Remedies for Private Intelligence Abuses: Legal and Ideological Barriers


While, as Beet observed, surveillance and intelligence activities by private companies and individuals are not new to the United States, the nuclear power industry’s resort to such activities poses new civil liberties and social problems. The extreme danger embodied in nuclear facilities and materials and the fear of “nuclear terrorism” provide the most plausible justification in our history for the wholesale destruction of civil liberties.

Ostensibly responding to these dangers, corporate and government agencies have conducted surveillance of and gathered intelligence about opponents of nuclear power. As in the past, the targets of these activities are not terrorists but citizens who nonviolently oppose corporate and government policy: the intent and effect has been not to provide security, but to subvert groups and individuals who seek to change those policies. The emerging question is not merely whether we can tolerate some infringements on civil liberties in the face of a potentially great danger, but whether nuclear power and democracy can coexist.

The nature and scope of the nuclear industry’s surveillance and intelligence activities have been set out and documented elsewhere. This paper discusses possible legal remedies available to victims of such activities, and after concluding that existing remedies are inadequate, attempts to place the issue in a broader social context.

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