Corona Impeachment Trial

19 Mar

Chief Justice on Trial: The ANC Coverage
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by PINASWATCHER6 on Dec 13, 2011

January 16, 2012 03:17:42 PM
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The impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona
Jan 18, 2012

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January 19, 2012

January 24. 2012
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Impeachment Trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona
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Where is the Day 13 Corona Impeachment Trial Video?

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The Impeachment Trial of CJ Corona



18 Feb

Schadenfreude is pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others.


Aquino to Corona: You’re way overdue

A month into the impeachment trial, President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday says Chief Justice Renato Corona is already way “overdue.”

In his speech at La Consolacion College in celebration of the anniversary of Tagumpay ng Bayan, Aquino challenged Corona to reveal all the questioned documents to prove whether or not he is guilty of committing an impeachable offense.

“Kung wala kang ginawang mali, wala kang dapat itago. Kayo nga po ang tanungin ko: Ganito ba umasta ang isang taong dapat walang katakutan? Pahirapan ang paghagilap sa kanyang SALN, at hanggang ngayon, pilit niyang inililihim ang kanyang mga accounts tulad ng mga dollar accounts,” Aquino said.

He added, “Sabi niya, in due time ilalabas niya ang mga dokumento. Mawalang-galang na po, Ginoong Corona, marami pang naunang taon na nagpasa kayo ng SALN na puno ng katanungan. Kailan po ba ang due time? Mukha po yatang overdue ka na.”

The president noted that a month has passed since the trial started and it seemed that defense has been intentionally confusing and misleading the public until they lose interest.

“Simple lang naman po ang tanong na nais sagutin ng paglilitis na ito: Dapat pa ba tayong magtiwala sa kaniya? ‘Di ho ba tayong lahat ay mapapasabing: naman. Ginoong Corona, sana naman po ay huwag n’yo na kaming paikutin,” Aquino said.

He noted that based on the trial, it is clear that Corona did not truthfully declare his statements of assets, liabilities and net worth.

In his 2010 SALN, Corona declared P3.5 million cash asset. However, bank officials have testified that the chief justice have three bank accounts containing P31.5 million in 2010.

“Lilinawin ko lang po: Walang personalan dito; sistemang pangkatarungan ang ipinaglalaban dito. At dahil malaki ang pagbabagong ating hinahangad, malaki rin po ang kinakabangga natin,” Aquino said.

The president added, “Ang tungkulin natin ay ibalik ang piring ng katarungan, at gawing balanse ang timbangan. Huwag na po sana nating hintayin na tayo mismo ang maagrabyado. Manindigan na po tayo ngayon.”

By Shielo Mendoza | Yahoo! Southeast Asia Newsroom – Thu, Feb 16, 2012


Bare mental records, Corona dares Aquino

Show your SALN, dollar accounts– Chief Justice

Is President Benigno Aquino 3rd suffering from mental problems or not?

This question was posed to President Aquino by Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona on Friday, challenging the country’s leader to disclose his psychological records for people to know the mental state of the President.

In a statement, Corona said that if Mr. Aquino wanted him to show his bank accounts, the President should also show his statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) and explain to the public the big jump in his assets.

He also dared Mr. Aquino to show not only his bank accounts but also his psychological records, a challenge that was earlier made by the President’s critics.

The Chief Justice argued that it was the obligation of Mr. Aquino to prove that he is mentally fit to govern the nation.

“Marahil, higit na makabubuti kung ilabas na rin ninyo, Ginoong Pangulo, ang inyong SALN, at ipaliwanag ito sa taong-bayan. Siguro, isama ninyo na rin ang inyong bank accounts at psychological records na matagal nang isyu. Mayroon po tayong obligasyon na ipakita sa taong-bayan na maayos ang ating pag-iisip [Perhaps, it would be good if you, Mr. President, would show your SALN and explain these statements to the people. Maybe, you could include your bank accounts and psychological records, as was asked of you in the past. We have the obligation to prove to the people that you have a stable mind],” Corona said.

He pointed out that he had disclosed his wealth statements and it is now the obligation of the President to also disclose his.

