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Jennifer Granick, author of “American Spies” and director of civil liberties at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society. (GeekWire Photo / Todd Bishop)

The internet has made information easily accessible, and we normally see that as a good thing. Making bank transfers online or quickly looking up a recipe are great conveniences. But what if the information being accessed is details about your private life? And what if the entity accessing them is a secretive government intelligence agency?

This week on the GeekWire podcast, we speak to Jennifer Granick, author of the new book, “American Spies: Modern Surveillance, Why You Should Care and What To Do About It.” Granick, director of Civil Liberties at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, stopped by GeekWire’s offices in Seattle yesterday for a conversation prior to her sold-out reading at Ada’s Technical Books.

Granick and other civil liberties scholars advocate for more restrictions and transparency in how the government collects and stores data about private citizens. Granick says technology has made the information collecting process much different than it was even a decade ago, which means huge amounts of private information can be swept up in government surveillance.

But she also says technology can help people protect their information and, with some advocacy, citizens can push to reform surveillance laws to limit the impact.

Listen to the podcast above or download it as an MP3, watch the behind-the-scenes video below, and keep reading for an edited transcript.

What the government knows

Todd Bishop: Let’s start with a baseline, because the Snowden leaks, in particular, were overwhelming to people and they didn’t know what to believe. The tech companies at the time denied things like the PRISM program. What does the government know about us?

Jennifer Granick: That’s a great question. My point in the book is that the government is capable of knowing far more about us than we realize, and it’s not necessarily because we’re being targeted. There’s this opportunistic broad collection that goes on for a variety of reasons, either cameras that pick up what you are doing in public or the collection of our private information from internet companies or massive collection that is in the name of foreign intelligence, but gathers a substantial amount of information about Americans.

All of these data can go into government databases and be analyzed, and processed, and searched. The rules for that are really Archean and in some cases is non-existent. That means that so much about our lives, what we think who we’re friends with is available to the government.

Bishop: I really liked one very simple example that you use in the book. That was the act, in the past, of walking to the library and reading the New York Times. The virtual version of that — going to the web and reading a website — is very different. Explain how it’s different.

Granick: These technological changes are really new and it’s one of the reasons why we don’t totally understand the impact. You could walk down the street, nobody would necessarily see you, no recording was made. You’d go to the library, you’d look at whatever you wanted to, pick something off the shelf or open the New York Times, read it and go home and nobody was any the wiser. Now, you get online, you search for something, your search queries are recorded, what you click or browse is all making a record. Then what you end up reading, how long it’s open on your computer, how fast you scroll, and what you click to from there, all of that stuff is recorded or recordable, capturable, and transmittable to the government. The level of tracking is completely different from what we experience in the real world.

Bishop: You deal with this in the book — and I think your parents are an example of this — the question of, “Who cares? I’m a boring person and if the government wants to know it, whatever. They can know what they want.” Why is that a fallacy?

American Spies book cover. (Photo via americanspies.com)

Granick: I think for a couple of reasons. One is that people tend to think that caring means somebody’s interested in them or somebody has something that they want to find out about them. What’s true in the modern surveillance world is that it’s not about targeting particular people that somebody wants to go after. You can do this massive data analysis or searches for stuff that is not about being interested in me, and you can get caught up in that dragnet. You might think that you gave money to a particular political cause, but if somebody’s interested in who the supporters of that political cause are, you’re just basically caught up in the dragnet.

The ultimate reason for people to care is because it’s not really about us. It is about having a society where people can challenge the status quo, can organize politically, can fight for whatever their thing they’re into is — civil liberties, gun rights, economic changes, whatever that is — and not have fear that challenging the status quo is something that is going to raise, be able to be — that because of that, you’re going to be able to use this massive evidence collection against you to discredit you, to infiltrate movements, to undermine your credibility or any of those sorts of things.

Bishop: One of the interesting things is that you finished this book before last November.

Granick: Right, I did.

Bishop: When you wrote it, you didn’t know who the next president would be.

Granick: Absolutely not. I assumed it was going to be somebody else, maybe anybody else.

Bishop: Yes, exactly.

Granick: When I wrote the book, I assumed that Hillary Clinton would win. I’m glad I made that assumption. I think that I wrote the book to try to explain to people who were skeptical that massive surveillance was something they should worry about. I think a lot of people thought, “I do my activism locally. I buy organic, I volunteer at my kid’s school, and nobody is going to be necessarily interested in that.” But today, a lot more people think of themselves as politically active, either going to the women’s march or marches against climate change, protesting the immigration ban at airports or whatever it is. Maybe you’re politically active on the other side and you are a supporter of Trump or Trump’s policies. I just think there’s a lot more political engagement and activism now, and so a lot more people who can see why they might be of interest to the government.

