BILL MOYERS: Take a look at this perfect headline for the age of surveillance: “No Morsel Too Minuscule for All-Consuming NSA.” There it sat, above a chilling account by New York Times reporter Scott Shane of how spying by the national security agency has spread like a contagious virus. And there’s more, another Times article reports that the CIA has been paying AT&T more than $10 million dollars a year for access to its telephone records. Gives new meaning to the phone company’s old slogan: “Reach out and touch someone.”

True, it's a dangerous world out there and someone has to keep an eye on it. But if you think that the only targets of illicit snooping are suspected terrorists, foreign dignitaries, and journalists too close to the truth, guess again. Every one of us is under the omniscient magnifying glass of government and corporate spies. Yes, remember the corporations. Their data banks cover every sector of American society, aimed, as the foreword to a new book notes, “at school-children and mothers of school children, at church congregations, credit card members, and Facebook friends, at everybody and anybody at work or at play, with the tracking device otherwise known as a cell phone.”

How do we respond to this smog of surveillance? Well, start by reading this book: “Spying on Democracy: Government Surveillance, Corporate Power, and Public Resistance,” by Heidi Boghosian. She's executive director of the National Lawyers Guild, that’s a progressive legal organization started almost 80 years ago as an alternative to the more establishment American Bar Association. She’s collected story after story of how innocent lives are turned upside down. Even her own group has been subjected to surveillance and eaves dropping.

Heidi Boghosian, welcome.

HEIDI BOGHOSIAN: It's an honor to be here.

BILL MOYERS: How do you deal personally with the possibility that you might be tracked, tapped, or monitored?

HEIDI BOGHOSIAN: When you write an email, when you're on the telephone certain privileged information, especially between clients and attorneys, or about a client with a reporter for example, one must assume that is being monitored now. And we knew that years ago under the Bush administration with the warrantless wiretapping program, when many organizations actually filed lawsuits saying that they suspected their communications were being monitored.

And that really changes the relationship and makes an organization, have to travel long distances to have private communications in person with clients. You can't do as much on email or on the phone.

BILL MOYERS: So it's not a matter of your saying, as so many people are, "What if I'm not doing anything wrong, why should I care if anybody's watching?" You've heard that, haven't you?

HEIDI BOGHOSIAN: Of course. I think that's a very simplistic answer because when one is under constant surveillance, be it from a surveillance camera on the city block and we have so many here in New York, to the possibility that internet communications are being monitored, it necessarily alters how you communicate. It makes us tamp down things that we might say.

And I think-- attempt to conform more to the greater corporate surveillance state. Whether or not we realize that, we may not engage in the kind of robust dialogue with our friends or our colleagues. We may not meet at public assemblies, because it's become really under the watchful eye and wanting to maintain the status quo of big business.

BILL MOYERS: You say in your book that we've become a surveillance state, a “government-corporate partnership that makes a mockery of civil liberties." Talk about that partnership.

HEIDI BOGHOSIAN: There is a revolving door really between the Pentagon and private business. For example, I think it's 70 percent of retired three and four-star generals then take jobs in the private sector as consultants advising the government through work with companies such as Raytheon and others, about policy.

And I think that's a conflict of interest. But more importantly, CEOs from many of the big businesses like Boeing, Raytheon, advise the president on matters of technology and national security. And they're conflicted out, because their profit motive really is the duty that they have, whereas the government officials have a duty to uphold the Constitution. I don't think that having 70 percent of our national intelligence conducted by private business is a way to ensure that our civil liberties are really protected.

BILL MOYERS: You write in here that from the moment you wake up, your everyday activities are routinely subjected to surveillance. Do you think that everyday Americans know that?

HEIDI BOGHOSIAN: They didn't a few months ago. I think that with the Snowden revelations and “The Guardian” coming forth-- we have a greater sense of the extent to which our communications are monitored. In fact, it seems not to be the exception, but rather the rule.

BILL MOYERS: That's what--

HEIDI BOGHOSIAN: Literally everything is gathered.

BILL MOYERS: That's what you call a staggeringly comprehensive network, tracks where we go, how long we stay, and what we browse, read, buy, and say. That's pretty exhaustive.

HEIDI BOGHOSIAN: It's exhaustive. And I think when the government says, for example, that metadata-- that doesn't collect the contents of our communications-- is an acceptable thing to collect, you have to realize that associations can be very easily garnered and tracked.

BILL MOYERS: What's metadata?

HEIDI BOGHOSIAN: Metadata shows, for example, that I called you on a Friday night. It doesn't say what we discuss, but it says that we talked. So that if I called a physician, say, at a cancer clinic several times the government might surmise that I have cancer. Or if I engage in a certain political activity over a period of time, it allows them to develop a profile, even though they don't know exactly what we discussed.

BILL MOYERS: Well, what would they want that for?

HEIDI BOGHOSIAN: Well, retailers want that information because they want to develop profiles about our purchasing and spending habits. We have groups such as Acxiom, which is a data aggregator, that really has quite complete profiles on many of us in this country.

BILL MOYERS: That's a market research firm, right?

HEIDI BOGHOSIAN: It's a market research firm. And they very cleverly recently came out with a website called “About the Data,” that allows you to go on and check what information they have about you and to correct it, therefore giving them actually more accurate information, if you were to do that.

BILL MOYERS: Where do they get that data?

HEIDI BOGHOSIAN: They get the information from a number of public sources but they also go to retailers and they purchase it from, say J C Penney, who has tracked what you've purchased from them over the last year. And then they sell it to third-party companies, including the US government. The problem being, of course, that they need to simplify profiles of us.

They may categorize us as sort of an up-and-coming 20 year old interested in-- maybe starting a family. Or you're about to retire. But they also put in information about your political activities, your personal interests, health interests, things that we may not want shared.

BILL MOYERS: This is the company I think Natasha Singer wrote about in “The New York Times” and she said that Acxiom “peers deeper into American life than the FBI or the IRS.” Quote, "If you are an American adult, the odds are that it knows things like your age, race, sex, weight, height, marital status, education level, politics, buying habits, household health worries, vacation dreams, and so on." Why does our government contract with a market researcher?

