Surveillance Posing as Counter-Terrorism: Foreword to “The Rise of the American Corporate Security State”

(Book cover courtesy of Berrett-Koehler Publishers).(Book cover courtesy of Berrett-Koehler Publishers).Truthout is serializing Beatrice Edwards’ book, The Rise of the American Corporate Security State. To read more excerpts from this book, click here.

Daniel Ellsberg writes of The American Corporate Security State: “Edwards is an extraordinary writer who brilliantly captures the essence of what whistleblowers such as [Edward] Snowden have sacrificed their careers and jeopardized their personal liberties to convey.” Get the book by contributing to Truthout here.


In the pages that follow, Bea Edwards shows the post-9/11 merger of corporate wealth and government power in the United States – beneath a thinning veneer of democracy. The book in your hands explains the way in which this private/public collaboration gives policy-making over to profit-seeking corporate interests, which then become a direct threat to our civil rights and our way of life.

Peace and financial stability are the first casualties. Increasingly, well-connected corporate directors, with their privileged access to military resources and the national treasury, placed the country on a permanent war footing even as they dismantled government regulation of their businesses. They made a series of decisions and actions that the public never considered, debated, or approved, even indirectly.

The Rise of the American Corporate Security State examines the way corporate power behaves when it takes a dominant role in government policy-making and explains the advent of endless war. For profit-seekers, war is desirable for three reasons:

  1. It is extremely lucrative for some companies.
  2. The withdrawal of civil liberties is simpler in wartime because people are frightened.
  3. The public accepts greater official secrecy because the nation is under threat of attack.

War justifies the dragnet electronic surveillance of Americans; the government claims to protect us by searching for the terrorists among us. The government also justifies withholding information about its actions, citing national security.

To comingle private wealth and public authority, US elites are promoting an antidemocratic legal regime that allows the exchange of consumer information among the corporations that now own the nation’s critical infrastructure – banks, power companies, transportation companies, and telecoms – and America’s intelligence agencies. This new legal collaboration will provide certain private interests with the cover of legal immunity for their invasive surveillance. It will eradicate the remains of your privacy and deliver your personal data to the government. Should you protest or demand redress, you will find that you have lost your legal right to remedy.

As an attorney, I represent whistleblowers from the National Security Agency, who speak about the intrusiveness and illegality of bulk surveillance of Americans. And I, too, became a whistleblower at the Justice Department when I witnessed the slide of the US government away from the Bill of Rights into a morass of illegal detention and torture. In different ways, through different means, our government accused my clients and me of betraying the country. But the opposite was true. We remained loyal to the Constitution, while our government betrayed it. When we spoke up, the Justice Department turned on us. Every day, we experience firsthand the consequences of the government’s unwanted attentions. We know what happens when your government suddenly notices you – and sees you as a threat.

Edward Snowden, of course, knows this, too. He is stateless because he exposed the extent to which our government has compromised our constitutional rights and promoted the joint operation of private and public sector surveillance – under the guise of counterterrorism. The significance of his disclosures cannot be overestimated. He is revealing the whole ugly antidemocratic project, and he came just in time. Bea Edwards’s analysis explains why we must act on what he’s showing us, and if we do, we can back away from the brink of permanent war and gross economic inequality where the Corporate Security State is leading us.

Copyright (2014) by Beatrice Edwards. This excerpt is not to be reproduced without permission of the publisher, Berrett-Koehler.