BILL MOYERS: On our last two broadcasts, I’ve asked you to respond to questions relevant to America’s human rights record both here and abroad. The first was about President Obama's use of drones to kill suspected terrorists. I asked, does our national security justify their use even at the cost of innocent lives? One response in particular seems to express the majority of opinion.

FEMALE #1: “We are putting innocent people at risk all over the world. If that isn't terrorism, what is? Mr. Obama, can you even imagine what it feels like to live in a country over which a foreign drone can fly and decide to kill you at will? Wouldn't that very threat make you an enemy of the country that did so?”

BILL MOYERS: But there were opposing viewpoints, like this one.

MALE #1: “If they -- Pakistan -- don't want innocent civilians killed by drones, then they need to declare war on the terrorists on their soil and drive them out. To do nothing is to give them a safe place to train and carry on their worldwide operations. As in any war, civilians are going to get killed, but the responsibility lies with Pakistan. We have the right to defend ourselves until the threat is ended.”

BILL MOYERS: And this:

MALE #2: “War is hell and the results of war are always hellish…. To find a moral option is to ask for the impossible. To that end, drones are preferable to the slaughter of our troops once the assumption is made that all war is immoral on its face.”

BILL MOYERS: After my interview with Heidi Boghosian, author of “Spying on Democracy,” I asked you if constant surveillance, the invasion of our privacy, is ever justified. Most of you responded like this woman.

FEMALE #2: “If we aspire to be a democracy, with personal freedoms guaranteed to citizens in the Constitution, then there is no justification for this egregious invasion…

BILL MOYERS: This viewer added.

MALE #3: “I remember seeing Dick Cheney say on TV that since 9/11 the game had changed, and he seemed to imply that we, too, now had to become a police state. It looks as if we are well on our way.”

BILL MOYERS: But others disagreed.

FEMALE #3: “Yes, it is justified in today’s world. Without it we would still be looking for the Boston bombers, bin Laden and a whole slew of other infamous ones… I say, yes, keep up the surveillance.”

BILL MOYERS: And this. FEMALE #4: “I’m really not that interesting but if they need info on me I say go for it!”

BILL MOYERS: You can see a summary of all your comments online at And here’s an update on my recent conversation with Dean Baker and Yves Smith about TPP, the Trans Pacific Partnership. That’s the top secret trade agreement being negotiated between the United States and 11 other countries that a lot of powerful people, including President Obama, don’t want you to know about. Wikileaks has gotten hold of the confidential draft of a key part of TPP, the section on intellectual property, just ahead of a big summit on the trade deal that begins November 19th. We’ll link you to it that document.

Clip: Human Rights, Drones and Government Surveillance

Over the past two episodes, Bill has asked our broadcast and online audiences to respond to questions relevant to America’s human rights records in the US and abroad. This week, he reports back on viewer response to our segments on drone attacks and government surveillance.

Producer: Rob Booth. Editor: Paul Henry Desjarlais.

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  • Anonymous

    The President, head of the NSA, and other relevant officials have stated that the government does not spy on US citizens without a warrant. There is some very convoluted reasoning behind this.
    First, in the late 90’s CBS’s ‘Sixty Minutes’ broadcast a story on a government program called ‘Echelon’. At that time, most communication was by satellite and the program involved large dishes in the US and UK, the other participant, which picked up virtually all satellite communications. Britains counterpart to the NSA, I believe it is called GHQ, was the subject of the story, although the same thing was being done by the NSA.
    Now theoretically the US could not listen to its citizens and vice versa for the UK. However, the catch was the UK spied on US citizens and reported to the NSA, and ditto for the US on UK citizens. So the US government could say with a straight face that they did not spy on US citizens. The truth is they have been doing it for decades. On the program one of the UK participants listened in on a phone call by Sen. Strom Thurmon, which made him very mad when he was informed of it.
    Later, the switch was made to microwave communications and cell phones, which negated the advantage of the satellite snooping. More in next post. Tommy Rimes

  • Anonymous

    So, in Clinton’s second term, communications began to switch to microwave, fiber optics and away from satellites. First let me explain that the NSA can take any land line and listen in on it, even if it is on the hook. How do I know this. Well I heard this confirmed on the radio, but before that I heard a US Air Force Colonel, who is head of cyberwarfare tell his story. Seems that during the 80’s he made a device that would do exactly that, and demonstrated it in his high school Physics class. He let the class eavesdrop on a meeting the principal was having in his office through the phone which the Principal thought was on the hook and dead. They were going to expel him, but some Air Force recruiters were there and got him off the hook and gave him a college scholarship. Now if a kid could do that back in the 80’s, don’t you think the government could too.
    So get this, for decades the government has not only been able to listen to your conversations, but they have been able to take your land line telephone and use it a listening device, a bug, in your home or where ever. So, don’t think by ditching the cell phone you will evade the NSA. They have actually been listening to you for decades, if they want
    Now, comes the switch to microwave and fiber optics. Cell phones. Looks like the government has been thwarted, right wrong. The ability of your government to track your cell phone, listen in on your conversations, and listen to you talking to people personally, even when you think the phone is off was put into a bill codify how cell phones would be constructed, passed by Congress, and signed by Clinton, I think this was the Communications Act of
    1996, or something. More in next post

  • Anonymous

    So the collection of metadata was initiated by GWB in response to 9/11. Wrong it was actually instituted 7 months before 9/11. Here’s the thing, not only the government can listen in on you, but all the employees with access to the program and contractors can too. Snowden showed this could be done. Theoretically, this is against the law, but who is gonna tell. There have been documented cases of these people abusing the system to listen in on spouses during divorce cases and other things. They can listen in on you if they want whether you are at home or other places due to the marvel of cell phones. You can escape Big Brother, but it is hard, and you really never know if you really have.
    Now to this facility in Utah. Somewhere there they have built this huge storage facility. It has been in the news lately because they have been trying to start it up and have experienced fires and other things that are delaying it. What they can do with this facility is store everything out there, phone calls, everything. The legal reasoning behind this is that if no one ever listens to it, it is not spying, and then if they have a legal reason, they can go back and open it up. Neat, huh!!
    So a thousand years from now, when even the memory of everyone who is alive today is gone, the only record that you ever existed may be some phone conversations stored in a building in Utah.
    Tommy Rimes

  • Roland


    GHQ is a FACILITY shared by various UK and US spooks.

  • James

    I wondered how long it would take for Security to become one of the Nations largest Industry. I only thought it would be like Brazil with Personal Security it never occurred to me they would go this far. But now that I think about it with the Free Trade Act allowing people to cross the border with only an ID Card and work I guess they had to do it.

  • Phil Lipari

    When the United States kills civilians via drones or cruise missile attacks like the one in al Majalah, Yemen, how does that make us, i.e. U.S. foreign policy, better than the terrorists we are supposedly fighting?

  • Cp4Ab0115hm3n7

    Let the drones fly more intently and bring down extremism! 1 for the Ob Adm and 0 for Liberals!
    Take down Snowden, tried him and treat him like Aldridge Ames for being a ruthless spy for an opposing country.
    Surveillance is an important aspect for the great American economy now on the brink because the Carter bigots are making this place a lame duck