HEIDI BOGHOSIAN: Well, the government is constricted by the Fourth Amendment's provision that it may not engage in unreasonable searches and seizures. But businesses don't have those same constraints. So they can collect information about us that the government lawfully is not allowed to do.

BILL MOYERS: So you have said in here that data mining is the gold standard for spying on democracy now. Explain that.

HEIDI BOGHOSIAN: Well, as we've become an increasingly consumerized nation and reliant on the internet. You'll know that when you do a search, for example, for a pair of shoes, you're going to be bombarded on the internet with other shoes from different companies. And I think that it's become hugely profitable for these organizations, such as Acxiom and others, because they really keep this information for years on end, we don't know exactly what they do with it. But we do know that they profit handsomely from it. And that really, information in this country, personal information, is the new commodity.

BILL MOYERS: Do you think that Americans are largely in the dark about what we're talking about? Or do you think they now take it for granted and are complacent about it because what they're doing fits their convenience?

HEIDI BOGHOSIAN: Certainly, generations that had been brought up on the internet and taught to type on a keyboard at the same time that they learned to read have a different notion of privacy and are willing even as children who may not know it, to give over personal information, for example, when they sign onto a Walt Disney site, or even a Coca-Cola site.

They are bombarded again with friendly images, animal type characters, that ask you for your date of birth, where you live, what your preferences are, we're becoming from a very early age accustomed to being groomed to be consumers for life. And along with that comes a kind of trust, I think. Corporations are so much a part of our daily lives, I would argue for the worse, but they market themselves as our friends.

And then the close partnership they enjoy with the government, blurs traditional lines of what government functions have been, and notions of privacy. So I think that most people who grew up on the internet may not be aware of traditional notions of privacy and are willing, as you say, for the convenience that it offers us and the, I think, appearance of ease of friendship and communication. But I think that we do need to take a step back and realize that protections haven't been put in place along with the fast pace that technology has really sped ahead.

BILL MOYERS: Some people will say, "Well, I hear what Heidi Boghosian is saying, and I'm as concerned as she is about the government use of data. But I'm not really concerned when she talks about the business, the corporate consequences of this, just because it's a-- I'm complicit I'm buying these things knowingly, I probably assume that somebody's going to be using this data to profile me and aren't-- and track me and, we think there should be a distinction between our fear or concern about government surveillance and corporate or business surveillance." Now, respond to that challenge.

HEIDI BOGHOSIAN: People need to know that for all intents and purposes, the distinction right now between government and the corporate world is virtually nil. They are hand-in-hand working to gather information about Americans as well as people across the globe, to really be in a race to collect more information than any other country can, because I think in their eyes, having this information, storing it, and being able to access it for years on end is a symbol of power and control. So that you can't really make that distinction anymore between big business and government.

BILL MOYERS: But government is looking, is it not, for that needle in the haystack, that potential terrorist that people want to stop before the terrorist strikes this country. And with the corporations and the business, aren't they looking for the person to whom they can market something? Or it helps me make my way through a busy life to be able to buy online. And if I have to give up a little information about myself, that's okay.

HEIDI BOGHOSIAN: And that's what they're telling us. And of course, that is part of it. But they're also looking to quiet those individuals who may be critical of corporate policies. And remembering how much corporations really factor into our daily lives, that should be of concern.

Many corporations have their own intelligence sections, for example, so that they may have a unit that spies on activists, animal rights and environmental activists are one of the prime targets, because the F.B.I. has labeled them a top domestic terrorism threat. So that if you go to a protest and you're an animal rights activist, you can expect that you're being tracked in one way or another.

The National Lawyers Guild gets calls all the time about people whose families and friends have been visited by the FBI in advance of a certain, say, Republican National Convention, or another demonstration, wanting to know information about certain activists. They definitely have files, they circulate photographs.

They now identify what they call the anarchist threat. And that's basically anyone who I think may be continuously critical of government and corporate policies, who speaks out, and who isn't intimidated by corporations. So they spend vast amounts of money to track these individuals.

BILL MOYERS: So this is why you write that corporations no longer spy merely to protect or steal trade secrets.

HEIDI BOGHOSIAN: In 2004, the Department of Homeland Security created what are called Fusion Centers, allegedly to better streamline the coordination between local law enforcement, federal law enforcement, and businesses. So that these some 75 centers across the country work hand-in-hand with businesses, gathering information about local threat assessments including anarchist and so-called activist threat assessments. We saw that with the Occupy Movement, where the Department of Homeland Security worked with financial businesses and banks to let them know that there would be protests in their municipalities all around the country, well before the protests started.

BILL MOYERS: But you say this has a fallout on dissent and truth-telling.

HEIDI BOGHOSIAN: When you are afraid to go, for example, to a mass assembly because you know that law enforcement will be there in riot gear with so-called less lethal munitions, when you know that corporations have done their research, gathered dossiers on you, may have their own private security guards, as they do now at most protests it makes people who maybe have never gone to a protest before, who want to express a view on something, afraid of that.

I think that's very damaging to the notion of democracy because the streets, the public parks, which are now increasingly corporatized in many urban areas don't belong to us as a people anymore. They belong to corporations. And if we're afraid to go there and congregate it's a sad testament to where we are.

BILL MOYERS: One of the surveillance cameras down at the site of Occupy Wall Street is still there.


BILL MOYERS: A couple of years later. So what do you think's happening to us as a free and democratic people?

HEIDI BOGHOSIAN: I think that we've been understandably enticed by all the exciting forms of technology, and I think that of course there are many wonderful uses of technology that we should harness for the appropriate reasons. I just think that our laws and our social conscious has not kept a step with those developments.

We need to take a breath and say, "Where are we? What do we value? What do we want to recapture in terms of our rights as Americans and our constitutional protections? And how can we balance the positive gains of technology with privacy and the laws of the land?"

BILL MOYERS: You say, "We need more troublemakers to bring us to our senses." Troublemakers?