“Ako po ay naglabas na ng aking SALN. Hindi ko po ito itinatago. Ang hindi po paglathala nito ay ayon sa nabuong patakaran ng Korte Suprema dalawang dekada na ang nakalipas, hindi pa po ako mahistrado. Ang SALN ko po ay aking ipaliliwanag pagdating ng aking oras o pagkakataon, ayon sa proseso ng impeachment proceedings [I had disclosed my SALN. I did not hide them. Not immediately disclosing them was consistent with a two decades-old Supreme Court ruling that prohibited their disclosure, I was not yet a magistrate. I will explain my SALN later in accordance with the impeachment process],” Corona said.

He accused Mr. Aquino of bias by personally campaigning for his conviction and waging vendetta against him by including in the attacks on the Coronas.

Corona was reacting to the President’s latest tirades thrown against him during a forum at an exclusive school in Manila on Thursday.

“[Why are you teaching the youth to judge without them knowing the whole truth, when only one side is being heard? Is this the ‘justice’ and ‘fair play’ that you are teaching the youth. Give me the chance to air my side, present evidence, answer your baseless accusations and tell the truth. This is real justice that is in accord with our Constitution],” the Chief Justice said.

He asked Mr. Aquino not to influence the Senate impeachment court by using his powers and resources of government to pin him down and his family through a probe conducted by the Bureau of Internal Revenue.

“Ginagamit na po ninyo ang buong puwersa ng gobyerno upang ako at ang aking buong pamilya ay apihin at pagmalupitan. Ito po ba ang patas na laban? At matuwid na daan?[You are using the might of the government to oppress my entire family. Is this fair play? And the straight path?],” Corona said.

He said that it was the duty of the President to lift the economy, solve poverty and starvation and attend to calamity victims.

Corona added that the public should not be cowed even if Mr. Aquino was allegedly in control of the House of Representatives.

He called on the people to not let the President to also dominate the Senate and the Supreme Court, which both exist for “democracy,” not for the President alone.

Meanwhile, Corona clarified that in the case of Rabe vs. Flores, court stenographer Flores of Panabo, Davao, was sacked not because of non-declaration of her wealth statement but because she was receiving “double compensation.”

Mr. Aquino claimed during the school forum that Flores was dismissed for failure to disclose her wealth statement.

Also on Friday, Corona’s lawyers lashed back at the President for “preempting” the outcome of the impeachment case.

They were reacting to Mr. Aquino calling during the school forum for immediate removal of Corona in order for his administration to supposedly deliver on its reform agenda.

Lawyer Karen Jimeno, a spokesman for the defense team, said that the President had jumped the gun on the impeachment court, apparently because the prosecution seemed to have been suffering setbacks during the 19 hearings conducted by the court as of Thursday.

Mr. Aquino, during an open forum at La Consolacion College Manila also on Thursday, practically pronounced Corona guilty under Article II of the verified impeachment complaint (a total of eight articles) or non-disclosure of his wealth statements.

He said that there was a discrepancy between the peso bank accounts of the Chief Justice totaling P31.5 million and his 2010 wealth statement showing only a total of P3.5 million in cash.

The big difference between the declared cash in the statement and the cash in the bank, according to the President, was enough reason for Corona to vacate his post immediately.

But Jimeno said that although Mr. Aquino had the right to express his opinion, he should be cautious since the issue on the bank accounts of the Chief Justice had been tackled before the Senate impeachment court.

She added that the President should leave the matter to senator-judges, instead of discussing merits of the case in public.

“Nasa Senate na ang proseso, sana igalang niya [The process is moving at the Senate, I hope that he would respect it],” Jimeno told reporters.

Lawyer Tranquil Salvador 3rd, another spokesman for the defense, agreed, urging Mr. Aquino to wait instead for the outcome of the impeachment trial.

“Sana huwag po nating pangunahan ang impeachment trial, hintayin po natin hanggang sa matapos ito [We should not preempt the impeachment trial, we should wait for it to end],” Salvador said.





