The Rise of the American Corporate Security State is a scary book. In it, GAP Executive Director Beatrice Edwards describes how far this nation has gone off the rails of its own democratic and economic justice principles. In many ways the story Edwards tells mirrors the typical horror tale. After the powerful evil force is vanquished, unbeknownst to the courageous heroes, the spawn of that monster lies dormant in a new host ready to metastasize and spring forth anew.

Reciting the experiences of several whistleblowers, Edwards describes how, despite the Watergate reforms that enshrined the notion that “No man is above the law,” the imperial Presidency has embedded itself into powerful intelligence agencies that have tortured terrorist suspects, spied on millions of innocents, and illegally destroyed evidence. All this absent meaningful congressional oversight or judicial restraint. The legislative fixes of the 1970s have succumbed to executive branch interpretations and practices that are Orwellian in their character and audacious in their sweep.

Central to the drama that Edwards highlights are the whistleblowers. They are now “enemies of the state.” Four executive-level NSA whistleblowers began blowing the whistle shortly after 9/11. They went through all the right channels: up the chain-of-command to appropriate government investigative bodies and eventually to congressional oversight committees. After all that, they were each subject to surprise home invasions by SWAT teams with drawn weapons, confiscation of their papers and property that was never returned, criminal investigations that went on for years, and in one case a failed Kafkaesque criminal indictment and trial that decimated the whistleblower’s savings and future livelihood. Foreshadowing recent efforts by the CIA to subject Senate staff members to criminal investigation, the experienced Republican Congressional staff member who pursued the claims of these NSA whistleblowers was also subject to home attack and criminal investigation.

Despite their courage and tenacity, the NSA whistleblowers failed utterly to change anything. Learning from their experience, Edward Snowden went straight to the media with his documentation, shifting the burden to journalists and publishers to inform the public at large while also protecting legitimate national security and military operations. Snowden succeeded in bringing to light the lies of top intelligence officials and the shocking extent of surveillance that captures the details of most Americans’ activities, not to mention those of others around the world.

While the President, many Congressional leaders, and mainstream media pundits have belatedly said they welcome the resulting “public debate” about privacy and national security prioritization, they have roundly criticized Snowden for not going through channels despite the well-publicized experiences of the earlier NSA whistleblowers. Virtually everyone in “official Washington” knows what the NSA whistleblowers experienced. It makes no difference to these bad actors, apologists, and negligent overseers; the name of the game is to convince the American public that Snowden deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison for revealing classified documents to the media.

The reason the book includes “corporate” in its title has everything to do with the partnership between government and corporations to transform society in such a way as to reinforce a false sense of security and guarantee corporate profits. Edwards then goes on to describe how it was possible for our financial institutions to take us to the brink of economic collapse, yet escape criminal liability for obvious bank fraud. Here again the monsters of the past haunt the narrative. The 1980s saw over one thousand savings and loan officials go to jail for bank crimes, yet most recently the financial wrongdoing involving seventy times as much capital has not even led to a single significant arrest.

Meanwhile, again, the whistleblowers are the ones left out in the cold, largely ignored by government and toxic to the new banking institutions that are bigger and more powerful than ever. While the government is busy bragging about how well their investments in the ailing financial industry have fared and enjoying the fruits of the fines that many banks have paid, the public is left with trillions less in equity. Furthermore, there is no reasonable assurance that another crisis is not residing, dormant but even more potentially lethal.

Despite the ominous nature of this book’s warnings, there is hope. The message of the book is clear. It is not too late. Just as danger resides within both government and corporate institutions, so do potential whistleblowers. It is clearly our duty as concerned citizens of this world to wake up, listen to the whistleblowers, and take action before it is too late. As she says, the whistleblowers are not speaking truth to power because the powerful already know the score. Instead they are telling truth to us. It is then our ultimate responsibility to preserve our Constitution, vindicate our democratic principles, enforce the rule of law, and bring accountability to our government and corporations.
Louis Clark is President of the Government Accountability Project, the nation’s leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.