Detail from the cover of “They Know Everything About You: How Data-Collecting Corporations and Snooping Government Agencies Are Destroying Democracy.” (Nation Books)

Truthdig Editor-in-Chief Robert Scheer’s new book, “They Know Everything About You: How Data-Collecting Corporations and Snooping Government Agencies Are Destroying Democracy,” continues the important work on the abuse of power he began five decades ago, writes Peter Richardson at The National Memo.

Richardson continues:

“For democracy,” [Scheer] claims in the book’s first sentence, “privacy is the ball game.” Without the liberties guaranteed by the First and Fourth Amendments, both of which assume the importance of personal sovereignty, the American experiment is a hollow exercise. In contrast, the new surveillance state assumes that citizens “are all potential enemies of the government.” That assumption, in turn, has produced a bipartisan crusade “to turn the war on terror into a war on the public’s right to know.” To support his claim, Scheer devotes three chapters to the importance of whistleblowers — and to the rough treatment they typically endure. He also notes that the Obama administration has prosecuted more whistleblowers under the Espionage Act, which fails to distinguish them from genuine spies, than all previous administrations combined. Along the way, Scheer identifies several unlikely heroes, including Chief Justice John Roberts, whose “defense of privacy in the age of the Internet set as clear a standard on the subject as the nation has ever enjoyed through its judicial system.”

Although the underlying issues in Scheer’s book are far from new, technology has supercharged their significance. “No government has been more far-reaching and effective in invading the private space of the individual than our own,” Scheer concludes. Moreover, everything we have learned about that invasion “resulted not from the ordinary checks and balances of our political system but, rather, from the all-too-rare example set by a few brave truth tellers risking imprisonment or worse.” Though Scheer doesn’t say so, his point also reflects the limits of traditional journalism. Many Americans assume that news organizations will detect and report government misconduct. But even in its glory days, The Washington Post needed a whistleblower to uncover the Watergate story, and today’s news organizations are shedding jobs at an alarming rate, in part because the digital revolution has decimated their business model.

Scheer directs his argument to general readers, not to constitutional scholars or policymakers. A portion of this audience may regard privacy as obsolete, and some notable liberals consider Edward Snowden a cowardly traitor. Melissa Harris-Perry, a political science professor and columnist at The Nation, taunted Snowden on MSNBC in 2013, presumably in an effort to defend the Obama administration from its critics. Under such conditions, one wonders how we will address, much less solve, the systemic problems Scheer identifies. But by raising them so forcefully, he continues to perform the important work he began five decades ago.

Read more here.

They Know Everything About You -- A new book by Truthdig Editor Robert Scheer. Order an autographed copy now!

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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