R.K.: Welcome to the Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Show WNJC 1360 AM reaching Metro Philly and South Jersey sponsored by OpEdnews.com. My guest for this portion of the show is Heidi Boghosian. Heidi is really lucky in a sense because her book came out at an incredible time to explore what's happening. Her book is Spying on Democracy, Corporate Power and Public Resistance.
Heidi is the Executive Director of the National Lawyer's Guild, a progressive Bar Association established in 1937 and she also co-hosts a weekly civil liberties radio program "Law and Order" which airs on Pacifica's WBAI in New York and on more than fifty national affiliate stations around the country. Welcome to the show.
H.B.: It's wonderful to be here, thanks.
R.K.: So, boy, it is amazing timing that this book came out and that's partly because the book was rushed I think it was scheduled to be released in, I think it was in 2014, right?
H.B.: It was due to be out in early of September or October but they did rush it when Mr. Snowden came forward.
R.K.: Yeah. So, this book is a horror story really. It's a horror story about where America is going. So, let's start off with a story. I'm putting you on the, kind of giving you no warning, do you have a story for us?
H.B.: A story?
R.K.: That kind of tells us an example of what's going on in America now.
H.B.: Well one story that comes to mind because several National Lawyers Gild people are working on it in the state of Washington and because it also has implications I think for other ongoing initiatives is a lawsuit brought by several peace activists in Washington state because members of the U.S. Army actually engaged in infiltrating their groups and spying on them and harassing members of the peace group by arresting them on spurious or no charges really; one person was evicted from his house because the police came and made up things about him and in the paperwork that came forward as a result of activists filing Freedom of Information Act requests, they learned the identity of an undercover person working with the Army and at a fusion center locally who had been managing their groups listserve and had been going to events for awhile and then reporting on what he discovered but it had the ultimate effect of really destroying some of the groups.
The reason the lawsuit is proceeding is because even though we had such spying going on by the military of civilians in the 1960's for example they couldn't prove any damages but here we saw the group that the Army admitted they wanted to really destroy these groups and they did so.
One of the activists who is involved in the lawsuit, in some of the information he got, obtained information about the Hemisphere Project which your listeners may know was recently reported in the New York Times a couple of weeks ago. It's a project where the government actually pays AT&T staff to work side by side in going through phone records that date back as far as twenty six years so I think that gives an idea of the covert programs that are going on that we sometimes just find out about through accidents of, you know, administrative blunders, in effect.
R.K.: Yes and your book is the brilliant discussion that goes in to the details on the many, many different ways that the government is, well how would you describe the book? What is this book about?
H.B.: Well the book sets out to show really the way that corporations really work with government intelligence agencies not only in conducting the figure people are using is about 70% of our intelligence, but that really we see corporations are acting as the long arm of the government for example they can conduct and do engage in meta data gathering, surveillance of various kinds that really the government would be in breach of the Fourth Amendment of The Constitution if they did it but that information is being shared with the government and in many instances people are really unaware of the extent to which we willingly turn over information for example filling out product registration forms where they may ask how many number of your families or other information or when you give over your Social Security Number when you really don't need to.
That information is then collected, harvested, by what we call data aggregators who can sell it to third parties including the U.S. Government. So the government in a way does an end run around of our Constitutional rights in amassing various types of data and I think one of the other key points is that this data is stored for indefinite periods of time which means that maybe five years from now officials could go in and find something that right now is perfectly legal but things can change and as we know the government loves to pass lots of laws and many antiquated ones are still on the books so that as times get more repressive and as we continue this perpetual war on terror, ordinary citizens become suspect and the effect of omni-surveillance really is one that has what we call a chilling effect on free speech and associations so that whether or not we're consciously aware of it I think knowing that everything we do is literally under some form of surveillance, whether it's used or not but maybe stored for future use, really impacts the way we relate with different communities. Especially politically active ones.
R.K.: How would you say the current state of spying on democracy, the surveillance state, the police state, how has that effected people who are involved in protests and activism currently and recently?
H.B.: Well you know we saw during Occupy really a vast coordination by different levels of government spear-headed really by the Department of Homeland Security in their working very closely with financial groups, banks, other industries to heighten the sense that ordinary protestors were potential terrorist threats.