Bishop: Now, there is something coming up where some activism could have an impact and that’s section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act. That’s coming up later this year. So, what can we do?

Granick: There are two things we can do. One is to get engaged politically about surveillance. I know that everybody has their political issue. To me, the issue of surveillance is a precursor for these political issues, if you want to fight the immigration ban or you want to fight for women’s rights or whatever it is. You need to have the privacy and the security in order to be able to organize to do that. Surveillance is — even though we’ve got so many important things going on right now — surveillance policy still is really important.

We have this opportunity this year to reform one of the laws that has resulted in a vast amount of American’s private communications ending up in the government’s hands. This law is called Section 702. Basically, it allows the government to target foreigners believed to be living overseas for foreign intelligence information. It doesn’t sound like it has anything to do with Americans, but for a variety of reasons — including the fact that we talk to foreigners about matters of foreign intelligence interest — it ends up collecting what one judge who’s had the ability to see the information, see the evidence, has said is a substantial amount of Americans’ information.

This law is expiring at the end of the year, in December of 2017, which means that Congress has to do something. Either the law is going to expire and die, or Congress is going to reauthorize it just exactly the way it is now, or people are going to call their lawmakers and press for reforms to be made. So join your favorite online civil liberties group, whatever it is, whether it’s EFF, ACLU, Fight for the Future, CDT, whatever it is. You will be hearing and receiving updates about this law and when it’s time to call your senator or representative, let them know that you think that there is a way to do foreign intelligence gathering that protects national security without sucking in all this private information and private communications from just regular everyday people.

Changing the law

Bishop: If you could rewrite the law, what would you do?

Granick: A couple of different ideas for what we could do to change the law. One is to narrow the scope. Right now in the statute, it says it can be used for any foreign intelligence interest. We could narrow it to be more directly about national security, particularly national security issues. We could require there to be some level of factual predicate for who you can collect information about. For example, traditionally under foreign intelligence law, you could target agents of foreign powers, which are people who are working for foreign governments, or terrorists, or those sorts of things. We could put in a requirement that you have to be targeting and agent of a foreign power as opposed to general, regular people because foreigners have rights too. We talked to those foreigners, there are friends, and relatives, and stuff, and so narrow that down.

I think another major change we could put in is to limit the way that the information is used once it’s collected, because you have this broad scope of collection. Then what happens is the FBI or law enforcement agency inside the United States has access to that information and can search it — including for information about Americans — without having any factual basis or predicate for it at all. You don’t need a warrant, you don’t need any documented reason. This is one of the reasons why this has been called a backdoor search, because normally read and listen on American’s conversations, you would need to go get, at very least, a search warrant. Here, you don’t have to. We could just basically say, “sorry, no matter backdoor searches.” We’re not going to take something that we do in the name of national security and repurpose it for run-of-the-mill drugs, IRS investigations, or just to investigate suspicions that somebody might have.

Bishop: Now I realize you’re a lawyer, and you’re not political necessarily, but what do you feel are the chances of something like this being reformed with the Republican congress and the Republican in the White House?

Granick: Yeah, that’s up to the people who are watching this right now. That’s up to you the viewers, so I can’t say. I think that there’s a lot of skepticism about the effect that grassroots democracy can have that I believe that that skepticism is misplaced. I think that when people get together and care, we can really move mountains. That may be what’s required, a mountain-moving interest in this, but I do believe that it is more than possible, when people really understand the issue, that we’ll see that we can have privacy and security and it’s not that hard to get to from here. We just need the will to do it.

Bishop: One of the things you say in the book is that we need to make it more expensive for intelligence agents to conduct these searches and to gather this intelligence, what do you mean by that?

Granick: One of our main protectors against suspicionless opportunistic surveillance was that it was too expensive. It wasn’t worth it. Yes, a police officer could follow me down the street, but nobody was going to pay somebody to do that because I just wasn’t that interesting. Now, it’s cheaper to follow me — with all the cameras that are out there and facial recognition technology and that sort of stuff — than it is to delete me out of the feed. What we have to do is, now that technology has so greatly lowered the cost of conducting surveillance, we have to find ways to make it expensive again so that it has this natural disinclination against opportunistic, suspicionless, and potentially abusive spying.