HEIDI BOGHOSIAN: That was a quote from a judge in New York over an Occupy Wall Street case, and the judge said that Occupy, in effect, had shone a light on these so-called troublemakers. The police department called them troublemakers. And he said that they really provide an invaluable service in terms of reminding us what's important in our country.

BILL MOYERS: You would consider Edward Snowden a troublemaker, right?

HEIDI BOGHOSIAN: A troublemaker, and a true hero and patriot.


HEIDI BOGHOSIAN: Working as he did for a private corporation, handling sensitive information, and being told basically that there was no problem, there was nothing he could do, he then took matters into his own hands, knowing that he would probably face imprisonment for the rest of his life. And I think that doing that, because he saw something wrong, contrary to the values and contrary really to, I think, why he went into his work make him the ultimate hero because he sacrificed his life to uphold the nation’s values, democracy.

BILL MOYERS: Could you have done that?

HEIDI BOGHOSIAN: I would like to think I'd be brave enough to do that. I'm cautious in some ways because I am a lawyer and I know I have taken an oath to uphold the law. I would like to think that I could've done that. I'm not sure.

BILL MOYERS: I really like your last chapter, which is called “Custodians of Democracy.” Who are the custodians of democracy?

HEIDI BOGHOSIAN: The custodians of democracy are the ordinary people that make up this country and make us so special. They believe that we can be a thriving democracy and that we do not have to cede our lives and our autonomy to multinational corporations who I think have really robbed us of some of the privileges that we've been so fortunate to have over the history of this nation. And they're not afraid to stand up to leaders.

I was inspired by the school child who did not want to wear a tag, an ID tag at school that had a radio-frequency-identifying chip in it, RFID chip. And she fought, brought a lawsuit, she had to transfer to another school, but it raised attention. And I think especially when a child says, "I don't want this," knowing that she can then be tracked for a number of other reasons, I applaud that courage.

And there's a community in California, for example, that went to their city council meeting and said, "You've just approved having a surveillance drone in this area and we don't like that." And they put pressure on their elected officials and there's not going to be a surveillance drone there.

And the custodians of democracy, they're not afraid to take action that may get them in trouble, get them expelled from a school, for example, or even arrested. They take to the streets, they speak out, and they lead by example, by doing something that unfortunately has required a great deal of bravery in what should really be the ordinary way we conduct our lives.

BILL MOYERS: Well, one way to become a custodian of democracy is to read “Spying on Democracy: Government Surveillance, Corporate Power and Public Resistance.” Heidi Boghosian, thank you very much for being with me.

HEIDI BOGHOSIAN: Thank you so much.

Segment: Heidi Boghosian on Spying and Civil Liberties

On Thursday a New York Times article reported that the CIA has been paying AT&T more than $10 million a year to access the telecommunications giant’s phone records — including Americans’ international phone calls. It’s the latest in a series of reports over the past few months on US spying allegations in the name of counterterrorism.

Executive director of the National Lawyers Guild, Heidi Boghosian, joins Bill for a conversation on what we all need to know about surveillance in America. Boghosian, author of Spying on Democracy: Government Surveillance, Corporate Power, and Public Resistance, says the government is working with corporations to illicitly spy on virtually all of us, not just suspected terrorists or the Angela Merkels of this world. “They are hand-in-hand working to gather information about Americans as well as people across the globe, to really be in a race to collect more information than any other country can.”

Interview Producer: Candace White. Associate Producer: Julia Conley & Danielle Varga. Editor: Sikay Tang.

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  • Janice

    I hadn’t realized that our laws limiting government collection of info about us don’t extend to corporations. Is it the same in Europe, where there’s so much consternation about NSA spying? It’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Are we as a whole educated enough to see ourselves out through this Orwellian situation?

  • Anonymous


    Thanks for asking our views on this important subject. Based on publicly available information about the program, the case can be made that ThinThread – the surveillance program developed by William Binney before the USAPATRIOT Act and recent FISA amendments were adopted – was more respectful of privacy interests and time-honored constitutional standards than what is now in place. It did not use bulk data collection but instead flagged individual communications in real time, discarding the rest. It required individual warrants to inspect whatever was flagged. Under constitutional and other legal standards we are entitled to the least intrusive means of intelligence gathering consistent with national security interests. That alone makes ThinThread a thing of interest.

    How effective was the program as compared to current methods? That is hard to say, but the circumstances of its demise suggest something other than a pure decision on the merits. It would be good to know how and why we got to where we are using ThinThread as a reference point. It could also serve as a way to gauge the marginal efficacy of what is now taking place. For these and other reasons I am surprised at its absence from public congressional hearings and policy discussions. What am I missing?


  • guest

    To believe that phone voice conversation is not recorded simply flies in the face of logic. Technically it’s easy to do as the phone voice is digitized and compressed already. Storing for later review by analytical software is a pinch…

  • Anonymous

    There is a kind of privacy which derives its rights from its lack of any
    intention to be kept secret or to ‘de-prive’ it. Intimacy is private because it
    not secret or meant to deprive. But there are motives to deprive which assert
    themselves as a property claim. But this claim is only effective where what is
    claimed as a private right is a property in which the community has an interest.
    This is how private property claims can come to trump personally intimate
    matters. The intimate is not private because it aspires to possession, but
    because it can only be truly possessed by those who take a real part in it.
    Using personal information to profile private life is therefore a crime against
    the meaning of property, because it perverts the open secret of intimacy by a
    self-enclosed deprivation of a private property claim. In a similar vein the
    ancient sense of personal property, one’s private belongings and intimate life,
    has become perverted as an absoluter property claim. Personal property is
    radically private because it has no personal value to anyone else. Throughout
    the ancient and Medieval eras this distinction was clearly made, and “real”
    property, ownership of station and title or lands and wealth, were a public
    license to hold in private only under condition of recognizing the public
    interest in it. But contemporary property claims conflate personal property
    rights with a private claim to property of public interest. It is this
    perversion of the meaning of rights that is at the heart of the matter and our
    missing this point weakens our ability to confront it.