16 Feb
16 Feb
14 Feb

Sentinels of the Rule of Law

By Angie M. Rosales
as seen in The Daily Tribune

Prosecutors have presented bank records as their evidence against Chief Justice Renato Corona before the Senate impeachment court and even have them marked, yet in the same breath, they also admit that they cannot vouch for the authenticity of documents pertaining supposedly to the chief magistrate’s dollar deposits in Philippine Savings Bank (PSBank), after their own witness testified last Monday as a “fake.”

Despite this, the prosecution panel insists that it is its duty to submit the said documents, used as attachments in requesting, some two weeks ago, for the issuance of a subpoena to PSBank and Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) executives as these documents may have a bearing on the court’s resolution of the impeachment complaint against Corona.

Interestingly, some of the “annexes” claimed to be the evidence of Corona’s bank accounts are jointly held by…

View original post 1,657 more words

The Corona Impeachment Trial: Is the Media Biased?

9 Feb

From the Philippine Online Chronicles

(Part 1)

impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona has put the man, the Supreme Court, the Aquino presidency and the media itself under intense scrutiny, because of the information being put out.

Now, the credibility and impartiality of the media is being put on the spotlight.

Media in the news

Media has historically been one of the most powerful tools in the land. It has the tremendous ability to sway public opinion aside from the ability to disseminate information quickly.

This is why why people always fight for their freedom of speech. It is also the reason why those working in the media carries with them tremendous responsibility.

The media has obviously been instrumental in getting information about the trial across to the Filipino people, and as a result, it has brought the trial of Corona to the public.

Everyone has an opinion of what is going on, whether they believe that Corona is guilty or innocent, whether he is going to be found guilty or not and even how both sides are handling the case.

However, recent developments have once again questioned the credibility of various media outlets in how they have handled the coverage of the trials. The Rappler, Inquirer, television giant ABS-CBN, specific journalists, the prosecution team and the defense team now seem to have their own ongoing fight, and the public is left to wonder if the truth will ever really come out.

If it does, will it be reported properly? Will it be presented in an unbiased manner? Or will it be downplayed because it doesn’t make good copy of attention grabbing headlines?

If the recent headlines and the recent reports are the basis, then the Corona camp as well as the public have much to be worried about.

Two trials


Both the prosecution and the defense team are well aware of this. The defense team has already lamented at how there are two trials that are going on – one in the halls of Senate, and one in the court of public opinion, which may turn out to be more important than the actual trial, regardless of what the results of the impeachment proceedings might be.

Weeks before the actual proceedings, lead prosecutor Neil Tupas went on a media blitz telling all the world what they will do and what kind of evidence they have. It got to the point where his own team chastised him to inhibit from talking so much about the case.

The actual proceedings of the trial are televised on several channels. These also include commentaries, interviews, clarifications and other discussions before, during and after the trial.

Hot copy

Karen Davila’s daily morning show Hot Copy on ANC has recently come under fire for featuring only lead prosecutor Neil Tupas in one episode. As usual, Tupas talked about the case, the number of witnesses and what things the public could expect from the trial. Tupas also accused the defense team of making them look incompetent on purpose, as part of the defense strategy.

The following day, Corona’s counsel was the sole guest so that he could refute the statements of Tupas. However, the defense team felt that it would be fairer to feature both sides on the same show, rather than giving one side an entire episode.

There is no way for the other side to counter any statements immediately. By the time the other side discusses their side, whatever was revealed earlier is already in the public’s mind, affecting how they judge the defendant.

Senate halls first before the public


Renato Corona’s team has reiterated repeatedly the need for the prosecution to stop talking to the media. They said that evidence should first be presented in the court instead of showing it to the media first. This is because there are times the evidence that has already been revealed to the public may not necessarily be directly related to the case, or the evidence may not even be admissible in the impeachment court.

This is exactly what happened in several instances in the trial. However, the damage has already been done when it comes to the public. For example, the public will only remember the 40% discount of the Corona condo, but won’t likely remember that it was a damaged unit.

After all, it’s easier to sell papers and to get ratings if you say that the Chief justice of the Supreme court got a mega discount because he misused his position, and less interesting to note that he purchased the property before he was appointed, the unit was damaged and wasn’t even officially turned over to him since there were no records to prove it yet.

