February 2, 2014
Two months ago, Essential Information released the report Spooky Business: Corporate Espionage Against Nonprofit Organizations, by Gary Ruskin. The report details multiple incidents of shady and sometimes illegal surveillance operations, by well-known corporate giants against multiple public interest organizations and groups. GreenPeace, MoveOn, Public Citizen, and Move to Amend were among the groups targeted.
Ruskin reveals how the private surveillance industry has grown off the expansion of the Homeland Security Department, producing 265,000 former spies and security operatives, more than willing to put their skills to work in the private marketplace, damn the consequences. A revolving door exists between the national apparatus and the private one, much like the door between Congress and "K' St, through which money and information flow.
Because these organizations have the capacity to win over public opinion on a host of policy issues, corporations have engaged in immoral, unethical, and illegal behavior in order to silence them. Like all corporations, non-profits do have strategies and plans we would prefer to avoid sharing with the opposition. We also maintain private information about our members, who possess an inherent Constitutional right to their privacy.
Knowingly breaking the law is a frequent tactic used by some non-profits and many individuals as an act of civil disobedience--for which we accept the consequences. We do not employ spooks, provocateurs and rabble-rousers, trained in their fields of espionage and security with taxpayer dollars, for the express purpose of quashing dissent.
Ruskin offers a list of suggested reforms to end this nasty practice, which if it is allowed to continue, will have profoundly negative effects on the American democratic experiment. Social justice organizations representing the public interest are an important counterbalance to "corporate persons," who exist only to increase profits for their shareholders, with no thought or care for social, economic or environmental justice.
So what do corporate personhood and money as speech have to do with the growing private surveillance industry?
Policy created by Reagan and furthered by Clinton to privatize or reduce government functions contributed to the expansion of the private security apparatus. It would only be a matter of time before this market created a demand beyond government operations.
In most cases the best-funded candidate wins and goes on to create and pass legislation. (Incumbency can and often produces winners with smaller treasure chests than the challengers.) Almost all winning candidates receive funds from industry leaders, while corporations through super-PACs flood the airwaves with "issue" ads highlighting policies--often false--that have great potential to increase the corporations' profit margins. A trail of money and influence connects candidates' and the two major parties' campaign chests with public policy, which benefit the banking, medical, pharmaceutical, chemical, energy, agriculture, extraction, manufacturing, housing, and transportation industries, to name a few.
Corporate industries also deploy thousands of lobbyists in the halls of Congress, some of whom actually help write legislation and treaties, like Obamacare and the looming Transpacific Partnership (TPP), resulting in very profitable, corporate-friendly policies, at the expense of the taxpayer.
Because corporations are considered people, and because money is a protected form of free speech, corporations and their executives through their electoral participation are fast transforming our democratic union into a corporate dictatorship. We, in the Move to Amend coalition, are fighting to secure the "We the People Amendment," which states only human beings are entitled to inherent Constitutional rights and money is not a form of protected political speech. (Sign the petition.)
Once our democracy is firmly within the people's control, we can easily implement Ruskin's suggested reforms to stop corporate malfeasance and criminal behavior. In the meantime, human beings should understand that we are more than likely to be the subject of federal or corporate surveillance if we have the temerity to stand up for our inherent rights.
(image by The People's Voice)