  • Anonymous

    It’s likely all the telecoms are getting billions in fees and that the government is sucking up data on Americans just the same as foreigners.

    That’s another problem isn’t it?

    Personal data can be converted to cold cash, secretly, easily and with no chance of illegality because the government is providing blanket amnesty.

  • Anonymous

    We should never accommodate tyranny.

  • Anonymous

    One wag suggested setting aside a fund for terrorist victims and to forget about the extreme measures used to prevent attack.

    The logic is, a determined terrorist will find a way.

    However, if people know any medical expenses would be covered by the government and there would be a kind of death or dismemberment benefit available, folks wouldn’t worry about it so much.

  • Toni Samanie

    I am a 58 year old grandmother, although no saint, I have never been in trouble with the law. It boils my blood that I am being spied on along with the rest of the country. I am an activist in my local community and encourage more to take a stand. It is our only hope.

  • susiejok

    Yes, I am concerned about the invasion of my privacy and the government collection of information. I consider this a complete reversal of the role of government, which should be and is no longer transparent, and my privacy which should not be transparent. The government is being bought and controlled by big business and the most concerning
    example is the FDA with drugs and food(GMO’s).

  • Guillotine

    I am sure you are aware of Mussolini’s definition of fascism, because this is it. In 1933, a group of business owners, including J. P. Morgan incited a coup against FDR to turn the US government into a state based, as they designed, on Fascist Italy. J. P. Morgan and their friends have succeeded. According to Naomi Klein in her book about the Shock Doctrine, Milton Friedman tried out the foundations of the “Free Market” rulership over Chile and found that Democracy was not the best way for corporations to rule. Heidi Boghosian is absolutely correct about the implications of this for what used to be America. Our government is the most corrupt in the world! George Orwell would be aghast at the totality of the control of the corporations over us. The government agencies who were set to protect us against predatory business, and to protect our air, water and food have been muzzled. There is not much else to be said. The corporations, to protect themselves from potential riots, and revolutions, and overthrow of their power have more power than Hitler! So, those who would like to have our nation back, if we publicly stand up to them will be individually pursued and nullified, by our now militarized police forces. Do you remember when they used to wear ties and were polite?

    However, the corporations and their government are only concerned with their members, those with great wealth, arguably the “Real Americans”. We Non-Americans, we little people are the reason that we must be surveilled and controlled. OWS was brutally put down for standing up to the corporation/government. That is the future in this country.

  • pay4ourownimprisonment

    When will it be popular for the corporations to sell us data protection encryption software, instant data deletion promises and cell phone and credit card data deletion privacy policies. Also I encourage all citizens to fill the MATRIX with as much MISinformation as possible. fill out profiles with incorrect data , fill out surveys with misspellings of your name and info. have several aliases

  • Abigail Adams

    I see this as a problem created by technocrats and lovers of technology. Once a technologist creates a technology for one good purpose, say the cell phone for mobile communication, then a money man says, “Hey, can you come up with a way to find out what they’re talking about, who they’re talking to, where they’re going and what they’re doing so we can sell them something?” Then the government says, “Hey, we could use that information to track terrorists too!” Once the technology is created, many more uses are found for it than originally intended.

  • Duck

    I am deeply troubled by the overarching surveillance state. I too see the link between government and corporate power. I believe the word for it is fascism.

    “fascism should rightly be called corporatism as it is the merger of corporate ad government power”

    -Benito Mussolini

    Thank you Bill Moyers and Heidi Boghosian for all of your great work in standing up for your principles!

    I believe I am one of those trouble makers you referred to in your piece.

  • Pinkie

    I find the lack of privacy very disturbing. I do not carry a cell phone partially for this very reason. I wonder about a black box in my car… I’m really shocked at the lack of concern about privacy from most people. To hear people say “I’m not doing anything wrong so why should I care that the CIA or the NSA or the FBI or whomever is spying on me.” Is really depressing. Does anyone remember Cointelpro and all the enemies lists of the past? I may be overly private, but it just creeps me out.

  • Anonymous

    One doesn’t have a choice but to drop off the surveillance grid for privacy. Think about it, no social security number, no driver license, no mailing address.
    Perhaps surveillance can be thought of as an advantage instead of privacy invasion, as I don’t think there is a way to escape it.
    I don’t like what’s happening either. So I choose to live on the up to have no concerns.

  • Henry Hertz Hobbit

    There are two computer scientists I know that think the company tracking is a service. I don’t share their opinion. I make filters for highly competent computer savvy people and have made tracking my number one priority. My top priority used to be malware. Sometimes I feel the statement made by Sam Marlowe in the movie “The Trouble with Harry” when he says “If I can do anything to make it harder for you, let me know” applies to me. I feel like Sam Marlowe when I hunt the trackers down. It is why I lament what seems to be the passing of the FanBoy list for the AdBlockPlus Firefox add-on. I hope they come back because we need them. The NZ people kept the DE people honest. I hope big business didn’t force them to quit. Right now we need all of the anti-tracking lists we can get.

    People need to know that some of their personal meta-data will be wrong. Recently I had a Tea Party member (assumed based on a second longer return message) send an email to my Senator. First I got an auto-responder message saying thanks for my message. What message? I didn’t send a message! But I am still having problems getting it across that I didn’t send the message to the Senators staff. They still think I am a member of the Tea Party (NOT). So at least some of the meta-data on you is going to be false and since it is rated top-secret there is no way you can challenge the data if it is wrong.

    As it stands now, the similarity of the United States to Nazi Germany is getting frighteningly close.

  • Chadler

    Resistance to surveillance is the wrong strategy. That train has long left the station. I am afraid we are wasting a precious window to actually accomplish something useful. We need to insist on powerful access tracking so that one can know who looked and why. Clear guidelines and administrative procedures and credible penalties for abuse. There must be and statistical transparency so we can remain aware of the scale and trends of surveillance and abuse.

  • ccc

    I’m just a boring Red Herring – soaking up the resources of those collecting data with no real benefit to them.