Media criticism

This isn’t the first time the network giant ABS-CBN has gotten into trouble for its reporting. Remember its involvement in the Hong Kong Hostage Taking Crises two years ago? That brouhaha resulted in the loss of lives. The way things are going, the life of Renato Corona has also been changed forever, regardless of the outcome of the trial.

The network can be so adamant to report something and be the first to reveal something to the public; it may sometimes fail to review its overall impact on public opinion.

Newspaper coverage

On a daily basis, the newspapers are filled with headlines on what occurred during the trial, what evidence was presented and anything else that can be said about the trial. The Inquirer has been especially hard. Although it is up to the reading public to form an opinion, the Inquirer always seems to be anti-something or anti-someone.

Nowadays, it’s probably advisable to read more than one newspaper so that the readers can get different sides of the same issue. The same issue can be reported various ways, depending on the writer’s and the newspaper’s perspective.


Continuation – The Corona Impeachment Trial: Is the Media Biased? (Part 2).


Photo from Philippine Senate Website. Some rights reserved.


(Part 2)

Monday, 06 February 2012 06:43 PM Dine Racoma

Even social media sites are bombarded by chatter regarding the impeachment trial, most of which are against the chief justice. One tweet called ABS-CBN “Aquino Broadcasting System, Cojuanco Business Network” because of the extensive coverage that the network has given the trial.

The social site Rappler has also come under fire from other bloggers because of the perceived bias of the site against Corona.

The people have taken to the online world to discuss what is going on, and here, it is even harder to filter and monitor who said what.

However, unlike TV shows and newspaper reports, the online community has the added advantage of getting immediate real time feedback from the readers and other bloggers.

Senators shouldn’t talk

Senator Judge Franklin Drilon has been asked to inhibit from the case because according to the defense panel, he is biased against CJ Corona. However, he has exercised his right to participate and has not inhibited as asked. As it is, there are no rules regarding inhibition of the senator judges when participating in the trial.

All the senator judges have been reminded by the senate president and by other senators themselves to inhibit “from discussing the merits of the case” to the press. This is not a gag order, although that’s what we probably need now.

Aquino’s pursuit of Corona

Malacanang Palace has been very vocal about its desire to remove the chief justice from office. The press release is to clean up the government so that we can achieve a “matuwid na daan.” President Aquino seems to want his own man in the Supreme Court.

However, he may not exactly be putting the best man on the job, when even before a trial featuring the former president has come about, his man is already hell bent on convicting Arroyo. So much for impartiality, a necessary criteria for any judge. Isn’t this one of the impeachable articles against Corona?

The Corona camp has been adamant that Aquino not only wants to appoint his own chief justice; he is getting back at Corona for lifting the TRO of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. At the same time, Corona has said that Aquino is going after him because of the Supreme Court decision to finally distribute the lands of Hacienda Luisita, which has long been in the Cojuanco family.

Aquino has so successfully gotten the impeachment proceedings to move quickly, that the public hasn’t had much time to focus on his own shortcomings as a president. As propaganda to divert the attention of the people against the downward spiral of the Philippine economy, the Corona impeachment has worked beautifully.

Media attention to be expected

It is to be expected that the Corona impeachment will garner incredible media attention. It is after all historical to attempt to impeach a sitting Supreme Court justice. For one thing, not much else is going on. The only thing that will probably put the trial to a standstill or divert the people’s attention is if any top ranking government official dies, commits suicide or gets assassinated or if something else more exciting happens, like Manny Pacquiao finally deciding to make a go for a fight with Mayweather.

Ayaw ng bastusan

The defense team has repeatedly remarked on the incredible amount of media attention being given the trial. It has had to constantly remind the prosecution team to be responsible when revealing information to the public that is pertinent to the case.

They do not want to go on their own media blitz because they said they don’t want to stoop to the same level as the prosecution team. So far, they have been acting with dignity and have been tight-lipped, preferring to make their revelations in court. They have so far been successful in rebutting and refuting many of the prosecutor’s allegations during the trial.