The law is one thing that can make it more expensive. Again, if you require there to be a case made to a judge, or a warrant, or some court order to obtain, that’s a way to take what technology has whittled away and restore it.

Bishop: Now, I know you worked as a lawyer, as a criminal defense attorney for many years.

Granick: I did, for nine years before I went to Stanford.

Bishop: Including defending some people in hacking cases. How much of your knowledge is based on what you gleaned in those cases?

Granick: A lot of my knowledge about computer security is from my friends and colleagues and clients who were computer hackers and security professionals, who taught me a lot about encryption and security and hacking. The relationship of government invasions and computer security, and what that means for being able to break into systems more generally. I’m really grateful to that community for taking me in and teaching me all of that stuff.

I just think when you are a criminal defense attorney more generally, you see the way that surveillance disproportionately impacts the more vulnerable and weaker communities. Poor people, people of color. You see that this is a very visceral thing but that has just gotten worst. It metastasizes because now information collection is happening on everybody and nobody knows who’s going to be the vulnerable, disadvantaged community of tomorrow. We see that that’s the real worry about building up these databases and having this information that the government just has and can use.

Bishop: The tech companies are in many ways enablers of this.

Granick: Absolutely.

Bishop: Then we as users of those services are enablers of the tech companies.

Granick: Yes, we’re all complicit.

Bishop: Where can you put the dam up?

Granick: Yeah. That’s a good question, where to put the dam up as opposed to who are we going to blame.

Bishop: Yeah, I think more in solutions I guess.

Granick: Yeah, no absolutely, I think that’s the right question. I don’t see a big change. I don’t think people are going to stop wanting social networking, or movie recommendations, or restaurant recommendations, or those sorts of things. I know that I want Gmail to scan my email for malware and for spam. That means that they’re going to have access to the contents of my emails at least until computer science advances enough that we can reliably do calculations on encrypted data and we’re not there yet. It’s going to happen and it’s a valuable service, and then companies are going to collect that data.

I do think companies could be more deliberate about what information they keep, how long they keep it, how secure they keep it, and whether they keep it in an encrypted format. I think there’s a data retention issue there that companies need to be very thoughtful about. I think more and more companies are because it’s becoming expensive to just have information lying around. Hackers can get at it and the government comes and asks for it and it’s expensive for them, but it’s a moral issue too. Then, I think the next step there is to have the law play that role of making surveillance targeted and useful in ensuring that we do it when we should be doing it as opposed to we do it just because.

The law can do that by all the checks and balances that we have — asking a judge for order, giving notice to people when they’re spied on, having Congress conduct oversight — internal rules and regulations and record keeping and that sort of thing. We have these tools, we’re not just using them.

Bishop: From your understanding of the intelligence community at this point, do you have a sense for the dynamic that Trump is going to create in this entire information-gathering apparatus and how the information will be used? Because this is a person who reportedly doesn’t even get all of the daily intelligence briefings, or at least it wasn’t during the transition. What kind of dynamic does that create in this whole question?

Granick: I think right now at this point in time, at least there’s probably a lot of people who are still in the intelligence, cyber-security related agencies who are holdovers from the Obama administration. The problem is that there aren’t a lot of external rules, and so they may have internal rules that they are supposed to follow. But what happens when the President, who is the leader of the executive branch that makes those internal rules says now the rules are going to be different, and we’re going to use them for different things? We’re going to use them to create a Muslim registry, we’re going to use them to find people to aggressively deport en masse, we’re going to use them to find out who’s leaking to journalists and who else those journalists are talking to.

Then, at that point you start to see this like norms that aren’t written down and the few rules that there are begin to really lose their — either you write them away or people just stop following them. I think that’s a real concern, even if you came from a different administration, you’re now in this world where your boss is telling you, this is what you need to do. Unless there’s something clear to point you that says, this is illegal and you’re going to go prison if you do this, it’s going to be hard for everyone to just say, “No, I’m sorry. I’m not going to do it.”

Bishop: Have you seen any signs yet that intelligence is being used for those purposes, media, those kinds of things going after reporters or anything along those lines?

Granick: Certainly, under the Obama administration there were more investigations of reporters than in all the previous administrations combined. Including things like subpoenaing phone records from Associated Press reporters to try to find out who leakers were. Getting all those phone records that are records of everybody that those reporters talk to. It’s really danger as behavior. We still see some of that. I believe it was a subpoena in the Barrett Brown case looking for information about who gave money to Barrett Brown’s legal defense.