    Sure, they’re collecting a lot of data and storing it. Computers are especially good at that, but what’s the benefit of a lot of relatively meaningless info other than job security for programmers who manipulate the numbers into reports supporting the agenda of the powers that be. The ones who pay for these programs with our money..

    It’s just a way of legitimizing what’s been going on for eons – telling the boss what he wants to hear and giving him ammo to do what he wants to do.

    Computers are not good at gleaning useful information about peoples thoughts and motives from little snippets of info. That is best left to purveyors of propaganda that use it to make us believe their conclusions and actions are supported by the facts – and that’s what computers are good for.

    You are fabulous Bill – best wishes and thanks for giving us real information.

  • PCG

    I highly approve of everything that Heidi Boghosian had to say. I consider her courageous and thank her for her courage.

  • Joe Lendvai

    Bill, I am very concerned about the seemingly limitless spying on Americans. And no, it is never OK to make this undemocratic intrusion on our privacy –whether in detail or metadata format — acceptable, reasonable, or right. Simply put, the Patriot Act is unpatriotic and should be repealed.

  • KT

    My husband and I have been under intensely personal surveillance for many years due to a powerful politician’s personal vendetta. It is very easy to purchase equipment and people to do them service and to remove privacy and democracy from an innocent private citizen. I am dispirited and despairing of our assumed democracy. It simply does not exist. Money and excitement entices private and otherwise decent people to throw out citizen rights. We are forever changed in our attitude of our nation.


    Power, wealth and arrogance is what our country has become. Technology which has enabled spying on americans is more visible every where, today, and has both bad and good uses.

  • Brian Equality Brown

    when will the world wake up and vote on mass

  • Dianne

    Perhaps it was in the 80’s when my sister visited Russia where the KGB followed the tourists at a distance. When the plane departed, the entire group cheered and applauded. We always had the impression Russians were oppressed lacking the freedoms we had because their government was continuously spying on them. What have we devolved to then? If the crazy right wing nuts were to seize control of the government, would they round up the opposition to imprison? Cause them to be black listed as in the McCarthy era? After all, in our history we righteously murdered most of the Native Americans, rounded up the Japanese during the war, conducted medical tests on people without permission. Today drone murders are condoned, and our government permits experimenting on people by feeding them GMOs largely without their knowledge. I can see how collecting information on citizens can be a problem.

  • Gaduch

    This is a brilliant overall view of the issues. It should be published in a widely read forum.

  • Dave

    I think the gathering and keeping of information indefinitely, regardless of whether it is used or not, is an illegal invasion of privacy. I think humans depend upon certain things like forgiveness, fading memories, fading emotions, that is countered by a permanent record of our lives. Just knowing it is happening is damaging to our lives.

    There’s no telling how this data could be used in the future. Bad people could get hold of it and use it for any number of manipulative purposes. It is not natural to have this information, and I don’t believe the people in charge are worthy of trust. I can think of many diabolical uses for this data. It could be used to engineer propaganda schemes with an almost mathematical certainty of success. Those could be marketing schemes or political schemes. Both are dangerous to democracy.

  • Rod

    There are lot’s of reasons for those whose attitude is “I’ve got nothing to hide” and thus no reason to be concerned–to in fact be very concerned. For although they may indeed enjoy the benefits of a spotless credit report, a clean driving record, perfect marital history, no tax or legal problems–ever, they my find themselves disadvantaged should their unsullied lives ever become comprised. After all, many good people who’ve lived a full life have taken chances and come out in their later years with a less than spotless record. It’s ok. We take chances in life and shouldn’t fear doing so because of what an employer, creditor, ill-intended ex-partner, predator, or oppressive government in your community might do with that information.

  • R. Ralston

    governments collect data because it’s power as pointed out by Heidi, and governments change. It doesn’t matter if that power is benign now because it’s only a matter of time before another Nixon, Joe McCarthy, and worse comes along and makes us pay for our inactions. The political appointees have insured that the constitution is of less value than toilet paper.

  • 9 to 5

    I believe that our fourth amendment should cover this. If we, as a people, have the right to be ‘secure’ as stated.
    “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

    I would say there’s a good argument for making what the corporations are doing illegal, as well as shutting down the gov’t program until they figure out how to get the proper warrants.

    At the very least, I think an extraordinarily high ‘metadata transfer tax’ when corporations sell info to each other might cause them to stop.


    I have noticed that every time I call my family in Europe i hear click sounds I never heard before. Also when I go to see a doctor he wants to take my picture (for security purposes and for insurance fraud!?!) and I always have to fill out questionaires about very personal things (such as if i am active sexually and if my partner is a man or a woman). These things didn’t use to take place before. It’s obvious we are being spied on and profiled.

  • Anonymous

    First, a thank you to Bill Moyers, and his family, including his wife Judith for being the courageous CUSTODIANS OF DEMOCRACY for the past 20
    plus years, and without PBS, Moyers and Company would not be possible.

    But, sadly the Corporatocracy is gradually insinuating itself, even into PBS
    as evidenced by the intros, which seem to get longer every year.

    Even the so-called “generous contributions” from
    “philanthropic” foundations are fraught with the corrupt influence of obscene wealth. Where do you think their wealth came from? The same corporations that we see taking over the political process. They hedge their bets by giving to both sides…but that’s another topic altogether.

    So part of our mission to reclaim public service media from corporate concentration in the hands of the oligarchs, should include generous donations
    to your local PBS affiliate, so they do not have to depend on the noblesse oblige of the plutocracy to keep the lights on.

    That said, while I applaud the sentiments expressed in the comments here…with all due respect and appreciation for your magnanimous intent, quite
    frankly, all the words…all the rage expressed here and on similar venues across the internet, while it may serve some purpose of raising awareness, is
    NO substitute for confrontation by a physical presence of non-violent civil disobedience. Full stop.

    It is quite safe and convenient to express our dissent while in the comfort of our homes…but the Saying and the Writing….are no substitute for the Doing.

    Our outrage becomes diffused and assuaged. Revolution cannot be waged in the comfort of our
    safe little abodes. It will be messy…and some of us will be injured, perhaps maimed and some may even die.