Because they are so tight-lipped and instead wait to talk till they get to court, the media has only the prosecution’s side to discuss, feature and make headlines out of. Since they’re not feeding the media much of their side, the media outlets work with what they have, and the prosecution is only all too happy to yap away.

With power comes responsibility

The media is a very powerful, and the way its power is being wielded in the coverage of the Chief Justice’s impeachment trial is a reminder to everyone just how strong and influential it can be.

We are fortunate to be a country that enjoys many freedoms, including freedom of speech. This means you can pretty much say whatever you want, and you won’t get arrested unless you fall under libel.

However, this power and freedom also comes with it a tremendous amount of responsibility.

The media has the added burden of having to be unbiased. They need to allow the public to form their own opinion. It is the media’s responsibility to present the facts from both sides. They may present opinion but it shouldn’t be a headline, and it should be done in an appropriate channel.

In this regard, the public then has a responsibility to be vigilant about the information they receive so that they can make their own responsible and intelligent opinions and decisions. At the same time, the media should be responsible about what they put out.

At the end of the day, the truth, in all its forms, is what we all want to see, hear and read.


Photo from Philippine Senate website. Some rights reserved.

Why Privacy Matters Even if You Have ‘Nothing to Hide’

9 Feb

By Daniel J. Solove

May 15, 2011

When the government gathers or analyzes personal information, many people say they’re not worried. “I’ve got nothing to hide,” they declare. “Only if you’re doing something wrong should you worry, and then you don’t deserve to keep it private.”

The nothing-to-hide argument pervades discussions about privacy. The data-security expert Bruce Schneier calls it the “most common retort against privacy advocates.” The legal scholar Geoffrey Stone refers to it as an “all-too-common refrain.” In its most compelling form, it is an argument that the privacy interest is generally minimal, thus making the contest with security concerns a foreordained victory for security.

The nothing-to-hide argument is everywhere. In Britain, for example, the government has installed millions of public-surveillance cameras in cities and towns, which are watched by officials via closed-circuit television. In a campaign slogan for the program, the government declares: “If you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear.” Variations of nothing-to-hide arguments frequently appear in blogs, letters to the editor, television news interviews, and other forums. One blogger in the United States, in reference to profiling people for national-security purposes, declares: “I don’t mind people wanting to find out things about me, I’ve got nothing to hide! Which is why I support [the government’s] efforts to find terrorists by monitoring our phone calls!”

The argument is not of recent vintage. One of the characters in Henry James’s 1888 novel, The Reverberator, muses: “If these people had done bad things they ought to be ashamed of themselves and he couldn’t pity them, and if they hadn’t done them there was no need of making such a rumpus about other people knowing.”

I encountered the nothing-to-hide argument so frequently in news interviews, discussions, and the like that I decided to probe the issue. I asked the readers of my blog, Concurring Opinions, whether there are good responses to the nothing-to-hide argument. I received a torrent of comments:

  • My response is “So do you have curtains?” or “Can I see your credit-card bills for the last year?”
  • So my response to the “If you have nothing to hide … ” argument is simply, “I don’t need to justify my position. You need to justify yours. Come back with a warrant.”
  • I don’t have anything to hide. But I don’t have anything I feel like showing you, either.
  • If you have nothing to hide, then you don’t have a life.
  • Show me yours and I’ll show you mine.
  • It’s not about having anything to hide, it’s about things not being anyone else’s business.
  • Bottom line, Joe Stalin would [have] loved it. Why should anyone have to say more?

On the surface, it seems easy to dismiss the nothing-to-hide argument. Everybody probably has something to hide from somebody. As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn declared, “Everyone is guilty of something or has something to conceal. All one has to do is look hard enough to find what it is.” Likewise, in Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s novella “Traps,” which involves a seemingly innocent man put on trial by a group of retired lawyers in a mock-trial game, the man inquires what his crime shall be. “An altogether minor matter,” replies the prosecutor. “A crime can always be found.”

