Spying on Democracy

Until the watershed leak of top-secret documents by Edward Snowden to the "Guardian UK" and the "Washington Post," most Americans did not realize the extent to which our government actively acquires personal information from telecommunications companies and other corporations.

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The National Security Agency (NSA) has collected information on every phone call Americans have made over the past 12 years. The NSA and the FBI have the ability to access emails, photos, audio and video chats, and additional content from Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft, YouTube, Skype, Apple, and others, allegedly to track foreign targets.

In “Spying on Democracy,” I document the increase in surveillance of ordinary citizens and the danger it poses to our privacy and civil liberties. I show how technology is used to categorize and monitor people based on their associations, movements, purchases, and perceived political beliefs. Corporations and government intelligence agencies mine data from sources as diverse as surveillance cameras and unmanned drones to iris scans and medical records. They comb websites, email, phone records and social media for resale to third parties, including U.S. intelligence agencies.


“Spying on Democracy puts a laser focus on a challenge faced by millions of Americans who, like me, took a solemn oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. What does that oath require of us now, as most of our co-citizens nod an acquiescent ‘yes,’ when NY Mayor Bloomberg (of ‘stop-and-frisk’ fame) tells us that, after the Boston bombing,’our interpretation of the Constitution has to change?’ The naive ‘but-I’ve-got-nothing-to-hide’ reaction betrays how little most Americans know of history, and how willing they are to watch our Constitution shredded . . . Grateful applause for a young lawyer with the guts to tell it like it is. Let’s hope Americans will read Heidi Boghosian’s Spying on Democracy and learn from it. For, as Dr. King put it, ‘There is such a thing as too late.’”

Ray McGovern, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

“It’s about time someone reverses the spy lens, and exposes the corporations and government agencies behind a new wave of surveillance. In Spying on Democracy, Heidi Boghosian draws on her extensive legal and activist experience to document a web of surveillance stretching between private industry and the state. It’s a chronicle of rogue spy operations, but it’s also a damning indictment of how our privacy rights are violated in ways that are shockingly legal. The material here is unsettling, but Boghosian’s message is not that we should attempt to hide in the shadows; it’s that we must be out front, loud, and on the side of the journalists and dissidents whose rights are most threatened.”

Will Potter, author of Green Is the New Red: An Insider’s Account of a Social Movement Under Siege

“Heidi Boghosian’s Spying on Democracy is the answer to the question, ‘if you’re not doing anything wrong, why should you care if someone’s watching you?’ It’s chock full of stories about how innocent people’s lives were turned upside-down by public and private sector surveillance programs. But more importantly, it shows how this unrestrained spying is inevitably used to suppress the most essential tools of democracy: the press, political activists, civil rights advocates and conscientious insiders who blow the whistle on corporate malfeasance and government abuse.”

Michael German, Senior Policy Counsel, ACLU and former FBI agent

“Modern life has a way of making us forget the deep political power of privacy. Spying on Democracy shakes that complacency, explaining how journalists, attorneys, political dissidents, religious groups, even children, are subject to ever new forms of surveillance in the name of convenience, marketing, and security. This book’s great contribution is to remind us how government and private-sector control over information can have shocking implications for freedom and democracy.”

Alexandra Natapoff, author of Snitching: Criminal Informants and the Erosion of American Justice

“With ex-CIA staffer Edward Snowden’s leaks about National Security Agency surveillance in the headlines, Heidi Boghosian’s “Spying on Democracy: Government Surveillance, Corporate Power, and Public Resistance” feels especially timely. Boghosian reveals how the government acquires information from telecommunications companies and other organizations to create databases about ‘persons of interest.’”

Publishers Weekly

“Everyone of us is under the omniscient magnifying glass of the government and corporate spies. . . . How do we respond to this smog of surveillance? Start by reading “Spying on Democracy: Government Surveillance, Corporate Power, and Public Resistance” by Heidi Boghosian”

Bill Moyers