He is a controversial figure, but why in the course of his criminal case would anybody need to know who decided to support him and give money to his legal funds? So we have to be very careful about these requests for information that don’t have a good justification. For the information that is opportunistically collected, where the court orders are secret, or there is no court order at all — when do we find out that the information has been gathered on us and when do we find out that it has been used? There is not something built into the system that tells us when that’s happened — that gives the person whose information is processed any kind of notice.

Microsoft vs. the DOJ

Notice is really important. Without it, it is really hard to have any public oversight. A lot of companies have pushed for notice, either pushing or suing to be able to reveal the fact that they receive national security letters, then they got a gag order. Microsoft is suing now to say that when their customers’ communications are accessed with a warrant, that they should be able to notify the customer at some point in time after it happens. There’s a lot more push for the public to be able to have some transparency and ultimately to be able to challenge some of these surveillance practices in court, but we’re not there yet. It’s a burgeoning thing, but it’s not the rule yet.

Bishop: That case that you referenced with Microsoft suing the Justice Department to be able to disclose when it gets these orders, now that’s basically like a wrapped in confidentiality. That’s going on here in Seattle before James Robart whose name will sound very familiar to people who followed the executive order on immigration because he’s the one who put the TRO, the temporary restraining order, on Trump’s executive order. And he ruled against the Justice Department and their motion to dismiss that case just a couple weeks ago.

Granick: Yes, absolutely. He dismissed I believe the Fourth Amendment aspect of the claim saying that the Microsoft didn’t have standing to … I’m sorry, I’m going to get legalistic on you Todd. I apologize.

Bishop: No, let’s hear it. Come on. Hey, I’m right there with you. He upheld the First Amendment part.

Granick: He upheld the First Amendment part saying the company has standing at least to assert their First Amendment interest to tell their users what’s going on with their data and the company wants to give out this message. It’s relevant to their business, relevant to whether people are going to have faith in it or faith in using this service or not. He let the case go on, so I think that’s going to be something very interesting and important to watch.

Bishop: Is that one of the most important cases happening right now on this whole frontier?

Granick: It’s an important case, for sure. There’s a lot of important cases. It’s an important case. There’s other cases about gag orders and whether they’re kept perennial or you can get rid of them. There’s also cases in the few criminal cases — where defendants have been given notice that their information has been gathered under foreign intelligence reasons and is used in a criminal case — challenging whether that’s compliant with the Fourth Amendment, and efforts by companies to do better on transparency in terms of reporting numbers of orders they receive. There’s a lot of multi-front efforts here to make it more apparent to people what’s going on.

Bishop: Good question here on the Facebook Live feed from Linda Smith. She asks you, “Are you saying that if I have a foreign friend and I comment on their Instagram or Facebook, that information can be gathered or used against me by the FBI? Can they collect information from emails?”

Granick: So Facebook, the whole notion of what’s public is hard, right? Because if I have 20 friends, maybe where people think that’s not public, but if I have a thousand friends, is that public? What if it’s public?

All of these can be done. If the information is out there, that you’ve put somewhere, it can be obtained. The question is when and how? Under what legal regime, how much evidence does the government have to show if any? Who has to approve it? And that sort of thing.

Basically, what surveillance civil liberties people like myself are pushing for, is to say, “Let’s have a good reason, and court oversight and a court order and not have it happen without any documented reason or without a strong documented reason — without the court basically approving it — and then have the information be able to be used for any set of other purposes after.” But it is certainly true that when you communicate with anybody, that information could be available.

The problem about communicating with our foreign friends overseas is it opens us up to collection under these foreign intelligence surveillance rules. This particular rule says that when we talked to our foreign friends overseas, if we’re talking about matters of foreign intelligence interest, that information could be collected without a warrant. Now, “about” is a complicated thing, because it’s not going to be like if I say, “Osama bin Laden” or “I’m going to France,” or something like that. They have targets which could be ISIS, and then they have a bunch of selectors, which are signifiers that are associated with ISIS.

It could be a phone number. It could be an email address. It could be a malware signature or we don’t know all the things it could be. If our messages contain those things, then that is something that the Section 702 collection will gather, either by demanding that companies give it over or through wiretapping on the internet backbone.

Legal word games

Bishop: The other thing that you get into in the book is the word games. The word “collect” for example has a different meaning to intelligence officials, to lawmakers who might be trying to explain these rules to the public, than it might to the rest of us. What does “collect” mean in the world of intelligence?