    But History will measure our courage by not what we say, but what we do…how we acted…or more importantly, how we did not act.

    Enough talk.

    The window of opportunity is closing…it is well past the time to take it to the streets…to take back this country…before the technology overwhelms and over-runs our capacity to resist it.

    Resist! Peaceful non-violent civil disobedience

    Remove! Corporation from the electoral process and the politicians who accept their money

    Regulate! Campaign Finance and Financial Markets and protect the ecosystems from corporate pillaging and plundering.

    Revolution! Commit!

    Resist – Remove – Regulate – Viva La Revolution!

  • CyberPolitics

    not sure why, sentences get turned around or skewed when posting? hmm?

  • Charles Shaver

    I have to agree with ‘9 to 5′ and would go that a few steps farther. In the context and law of the Preamble (as much an integral, inseparable and enforceable part of the Constitution as any Article, Amendment, statute, treaty, precedent or Supreme Court Decision), with no exception specified in the 4th Amendment, in the absence of an amendment to the contrary, “We the People of the United States…” is inclusive of everyone subject to the rule of constitutional law in these United States and we are all entitled to a great degree of privacy. And, most definitely now, many lesser organizations of ‘we the people’ (e.g., all levels and branches of government, corporations, foreign nations, etc.) who are only prescribed duties, privileges and/or limited powers (as opposed to greater ‘rights’), and have no “…Posterity…” like ‘persons’ do, are presently guilty of a variety of high crimes, misdemeanors, felonies, acts of treason and heinous crimes, if not international crimes against humanity, and should be duly persecuted, prosecuted and/or voted out of office.

    Obviously, those currently in power are not about to properly police themselves and in November of 2012 about 217 million of some 222 million eligible voters failed again to vote wisely and clean house on a failed two-party political system of known criminals, incompetents and/or traitors (and in a thunderously quite private Media, too). Perhaps a mere majority can finally get it right in 2014, if we still have elections then?

  • Deborah Louise Nicholson

    Yes, by God they are. If you have any doubt, start requesting public documents in a small Massachusetts town with a population around 2000 or so, and see what happens. Your requests are tracked, your correspondence is tracked, and you are then labeled as one “interfering” with the “business of government”. Really? I thought the “business of government” was to serve the people…

  • Kirby Judge – from Canada.

    Mr. Moyers mentioned that a common response to the extensive, data collecting, by government and business, is to think, “If I’m not doing anything wrong, why should I care?” – a sentiment often expressed by Archie Bunker, during the Nixon administration, incidently. To Ms. Boghosian’s reply, I would add that being crime-free won’t help much, if the government decides I’m guilty of something – which is what Archie probably knew, deep down inside. The bigger mistake, by far, though, is to think, “Even if my government decides I’m guilty of something, it will be obvious, to everyone, that I’m not.”
    Bigger, I feel, because, if there’s one truth that has emerged, recently, witnessing the travails of Mr.’s Snowden, Assange, and, our Canadian kid, Omar Khadr, to name but a few, it’s that the American government, justice system, and, popular media ALL become grimly dedicated to the proposition of an individual’s guilt, once assigned, with whatever evidence (if any). Meanwhile, they remain steadfastly antagonistic toward proof of innocence, that always seems to emerge, once cooler heads have prevailed.
    In other words, and, speaking personally, it’s already too easy for the government to ruin my life, if it so chooses. I’m repulsed to think it could do it, by using my own drunken phone calls and impudent E-mails (like this one), against me.

  • Richard Pawlowski

    I must seriously disagree with Ms. Boghosian because she has a personal bias and belief that leaves out the facts surrounding her American gift. She thinks her privacy is more important than all of our safety. She has a warped American hubris. She also horriblizes our future and assumes the worst rather than the reality. Surrounding us are many people who would like to harm ANY American. It isn’t our government who want to harm us but people who who think they can just do anything they want to with our collective security. They should be considered traitors – just because they are young and full of misguided hubris. She makes some good points but goes off the deep-end when she make a hero out of the traitor Mr. Snowden. Bottom line – we need MORE security not less. We need more ways to prevent traitors from selling our future to terrorists.

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  • Anne Nelson

    I am more concerned about em[loyers spying on employees because of the power it gives them to end freedom of speech. On the other hand, the melding of corporations and government at all levels makes me wonder whether it is already too late to express opinions and thought without fear of economic, political, social or all of the above repercussions. I don’t care for ME, I’m old, sick and have nothing really to lose. I’m also hardly likely to be labelled a terrorist since I am also handicapped and believes in peaceful protest rather than the violent kinds we have seen. Add the “obedient media” I believe this nation is well on its way to be a tyrannical dictatorship of conformity headed toward a theocracy of ” End Times” idiots.

  • Donna Lee

    I called Heidi Boghosian’s office after seeing this report. She is another of scores of prominent people I have contacted about the following two patents granted in 1976 and 1996, respectively, for machines that can read and manipulate thought and emotions remotely, meaning that no electrodes have to be attached to the subjects’ bodies at all and said subjects of such machines don’t even need to know that said machines are being used on them, patent #s 3951134 and 5507291, you can check these on Google patents or the U.S. Patent Office itself, including on this forum all of which people except those who think that said machines may be in use on them, and one or two others, not so notable, besides Ms. Boghosian (I’m still awaiting her response), responding with either complete silence refusing to even answer my correspondence or “no comment” claiming technical ineptness, from people as far-ranging as a “Time Man of the Year,” and engineer to TV personalities, to a Licensed Private Detective and a famous Liberation Theology ex-priest (!) and at least five or more others whose professions they state are to study and do research about privacy issues in America.all of the latter of whom I saw on PBS, I believe! The question I asked was not about the technical or mechanical aspects of these machines, or how they worked mechanically, but the ramifications for freedom if these machines DO work as described in their patent abstracts and schematics.

    My almost illiterate neighbor of almost 22 years told me immediately upon me asking her the question that if these machines work as described that they are the greatest threat to freedom ever conceived! Why are Ph.D.s flummoxed when it comes to answering such a question? My neighbor said, illogically, that said Ph.D.s may need more description and explanation about said machines; she’s practically illiterate yet SHE didn’t need any further description and explanation to understand and to truthfully and sensibly, if I say so myself, respond to my question!

