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Monthly Meeting: Domestic Spying and the Surveillance State

Hi folks!  With the recent revelations from NSA leaker Edward Snowden, David and I thought it would be especially pertinent to discuss the rise of the surveillance state in America.  The issues we should be tackling is whether its existence is justified, whether we've given too much power to the state in the name of security, how modern technological advances jives with the constitution, and whether leakers and information vigilantes such as Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning, and Julian Assange are justified in their actions.

To that end, our two books this month are "The Watchers: The Rise of America's Surveillance State" by Shane Harris

and "Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD's Secret Spying Unit and Bin Laden's Final Plot Against America" which is a newer book meant to give us a look at how low enforcement utilizes the tools given to it by the PATRIOT act.

Enemies within is new and might be harder to find, however you can get it for free on audio from through Amazon for a free trial of audile (which you can cancel).

See you all next month!


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  • David G.

    Forgot. Via Janice, here's a great summary of what we know about the extent of NSA domestic spying:

    It sums up a new report on the subject by the Brennan Center for Justice.

    October 15, 2013

  • David G.

    As promised, here are links to summaries of both bks + some updates and good commentaries. The Watchers -
    • NYT review:
    • Op-ed by the author:

    Enemies Within - • HuffPost review:
    • Rolling Stone interviews the authors:

    The Bigger and More Recent Pictures – • See here (scroll down to the bottom) for some links to some excellent commentaries about (1) what we know about the extent of NSA spying on Americans, and (2) criticisms of – and some support for – what NSA is doing:

    October 14, 2013

  • Alex

    These books are dated and/or glorify the illegal activities of the police. Might I recommend:
    Surveillance or Security?: The Risks Posed by New Wiretapping Technologies by Susan Landau.

    September 17, 2013

    • Neil V

      This is a description of the authors, for reference sake. "Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman are investigative reporters for the Associated Press in Washington, D.C. They shared in the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting for a series on the New York Police Department's clandestine spying program targeting American Muslims. Together, Apuzzo and Goldman have uncovered the location of a CIA prison, revealed widespread cheating on FBI exams, and showed how the CIA's haphazard disciplinary system resulted in promotions for officers who kidnapped and killed the wrong people. They have shared the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting, a George Polk Award, the Paul Tobenkin Memorial Award, and the Edgar A. Poe Award from the White House Correspondents’ Association. "

      September 17, 2013

    • Alex

      October 3, 2013

  • David G.

    Alex has a point about the "Watchers" book. I've read 100 pages it's a bit of a softball account of the intell wars of the 1980s and 1990s. I'm pretty sure he will provide an accurate account of post-9/11 eavesdropping - but with a fairly strong bias in favor of the watchers. Still, reading a biased account that contains much that is accurate can be useful, and a good exercise in critical thinking, too. It's a liberal book club, but we don't always have to read the liberal POV. Still, Alex has a point. As an antidote, next week I'll link us to some more critical (and more current!) accounts of NSA spying. Reading these short 3-5 articles should give us a balanced narrative overall.

    "The Watchers" shows what can happen when reporters that know next to nothing on a major policy area write a book based mainly on what inside sources tell them. It's a common problem, as the appalling, both-sides-are-to-blame coverage of the budget/debt blackmail shows.

    September 29, 2013

  • Janice

    On Book TV/C-SPAN2 this weekend, part of Book TV's coverage of the National Book Festival on Sunday, Sept. 22, Noon to 6PM Eastern: This weekend Viewer call-in with Matt Apuzzo, Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD's Secret Spying Unit and Bin Laden's Final Plot Against America.

    September 19, 2013

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