Granick: Yeah, so this came up when Senator Ron Wyden who was on the Senate Intelligence Committee asked the then Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, “Are you collecting any information at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” They both knew at the time that the NSA and FBI were collecting all our phone records. Domestic too, just phone records of who we called inside the United States. Clapper answered the question, “No, not wittingly.”

That’s another game. Then later after the Snowden disclosures came out and there was the reporting that, in fact, the government was collecting our phone call records, the press called Clapper to task and said, “Why did you say no when the answer was yes?” Clapper said, “Actually, it has to do with the meaning of the word collect. We don’t think of collect as when we gather all the information into government databases. It’s only collected when a human takes a look at it.”

You can just take that to the library analogy. The library books on the shelf are called a collection, but to Clapper, that’s not collected. The book’s only collected if a human picks it up off the shelf and reads it, not if a computer analyzes it or anything like that. He had some reason for that from a Defense Department manual that offered these alternative explanations of words.

Then subsequently to that, we were told, in the course of the conversation, we’re going to use “collect” the way normal people think that the word “collect” means, but the fact that you can play that word game and that the meanings of these words and the definitions are contained in secret documents that are not all made public, not all redacted, makes us wonder: what do they really mean when they say these words?

There’s different rights that US persons — Americans and permanent residents — have versus people who are not, foreigners. There’s another document that suggests that the real definition of what US persons means has a classified aspect to it. So who gets those rights and who doesn’t? We’re not really sure. There’s just so many examples of that. It just makes you feel as a member of the public, really alienated from the conversation, and as an expert, I think very frustrated. And as a lawyer, it makes you wonder, what are we doing here arguing over the rules if there’s a secret classified interpretation of even the definition of these words?

Bishop: Wow, OK. This goes back to right after the Snowden revelations where a lot of these statements were being made with people in positions of authority relying on those obscure, sometimes confidential definitions. One of the most striking one, I’m trying to remember exactly what President Obama said, but it was after the Verizon story came out.

Granick: Yeah, “We don’t listen to your phone calls. Nobody’s listening to your phone calls.” That’s what he said.

Bishop: Was that true?

Granick: Technically, yes. People were not listening to phone calls, but that wasn’t what the allegation was about. The reporting was that the contents of internet transactions were being collected either from the companies or on the internet backbone, and that all that stuff was being scanned and that that could include voice calls also, but they were being gathered. Maybe somebody listened to the voice calls later on or not, but there’s no question that there are scanning devices on the internet backbone that are searching through information, looking for these particular selectors or search terms.

There’s no question that the government is getting people’s email communications, instant messages, chats, whatever from internet companies with this Section 702 orders. Pretending that you’re reassuring us of something by saying, “oh, we’re not listening to your phone calls,” is just a little bit of a sleight of hand.

Bishop: Bill Miller on the Facebook Live feed asks, “Any thoughts on RFID?” I’m assuming this gets into their world of internet of things.

Granick: Yes, absolutely. I said earlier, I think in the beginning, I said something about — in the offline world, we have this privacy that we don’t have in the online world, but that’s increasingly less true. Or decreasingly true. Because now with the internet of things, or basically devices that have sensors on them, there’s all kinds of things that we do in the real world that now sensors pick up, from how many times I open my refrigerator door to how much ice cream I eat, to the temperature I heat my home at, or whatever my Smart TV picks up, or my Amazon Alexa. Germany just stopped people from buying that doll that can listen to the stuff that your kids say. There’s just all of these sensors out there now that are increasingly able to track what happens in the offline world too.

Bluetooth, RFID, wireless, these are all technologies that we need to start to think about securing. In addition to the law, one of the major ways that people can help protect themselves and that companies can protect us is to use technology. Technology and technological security helps protect people from opportunistic, suspicionless surveillance. It’s very hard to protect something completely, but if it’s encrypted as it travels on the internet or if it’s encrypted on your phone, then it is much less easy to just suck it in for no good reason. It makes it expensive again so that you have to try. Using some means, VPNs or encryption, or secure instant messaging, apps like Signal, all of these things can really help protect people from this suspicionless surveillance.

Bishop: I’m just happy, for example, when my parents can send me a text message. Let alone encrypt it or use something like Signal.

Granick: That’s the thing though, is that these tools are getting easier and easier to use. Signal right now, it is every bit as easy to use as any instant message app. iMessage is also very easy to use and it’s end to end encrypted. HTTPS, so encrypted web traffic. These things are becoming the norm. You don’t have to know how to post your PGP key on a key server, anything like that in order to be able to do it.

Let’s do what we can while we can. There’s no reason to throw up our hands and be like, “Ph, encryption is too hard.” It’s getting easier and easier for everybody, including my parents and yours.

