S.
    based corporation were given fabulous incentives to move out of the country in
    favor of the need for an extended military once the “Liberation Iraqi
    Liberation” Invasion of Iraq was initiated while also involved with the
    Invasion of Afghanistan. No regulation
    upon the “Business World” – calling the multi-national corporate
    cartels the “Business World” in a FREE Market is like you or I
    entering the rink with Muhammad Ali – we are doomed. Doomed, like the Organic Farmer in 1949
    telling me that it was only a matter of time before his farm would be lost to
    history by the new fertilizers that will disrupt natures insect balance of
    their natural life cycles. For huemanity,
    for our children & their
    grand-children we must go GREEN;
    We are the GENERATION that history has been waiting for; we are the American’s
    that gave birth to the Universal Dream; the Universal Phonetic Language spoken
    throughout the world now we must enter the GREEN door to the god ship of
    huemanity and enter this GREEN Door!

    The GOP Right wants SICKNESS to DEATH performed by Corporate
    Insurance Tribunals; the deeds of what is happening peak for themselves. GOP: The SICKNESS BUCK stops here & now!

    A question: Are you a Progressive Republican in the Path of
    Huemanity as those that preserved our USA’s National Parks which would
    have become Estates with no public access as history has proven & today
    observing as the jungles get smaller & the Ice caps melt. Are you
    “Progressive” as those of us that have always recycled as a way of living since
    long before the “fad” of recycling came about – getting the Jobe accomplished?

    Mr., Mrs. GOP
    are you Progressive as in giving the benefit
    of doubt, listening to all perspectives & then entering into dialogue,
    sometimes maturing into votes of confidence and other times into cutting the
    umbilical cord?

    If not NOW, the when? Sometime in the unreachable future of perpetual lifetimes gone by?

  • Colin M

    Mr. Lessig presents a convincing argument that the American people are overly monitored yet he then goes on to say that the average American has no power to change the system – that the system has to be changed from within and by congress. The two sort of cancel each other out. If congress is aware that they’re being monitored then its extremely unlikely that more than a very few congressman are going to signal that they want to change the system. The power to change the system rests entirely with the public. They need to realize that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans will bring in change. Its time for the people to break the two party stranglehold on congress and vote in a third party. And this needs to happen at both the state and federal levels.

  • Thomas Daulton

    Yet another stunning interview from Bill, one of the last great statesmen of the 4th Estate. I would love it if Bill could ask some of his financial & government guests this question: Since President Obama has assured us that nobody’s privacy or rights are violated by this surveillance, why shouldn’t we allow the SEC and local prosecutors access to the same NSA database and analysis capabilities, in order to catch insider trading, front-running, bid rigging, currency manipulation, and other types of sophisticated financial fraud? The two crimes, terrorism, and high-tech financial fraud, share a lot in common. The PRISM system seems ideal for recognizing diffuse patterns of seemingly innocuous transactions, which is how much of this high-tech fraud occurs. Also note terrorism experts all say that stopping terrorist funding is a big part of fighting it, so presumably the government is already capturing and analyzing everyone’s financial transactions. If all the personal family communications of 300 million Americans need to be tapped in order to fight a crime that kills about as many Americans as shark attacks ever year… Then why do we tolerate for a single minute more, the fact that investment bankers collude with each other, by phone and e-mail, to pass insider trading information, rig bids on local contracts and bonds, front-run stock trades, and devalue currency exchanges, to the tune of tens of billions of dollars per year? Everyone who reads this please spread the idea until the media can’t ignore it: WIRETAP THE BIG BANKS, RATINGS AGENCIES, & INVESTMENT BROKERS. If we citizens have to put up with 24-hour computer surveillance, so should they.

  • hawaiigent

    Lessing makes sense when he discusses the vile effect of dialing for dollars. I have to disagree with him when he calls the leaker Snowden a model of a civil disobedient. Now I have to think about what a civil disobedient is in our model society. My gut feeling is that Snowden does not fill the bill as a hero of the people. He does not get a moral pass from me for violating his oath of secrecy and his flight to China. I predict it will come to pass that the harm exceeds the value he asserts that he has done by breaching his trust and his oath of secrecy when he worked for a secret project. I await his trial for multiple breaches of law.

  • Anonymous

    @Shinjiro:disqus, have you noticed the site you reference is a spoof site? It says so, right at the bottom of the page.

  • Sharon M. Mullins

    as Francisco answered I cant believe that some people can make $5865 in four weeks on the computer. did you see this page w­w­w.K­E­P­2.c­o­m

    Thanks for the heads up about Palantir, which had somehow snuck by me while I was distracted by my life. Indeed your “one relevant question” is right on the mark. It’s this pervasive and insidious linkage between our government and corporate interests that poses the primary threat to our democractic aspirations.

  • Troutdaletim

    Wire tapping has been around since the inception of the telephone if not the telegraph and you are fooling yourself if you think not, so forget about privacy and forget about the 4th Amendment to protect you.