One can usually think of something that even the most open person would want to hide. As a commenter to my blog post noted, “If you have nothing to hide, then that quite literally means you are willing to let me photograph you naked? And I get full rights to that photograph—so I can show it to your neighbors?” The Canadian privacy expert David Flaherty expresses a similar idea when he argues: “There is no sentient human being in the Western world who has little or no regard for his or her personal privacy; those who would attempt such claims cannot withstand even a few minutes’ questioning about intimate aspects of their lives without capitulating to the intrusiveness of certain subject matters.”

But such responses attack the nothing-to-hide argument only in its most extreme form, which isn’t particularly strong. In a less extreme form, the nothing-to-hide argument refers not to all personal information but only to the type of data the government is likely to collect. Retorts to the nothing-to-hide argument about exposing people’s naked bodies or their deepest secrets are relevant only if the government is likely to gather this kind of information. In many instances, hardly anyone will see the information, and it won’t be disclosed to the public. Thus, some might argue, the privacy interest is minimal, and the security interest in preventing terrorism is much more important. In this less extreme form, the nothing-to-hide argument is a formidable one. However, it stems from certain faulty assumptions about privacy and its value.

To evaluate the nothing-to-hide argument, we should begin by looking at how its adherents understand privacy. Nearly every law or policy involving privacy depends upon a particular understanding of what privacy is. The way problems are conceived has a tremendous impact on the legal and policy solutions used to solve them. As the philosopher John Dewey observed, “A problem well put is half-solved.”

Most attempts to understand privacy do so by attempting to locate its essence—its core characteristics or the common denominator that links together the various things we classify under the rubric of “privacy.” Privacy, however, is too complex a concept to be reduced to a singular essence. It is a plurality of different things that do not share any one element but nevertheless bear a resemblance to one another. For example, privacy can be invaded by the disclosure of your deepest secrets. It might also be invaded if you’re watched by a peeping Tom, even if no secrets are ever revealed. With the disclosure of secrets, the harm is that your concealed information is spread to others. With the peeping Tom, the harm is that you’re being watched. You’d probably find that creepy regardless of whether the peeper finds out anything sensitive or discloses any information to others. There are many other forms of invasion of privacy, such as blackmail and the improper use of your personal data. Your privacy can also be invaded if the government compiles an extensive dossier about you.

Privacy, in other words, involves so many things that it is impossible to reduce them all to one simple idea. And we need not do so.

In many cases, privacy issues never get balanced against conflicting interests, because courts, legislators, and others fail to recognize that privacy is implicated. People don’t acknowledge certain problems, because those problems don’t fit into a particular one-size-fits-all conception of privacy. Regardless of whether we call something a “privacy” problem, it still remains a problem, and problems shouldn’t be ignored. We should pay attention to all of the different problems that spark our desire to protect privacy.

To describe the problems created by the collection and use of personal data, many commentators use a metaphor based on George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. Orwell depicted a harrowing totalitarian society ruled by a government called Big Brother that watches its citizens obsessively and demands strict discipline. The Orwell metaphor, which focuses on the harms of surveillance (such as inhibition and social control), might be apt to describe government monitoring of citizens. But much of the data gathered in computer databases, such as one’s race, birth date, gender, address, or marital status, isn’t particularly sensitive. Many people don’t care about concealing the hotels they stay at, the cars they own, or the kind of beverages they drink. Frequently, though not always, people wouldn’t be inhibited or embarrassed if others knew this information.

Another metaphor better captures the problems: Franz Kafka’s The Trial. Kafka’s novel centers around a man who is arrested but not informed why. He desperately tries to find out what triggered his arrest and what’s in store for him. He finds out that a mysterious court system has a dossier on him and is investigating him, but he’s unable to learn much more. The Trial depicts a bureaucracy with inscrutable purposes that uses people’s information to make important decisions about them, yet denies the people the ability to participate in how their information is used.

The problems portrayed by the Kafkaesque metaphor are of a different sort than the problems caused by surveillance. They often do not result in inhibition. Instead they are problems of information processing—the storage, use, or analysis of data—rather than of information collection. They affect the power relationships between people and the institutions of the modern state. They not only frustrate the individual by creating a sense of helplessness and powerlessness, but also affect social structure by altering the kind of relationships people have with the institutions that make important decisions about their lives.

