Heidi Boghosian: URI’s Diversity Week keynote Speaker for Sept. 30

Heidi Boghosian

Heidi Boghosian



KINGSTON, R.I. – August 27, 2014 –Heidi Boghosian, a writer, civil libertarian and radio show host, will talk about the disturbing increase in government and corporate surveillance in a keynote speech at the University of Rhode Island’s 18th annual Diversity Week. Sponsored by URI’s Multicultural Center and the URI Honors Colloquium, Boghosian will talk about “Surveillance or Self Determination: Can Democracy Exist in the Age of Google, Comcast and the NSA?” on Tuesday, Sept. 30 at 7:30 pm in Edwards Auditorium. The talk is free and open to the public.


In her book, Spying on Democracy: Government Surveillance, Corporate Power and Public Resistance, Boghosian documents the increase in surveillance of ordinary citizens and the danger it poses to our privacy and civil liberties and to the future of democracy.

Boghosian discusses in her book how technology is being used to monitor people based on their associations, movements, purchases, health histories and political beliefs.

She shows how corporations and government agencies mine data from sources as varied as surveillance cameras and unmanned drones to iris scans and medical records while combing websites, email, phone records and social media to sell to third parties, including U. S. intelligence agencies.

Government and corporate spying is on the rise.

In 1975, Senator Frank Church, chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, revealed on NBC’s “Meet the Press’’ the power of the U. S. government to engage in domestic spying:

“The United States government has perfected a technological capability that enables us to monitor the messages that go through the air,’’ Church said. “That capability at any time could be turned on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left such is the capability to monitor everything – telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter.”

Citing a need to protect American citizens following 9/11, the administrations of former president George Bush and President Barack Obama have collaborated with Congress and the Supreme Court to accelerate the rise of the Big Brother surveillance state, making Church’s forecast a reality, says Melvin Wade, director of the Multicultural Center. Mr Wade also states:

“While President Bush authorized the National Security Agency, or NSA, to engage in warrantless wiretapping of the fiber optic cables that control international trafficking of emails, telephone calls, video chats, websites and bank transactions, President Obama oversaw the expansion of the NSA into a weapon for global information control, incorporating the use of cyber attacks, biometric identification, unmanned drones, spying on allies and government secrecy. The NSA has compelled Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, AOL, YouTube, Skype and others to transfer to it massive amounts of private information. Since the leak of top-secret documents by Edward Snowden, citizens have become aware of the extent to which our government and corporations are partnering with each other to build the mining, aggregating, interpreting and selling of data from daily personal transactions into a largely unregulated multi-billion industry.”

Boghosian earned a bachelor’s degree from Brown University, a master’s degree from Boston University and a law degree from Temple University Law School.

Formerly the executive director of the National Lawyers’ Guild, she is now the executive director of the A. J. Muste Memorial Institute, which advocates for nonviolent social change. She also co-hosts the weekly civil liberties radio show Law and Disorder.

Diversity Week is an annual event at URI. This year, the goal is to educate people about the struggle for diversity, equity and community in government and corporations, higher education, the schools, the workplace and the civil rights movement.

Among the events:

* Talks commemorating the 50th year anniversary of the Freedom Summer Project on Monday, Sept. 29. The project was a nonviolent movement in Mississippi in the 1960s to integrate the political system.

* Dream Big URI: The Common Reading Program and The Last Lecture, on Monday, Sept. 29 at 6 p.m., Center for Biotechnology & Life Sciences, Thomas Ryan Family Auditorium.

* Curricular Transformation: How to Incorporate Cultural Competence in Course Content and Pedagogy, on Tuesday, Sept. 30 at 9:30 a.m., Multicultural Center, Hardge Forum.

* College of Pharmacy Diversity Day, on Wednesday, Oct. 1.

* International Distinguished Visiting Scholars Lecture, The Emergence of a New Cuba: Opportunities and Obstacles, on Thursday, Oct. 2 at 7 p.m., Chafee Hall Social Science Center.

* Technology and Cybersecurity: Moving the City of Providence into the 21st century, Friday, Oct. 3 at 10 a.m., Multicultural Center, Hardge Forum.

* Workshops by David Murakami Wood, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada: Understanding the Evolution of the Surveillance State of the 21st century and Understanding the Role of Citizens in Regulating the Surveillance State of the 21st century. Events are Friday, Oct. 3, from 11 a.m. to 12:50 p.m., Multicultural Center, Hardge Forum.

All events are free and open to the public. For a complete program, please visit uri.edu/mcc or contact Michelle Gonzalez at 401-874-2851 or mcc1@ETAL.URI.EDU.