    Another friend said, also illogically, like most of what he says, that he believes the luminaries I asked don’t want to comment on this issue because they’re afraid that the FBI will surveille and harass them for the rest of their lives, sabotaging their careers, giving the example of Frank Sinatra. Granted, I don’t doubt that the FBI surveilled Frank Sinatra and many other famous people, but I never heard anything about any sabotage of Frank Sinatra’s career by anyone.

    Further, some of the people I’ve asked about this, including one astrophysicist who is the head of an astronomical observatory in Pennsylvania was bold enough to go on TV and claim that he believes that the founding fathers of America were visited by aliens at the founding of our country which aliens alerted them to how our country would turn out! What, I ask, is the material difference between making such a comment in public and commenting on the ramifications of remote thought/emotion reading/manipulation machines in public? I don’t see any at all!

    Finally, America is supposed to be a free country! If people are afraid to speak out, especially prominent, well established people against thought/emotion reading/manipulation machines then America is NOT really a free country, but as many have noted here, a police state!

  • Donna Lee

    I neglected to say in my previous comment that I originally decided to contact Ms. Boghosian because when Mr. Moyers asked her in this segment if she thought that she would take the chance of going to jail to do what Snowden did although she admires his bravery, I believe she answered honestly and similarly to what my own answer to that question would have been when she said she didn’t know.

    Of course, none of us, I don’t think, knows what we will do in certain situations until they are upon us, but in my case, as far as I can tell, there is nothing that I would risk going to jail for. As faulty as our legal system is, I believe the basic principles underlying it are sound, and I believe in obeying the law fully. Also as faulty as our system is, I believe not in breaking the law to get around laws I might not agree with, but in going through the channels legally available which are many to change them. I am in the process of trying to do just that presently about our marriage laws in New York State. . .yet again!

  • steve whetstone

    Your exactly right. I was called for jury duty recently and one guy in the room of 120 potential jurors asked to be excused from jury selection because he could not follow the judges requirement to have faith in the legal system and do his part without concern for the results or consideration such as sympathy or fairness.

    There were others in the room, myself included who felt similar but did not want our names on a list so we didn’t speak up and just hoped we wouldn’t get called to participate in a legal system that does not meet with our idea of justice. The judge took the guys name and said she dismissed him from the jury pool, and she had the bailiff escort him out of the room. Whether he was then brought up on charges for contempt of court we can only guess. Even asking about it might be grounds to put a person on a list as contempt for court is criminal and anyone sympathizing could be aiding and abetting or something similar.

    Dissent in a courtroom is apparently illegal outside of a very narrow discussion of specific facts agreed to by lawyers? Also the judge insisted that words such as theft and burglary have special meaning they would tell us about that might not make sense to us and we’d have to follow their instructions on what a theft was or a burglary was even if it wasn’t what we think of those words outside the court. So the legal system has it’s own politically biased dictionary now like in the book 1984 that you have to use when you talk and for deciding law if you’re in a courtroom.

    i found the experience depressing.

  • steve whetstone

    I approve of technocrats compared to others and I love technology. Maybe I could convince you to see this as a problem created by corrupt technocrats and technology workers forced by economics to work on project they wouldn’t otherwise work on out of civic or personal motivation.

  • steve whetstone

    It makes absolutely no difference how much data someone has about you until they act on it and then it’s too late even though makes all the difference in the world. Just as long as you learn to love the corporation and the state, then they’ll let you keep going on your human journey unmolested. When/if they decide otherwise, they’ll stop you and redirect your human journey to path they prefer.

  • Anonymous

    The real problem with all this data collection is that it skews our lives as individuals with all the subtleties that make up our personalities…it skews all these fine points to a caricature in the digital matrix. Should one come under the government’s eye for any reason, something on a digital profile can make us look like a person that in actuality we are not. In other words, this data collection takes away the ability for us to define ourselves. This is the cost of our losing our personal privacy.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for your call for comments on this segment, Mr. Moyers. I’m not at all comfortable with the level of intrusive spying we’ve learned about since the Snowden revelations. I really don’t understand why so many in positions of power suddenly think it’s ok to override the Constitution, the supreme law of the land, which protects against such unreasonable search and seizure. We’ve probably all experienced situations in which our words were misconstrued or taken out of context, and there is a huge danger for that to happen if everything we do is tapped and monitored. For example, I have a personal interest in medieval studies, which one would think would seem innocent enough, but one area in which I do research is the cultural impact of Sufism on Europe via the influence of Moorish Spain and especially Sufi currents in the troubadour ethos in France. I correspond with people of similar interests online and access a lot of sites with information about Islam, both modern and historical, so I am sure there is some kind of dossier of my studies. I’m not going to stop researching something of interest to me, especially since I’m trying to build cultural awareness in myself and others to help bridge the social divide between the Middle East and the West. But I know many people would not be nuanced in their evaluation of such scholarly activity. I should not have to worry about that, and I think there is a hidden agenda for the spying far beyond “protecting us from terrorism.”

  • PJ

    Hi Bill – I would leave a comment but I’m afraid someone is watching and will make a note in my file that I was part of the assembly at your web site.

    I wish I could put the genie back in the bottle and had never used a credit card.

    I read many of the books by the authors you interview and I’ll read Spying On Democracy.

    I cannot say thank you enough for your show.

  • LL

    There needs to be a wall of separation between the government and corporations. The way they have partnered, the act no different that if we were a religious state that persecutes the naysayers. Of course the spying makes it worse. They can see and anticipate and then counter anything contrary to their interests – not just terrorism that they use to make us cower before them. Corporations should not be allowed to lobby or interact with government as if they were individuals. They aren’t.

  • David F., N.A.

    Hey my peeps,
    “the judge said that Occupy, in effect, had shone a light on these so-called troublemakers.”
    This is exactly what was running through my mind while those protesters were being led across that bridge a couple years ago, but I was also thinking about how this had shone an even brighter light on the leaders of these so-called troublemakers. In a war it would be like identifying the lieutenants, and then taking them out.