  • Richard

    Excellent reply and examples. Thank you.

  • Anonymous

    “One day last month they came for the bum on the corner. I stood silently. One day the next week they came for th man in the next building. I didn’t speak up. last week they came for my neighbor. I didn’t speak up. Today they came for me. There was no one left to speak up.”

  • Anonymous

    There was NO Constitutional Amendment. Therefore any fiat”law” which removes Constitutionally Protected RIGHTS (is. “Patriot” Act and NDAA and the Monsanto Protection Act) is invalid under the constitution and an act of war and treason against it. look up treason on Wiki…and REMEMBER that each of these traitor “representatives” swore an oath to protect the Constitution!

  • Ellemarz

    Problem is, we all have a “plan” but like anything else, unless we can all agree to follow it, plans mean nothing. I could say, hey, let’s storm the Bastille! But unless the rest of ya’ll agree to do so with me, I’m just one nut out there with a sword waving at the king. These things are much more organic in nature. When enough people finally realize what is being done to them, and when enough of US have lost and suffered as a result of the current direction our nations are taking, a tipping point will occur. It could happen today, tomorrow or not for many generations. It isn’t something that can be planned, per se. What we can plan for, however, is how each of us will respond and act when that tipping point occurs. Will we play the “good citizen” and obey those in authority who tell us to go home and lock our doors, or will we join the resistance? Will we fight to perpetuate the status quo even when it promises to destroy us? Or will we fight for what is moral and right for all humanity and the planet? It’s about choices, not plans, I think.

  • Anonymous

    The the government’s claims of transparency and audibility of the NSA’s PRISM program is analogous (if not directly related) to the claims of Palantir’s. Search for “immutable auditing” below:

    But even with such an audit trail to the core, it is known that it isn’t sufficient:

    I wager that for any given system that touts immutable audibility, there is a way to hack around it. Privacy through automated means is impossible. At best it is a kind of DRM that the NSA can easily work around secretly if it wanted it. What we should be advocating instead is Perfect Forward Secrecy in our internet architecture, and the dismantling of PRISM and related data centers.

    Prof Lessig, in his book “Code”, uses the issue of copyright to justify the current direction of the surveillance state and offers red herrings as “balancing” compromises. Such a balance is impossible in the face of concentrated storage of (even encrypted) data by intelligence agencies. As long as the NSA can tap the wires and record information in vast databases for cold storage, we are absolutely in risk.

    More technical discussion here:

  • Trimtab

    If the people of the United States don’t
    do something to put very strict limits on our new burgeoning Surveillance State, we’re on an inexorable slide towards Big Brother.

    Even though it was criminal, Snowden is sincerely trying to warn us of a rapidly growing danger.

    I don’t want another Bush/Cheney or Mitt Romney with unrestrained powers to secretly spy on everyone.

    “Power corrupts. Absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely.”

  • Gadamer too

    The problem with CFR without an amendment to overturn Citizens Untied is that corporations, special interests and superPACs will still be able to engage in electioneering communications without spending limits. That’s the flaw in Professor Lessig’s reasoning. We have to overturn a series of Court decisions, and that means that We the People have to amend the Constitution. Even Lessig now is calling for a constitutional convention.

  • Russell Scott Day

    I have revived the language of my high school years and speak now again in terms of a war on the counter culture as I feel the hatreds of the generation gap years never to have been resolved. The reality is that the Drug War, a war on hippies and beatniks was real and kept up and now we are bankrupt.

  • Sean D Ferris

    Big Brother
    is watching you

    But you
    haven’t a clue

    Spying on
    your enemy

    embedded into society

    became an empirical power

    We watched
    the world cover and cower

    Europe Russia
    and Japan

    bases were we can

    stationed in every sphere

    its goal quite clear

    disaster into opportunity

    Nine eleven
    into home land security

    devises on foreign calls

    suspects Constitutional protections fall

    With power
    over its domain

    Turned on its
    citizens paranoid insane

    Leakers send
    a Clarion call to beware

    Big Brother
    is every where

    Who will
    stand up to the beast?

    Its only
    power our governments feast

  • Anonymous

    Big Brother – we are already there. What truly amazes me are the number of people who feel that all this spying and military buildup is a good thing! They cannot fathom that there could be corruption on the part of the government. They think there are the “good guys” in the white hats and the “bad guys” who are the terrorists and anybody who dissents from the US government. They will ferociously defend and rationalize any violence by the US government while denouncing any other country doing the same thing. Edward Snowden only told the American people that the gov’t was spying on us – that’s not treason.

  • Jo Tavener

    I loved this show but so much has happened since June re: showden leaks, their import, the gov’t attempt to arrest him that I think we need another show real quick — around not just snowden but barret brown, etc — all the whistleblowers that are being hunted and/or harrassed and how the internet and investigative reporting are being destroyed

    especially after your our town (brilliant!) interview, this is needed even more