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Panel of Whistleblowers Discuss National Security Secrecy & Surveillance

A panel discussion on National Security, Secrecy and Surveillance in New York City was sponsored by the Open Society Foundations and the Government Accountability Project, and moderated by Steven Aftergood, the renowned editor of Secrecy News for the Federation of American Scientists. The speakers were Thomas Drake, the courageous former intelligence officer who blew the whistle on National Security Agency/contractor corruption during the Bush administration and was wrongly prosecuted by the Obama administration as a result; his equally courageous attorney, Jessylyn Radek, who is a whistle-blower herself for exposing the barbaric treatment of the so-called “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh in the days after 9/11; Jameel Jaffer of the ACLU, who has participated in some of the most important national security litigation of the past ten years; and investigative journalist Tim Shorrock, author of ‘Spies for Hire’, and expert on national security contractors as private enterprises and how they move between government agencies and corporations (bringing their secrets with them). The panel discusses the scale and broad range of surveillance and the government’s desire to know everything about everyone, how they do it, and how the whistleblowers that expose the corruption are the ones that are criminalized. The contractor angle gives the global elite a path around congressional oversight and increases secrecy, but becomes less secure as it becomes more privatized.

The scale of government secrecy and surveillance has surpassed all previous boundaries—especially in the national security arena, where the budgets, size and scope of intelligence agencies have ballooned since 9/11. Unprecedented secrecy is largely evading traditional oversight mechanisms, leaving policy makers, the media, and the public in the dark.

What impact are secret governmental operations having on our democratic processes, and are the decisions that are being made behind closed doors helping or harming our national security? What tools are available to penetrate this secrecy, foster a new culture of government accountability, and impose enforceable constraints on intrusive surveillance of innocent Americans?

These questions are explored by a distinguished panel consisting of high-profile government whistleblowers, key plaintiffs and litigators from headline Freedom of Information Act cases, and expert journalists who have followed the evolution of the national security state for years. Each offers insights informed by their own direct encounters with national security secrecy and surveillance.

Recommended Books:

no-place-to-hide-bookIn May 2013, Glenn Greenwald set out for Hong Kong to meet an anonymous source who claimed to have astonishing evidence of pervasive government spying and insisted on communicating only through heavily encrypted channels. That source turned out to be the 29-year-old NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden, and his revelations about the agency’s widespread, systemic overreach proved to be some of the most explosive and consequential news in recent history, triggering a fierce debate over national security and information privacy. As the arguments rage on and the government considers various proposals for reform, it is clear that we have yet to see the full impact of Snowden’s disclosures.

Now for the first time, Greenwald fits all the pieces together, recounting his high-intensity ten-day trip to Hong Kong, examining the broader implications of the surveillance detailed in his reporting for The Guardian, and revealing fresh information on the NSA’s unprecedented abuse of power with never-before-seen documents entrusted to him by Snowden himself.
Going beyond NSA specifics, Greenwald also takes on the establishment media, excoriating their habitual avoidance of adversarial reporting on the government and their failure to serve the interests of the people. Finally, he asks what it means both for individuals and for a nation’s political health when a government pries so invasively into the private lives of its citizens—and considers what safeguards and forms of oversight are necessary to protect democracy in the digital age. Coming at a landmark moment in American history, No Place to Hide is a fearless, incisive, and essential contribution to our understanding of the U.S. surveillance state.

data-and-goliath“Bruce Schneier’s amazing book is the best overview of privacy and security ever written.”―Clay Shirky

Your cell phone provider tracks your location and knows who’s with you. Your online and in-store purchasing patterns are recorded, and reveal if you’re unemployed, sick, or pregnant. Your e-mails and texts expose your intimate and casual friends. Google knows what you’re thinking because it saves your private searches. Facebook can determine your sexual orientation without you ever mentioning it.

The powers that surveil us do more than simply store this information. Corporations use surveillance to manipulate not only the news articles and advertisements we each see, but also the prices we’re offered. Governments use surveillance to discriminate, censor, chill free speech, and put people in danger worldwide. And both sides share this information with each other or, even worse, lose it to cybercriminals in huge data breaches.

Much of this is voluntary: we cooperate with corporate surveillance because it promises us convenience, and we submit to government surveillance because it promises us protection. The result is a mass surveillance society of our own making. But have we given up more than we’ve gained? In Data and Goliath, security expert Bruce Schneier offers another path, one that values both security and privacy. He brings his bestseller up-to-date with a new preface covering the latest developments, and then shows us exactly what we can do to reform government surveillance programs, shake up surveillance-based business models, and protect our individual privacy. You’ll never look at your phone, your computer, your credit cards, or even your car in the same way again.

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