  • Rich Grisham

    How do you change a system that is so corrupt that coercion has been legalized in the political system by the Supreme Court Injustices.

  • Anonymous

    No point in a Democracy (or an attempt at one) eh? No point in our elected representatives to let us make decisions what we will do in the name of ‘security’?

    How do you feel about gun-control? Heart Disease? Cancer? Drunk Driving? Obesity? All these things are far greater ‘threats’ to our quality of life than ‘terrorism’…or perhaps you’re still gazing out the rear-view-mirror looking out for the ‘U.S.S.R’…

  • Mike Hrynick

    “consider Edward Snowden a troublemaker, right?”….from the get-go I was suspicious that the Snowden affair was a sophisticated kind of psy-op propagandist experiment on all of us, to gauge our reactions. Thanks to technology (along with our eternal affliction of tyranny), we today are the biggest rat-laboratory in history. Just consider how the MSM was all over it immediately, and milked it for weeks.

    Also, I wish someone could expand upon the Axcion thing, and let us all see EVERYTHING in our profiles, not just the namby-pamby marketing related.

  • Richard Pawlowski

    I think you misunderstand what I meant and by going overboard on those kinds of issues have nothing to do with people who in fact care about a bomb going in a shopping center or street event. Democracy isn’t necessarily the answer to nutballs and traitors nor drunk drivers and fat people. Learn to read better.

  • Richard Pawlowski

    Well, to me you sound like a paranoid and are ignoring all the good things government does. Try putting in your own streets and sewer.

  • Kirby Judge – from Canada.

    What organization do you work for, Mr. Pawlowski?

  • Richard Pawlowski

    I should ask you the same question, and why this would even matter to the discussion? Moreover, if you are a Canadian, why should you be concerned about where I work? That is personal stuff. You go first..

  • Kirby Judge – from Canada.

    I’d tell you, Mr. Pawlowski, but, then, I’d have to kill you.

  • Jack snas

    I think its time people dust off those old George Orwell book’s and do a re-read, he and lots of SiFi novelist show the future society (21st century and beyond)
    with government and corporations blurred into an amalgam of corruption. Heidi Boghosian did a good job explaining the situation with spying on the common Joe but unfortunately Ms Moyer’s so far left programing preclude any middle of the road audience and is preaching primarily the far far left. It’s to bad Boghosian/Snowden message needs to go mainstream.

  • Richard Pawlowski

    Well, why did you ask me in the first place? Duh! :-)


    This broadcast was captivating and I will share this link with many. I must admit that I am a new to this program and I will now be a dedicated viewer. The fact is that since Snowden’s leak to the world, not one shred of evidence has been brought forward by our Gov that supports anything damaging to the US. Since “it” is “global knowledge”, our Gov owes us this info that has been “damaging”, other than our national image tarnished, which it should be.

  • Donna Lee

    Heidi Boghosian’s office told me today that it is “grandiose,” for me to assert that there are existing patents and have been for almost 40 years (the number of that one is 3951134; search Google Patents) for remote thought reading manipulation machines and that similar technology has been featured on “60 Minutes,” and is already in use for “market research” (they can’t just ASK people what they think anymore!) according to them by companies like McDonald’s! (Google “Thought Reading Machines on 60 Minutes in January 2009″). When I tried to call back to get the female’s name who had the temerity to tell me this, she wouldn’t answer the phone. I left voice mail messages, though! Hence, I don’t think Heidi Boghosian and her people are going to help us with invasion of privacy issues!

  • Donna Lee

    Someone named Nick Palmucci from Heidi Boghosian’s office called me today and we spoke at length about the patents I mentioned in my post below. I gave him both patent numbers and asked him to repeat them so that I know that he got them right (!) which he did, so that he can research said patents, although he said he believed that said patents exist.

    I am NOT seeking for people to believe me, per se, but for people to objectively look at the FACTS I am presenting and consider their ramifications, again, as disinterestedly and in as unbiased a fashion as they can. I will give any further updates I have about the actions of Ms. Boghosian’s office that I can here.

    I also asked Mr. Palmucci to try to speak about these patents publicly if he sees the same ramifications in their misuse as I do. He said he couldn’t promise me that they would do that but that he would at least research the patents, for which honesty and response I am grateful.

  • Donna Lee

    I’ve been trying to recontact Nick Palmucci at Heidi Boghosian’s office for the past three weeks. Granted, it was the holidays and he was out sick for a couple of days, but to date (1/9/14) I have received no further response from them. I have since found another patent granted to the U.S. Air Force (!) in 2012 that allows the user(s) of said machines to put voices into one’s head bypassing outer aural pathways and others can’t hear the voices which mimics what is known as Schizophrenia or mental illness (the number for that patent is 6470214; I must thank Jesse Ventura’s TV program on the TRUE Network for this information. I alerted Mr. Palmucci to this patent in my last voice mail message to him

    I have Nick Palmucci’s first e-mail to me saying that he’d be happy to answer any questions for me on what their organization is or would be doing concerning illegal surveillance in this country from a month ago. I have a myriad of documentation on weird circumstances happening constantly in my life that could only come from people illegally surveilling AND harassing me! This has been going on with me for over three decades at least! I keep this documentation, paper and otherwise so that no one can justify objectively accusing me of imagining what I am experiencing.

    In my last voice mail to him, I told Nick Palmucci that I would be noting here whether I heard from his office or not. I left that message this Monday.Today is Thursday. I will report back here in the next two weeks if my schedule allows about whether or not I ever heard from Nick Palmucci of Ms. Boghosian’s office by then. It’s debatable whether I will or not.

  • AvangionQ

    This is amazing news for the 4th Amendment and civil liberties in general.

    `Today, a federal appeals court ruled that the National Security Agency does not have legal authority to collect and store data on all U.S. telephone calls. In this interview, a surveillance expert talks to Bill about this and other ways the government “are routinely watching our activities, making a mockery of our civil liberties.”`