Bishop: You’ve got the greatest swag ever. For people who aren’t seeing this on the video, what is this?

Granick: People are probably familiar with the little piece of post-it that you put over the camera on your laptop to make sure that nobody secretly turned your camera on to spy on you. These are little stickers with the eye from the cover of my book on it, that you can put over the camera on your laptop or on your cellphone or something to protect yourself from being spied on that way.

Bishop: Yeah, the most appropriate swag ever. … I saw that Mark Zuckerberg, for example, had the post-it over his and that got a lot of attention. It’s like, “geez, Mark Zuckerberg thinks he can’t trust his video camera…” How serious is that concern? Because I’m sitting here without — and come on, the green light’s going to come on, right, when somebody’s —

Granick: No. Unfortunately, no.

Bishop: Okay, correct me.

Granick: Okay, so the light is in software and software can be hacked. It’s not hardware-defined that if the camera’s on, the light is on. If you hack the software, you can turn the camera on without the green warning light coming on. That’s the concern. We all know like we can get infected by malware. I have Android phone, and so you can have it on any platform. It’s possible. Putting the thing on make sure that nobody can hijack your camera.

Bishop: Another question from the Facebook Live feed: how do you feel about home security cameras connected to the internet? This is becoming more popular. How do you feel this will be used paired with a voice recording device like Google Home and Amazon Echo. You were alluding to this already.

Granick: Yeah, once you connect things to the internet, that’s a vector for attack. I shouldn’t even say this probably: we have our home security camera connected to the internet so we can see it, but we would never have cameras inside our house connected to the internet. There’s really no reason for that. It would allow it to potentially be hijacked from the outside and somebody could see inside your house. The used case for us is worth it, for what’s at the front door, but not for anything else.

Unfortunately, it seems like device manufacturers are still years behind where we are in security. We have these botnets or insecure software implementations in these devices that make them susceptible to being hacked by attackers who are criminals, or governments, or whatever. I think that it’s important to be really careful about how you implement those and be thoughtful about what you put on the internet. If it doesn’t need to be on the internet, then don’t put it on the internet. We increasingly have light bulbs with chips in them and all of this stuff.

Bishop: Everything’s connected.

Granick: Everything’s connected. The one thing I cannot wait for and which I will put on the internet the second they have it is I want to be able to preheat my stove while I’m still on my way home from work so that the oven is already warm when I get home. That should be on the internet. But almost everything else that I’ve heard of in the internet of things, I’m just saying no to.

Bishop: But then they’re going to know, “Hey, Jennifer likes to cook her meals at 5:45.” Would that be a concern?

Granick: The thing I think would be a concern is a piece of information like that in conjunction with other evidence. We don’t know how this information is used. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but if you put it together in conjunction with other pieces of information, then it can become very revealing. If I have a habit of cooking and then all of a sudden I stop, or suddenly I’m ordering in for a lot of people. Maybe I’m having political meetings at my house, or whatever it is. It’s hard to predict how, in aggregate, this information will be used.

We’ve seen if you study a history of intelligence abuses even the most innocuous information has been used against people for political reasons to try to derail their activism. It’s hard to say in isolation, but we know that it’s possible.

Bishop: Good. I know you’ve got an event to get to. I really appreciate you stopping by.

Granick: Thank you. This has been great.

Bishop: Any final thoughts here? One of the things that I loved about what you said in the book was, “This is not personal. It’s not about somebody being a bad person.” Talk more about that.

Granick: Yeah. I think that’s one of the reasons like what I was saying before, why I was glad that Trump hadn’t been elected president then, I think it would’ve been easy for me to say, “This is why you should care.” I think this isn’t about individual people who want to do wrong.

Bishop: In the intelligence community?

Granick: Yeah, in the intelligence community. Many of these people, most of these people are very well-intentioned and what to do what they think is right. But that’s been true throughout the ages, that people had justifications for surveillance practices that in retrospect were very abusive and improper. The idea is that there is a system in place, because nobody’s perfect. The system is of checks and balances to make sure that what the intelligence agents are doing is accountable to and known to, and revealable by the public, either by our elected representatives, by courts, or by just people who are the voters themselves.

Only through this dialog, this conversation, with all those pieces, can we make sure that the surveillance that we’re doing is done for and used for the purposes that keep us safe as opposed to subverted against us and used to endanger us.

Jennifer Granick’s book is “American Spies: Modern Surveillance, Why You Should Care and What To Do About It.”

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