Legal and policy solutions focus too much on the problems under the Orwellian metaphor—those of surveillance—and aren’t adequately addressing the Kafkaesque problems—those of information processing. The difficulty is that commentators are trying to conceive of the problems caused by databases in terms of surveillance when, in fact, those problems are different.

Commentators often attempt to refute the nothing-to-hide argument by pointing to things people want to hide. But the problem with the nothing-to-hide argument is the underlying assumption that privacy is about hiding bad things. By accepting this assumption, we concede far too much ground and invite an unproductive discussion about information that people would very likely want to hide. As the computer-security specialist Schneier aptly notes, the nothing-to-hide argument stems from a faulty “premise that privacy is about hiding a wrong.” Surveillance, for example, can inhibit such lawful activities as free speech, free association, and other First Amendment rights essential for democracy.

The deeper problem with the nothing-to-hide argument is that it myopically views privacy as a form of secrecy. In contrast, understanding privacy as a plurality of related issues demonstrates that the disclosure of bad things is just one among many difficulties caused by government security measures. To return to my discussion of literary metaphors, the problems are not just Orwellian but Kafkaesque. Government information-gathering programs are problematic even if no information that people want to hide is uncovered. In The Trial, the problem is not inhibited behavior but rather a suffocating powerlessness and vulnerability created by the court system’s use of personal data and its denial to the protagonist of any knowledge of or participation in the process. The harms are bureaucratic ones—indifference, error, abuse, frustration, and lack of transparency and accountability.

One such harm, for example, which I call aggregation, emerges from the fusion of small bits of seemingly innocuous data. When combined, the information becomes much more telling. By joining pieces of information we might not take pains to guard, the government can glean information about us that we might indeed wish to conceal. For example, suppose you bought a book about cancer. This purchase isn’t very revealing on its own, for it indicates just an interest in the disease. Suppose you bought a wig. The purchase of a wig, by itself, could be for a number of reasons. But combine those two pieces of information, and now the inference can be made that you have cancer and are undergoing chemotherapy. That might be a fact you wouldn’t mind sharing, but you’d certainly want to have the choice.

Another potential problem with the government’s harvest of personal data is one I call exclusion. Exclusion occurs when people are prevented from having knowledge about how information about them is being used, and when they are barred from accessing and correcting errors in that data. Many government national-security measures involve maintaining a huge database of information that individuals cannot access. Indeed, because they involve national security, the very existence of these programs is often kept secret. This kind of information processing, which blocks subjects’ knowledge and involvement, is a kind of due-process problem. It is a structural problem, involving the way people are treated by government institutions and creating a power imbalance between people and the government. To what extent should government officials have such a significant power over citizens? This issue isn’t about what information people want to hide but about the power and the structure of government.

A related problem involves secondary use. Secondary use is the exploitation of data obtained for one purpose for an unrelated purpose without the subject’s consent. How long will personal data be stored? How will the information be used? What could it be used for in the future? The potential uses of any piece of personal information are vast. Without limits on or accountability for how that information is used, it is hard for people to assess the dangers of the data’s being in the government’s control.

Yet another problem with government gathering and use of personal data is distortion. Although personal information can reveal quite a lot about people’s personalities and activities, it often fails to reflect the whole person. It can paint a distorted picture, especially since records are reductive—they often capture information in a standardized format with many details omitted.

For example, suppose government officials learn that a person has bought a number of books on how to manufacture methamphetamine. That information makes them suspect that he’s building a meth lab. What is missing from the records is the full story: The person is writing a novel about a character who makes meth. When he bought the books, he didn’t consider how suspicious the purchase might appear to government officials, and his records didn’t reveal the reason for the purchases. Should he have to worry about government scrutiny of all his purchases and actions? Should he have to be concerned that he’ll wind up on a suspicious-persons list? Even if he isn’t doing anything wrong, he may want to keep his records away from government officials who might make faulty inferences from them. He might not want to have to worry about how everything he does will be perceived by officials nervously monitoring for criminal activity. He might not want to have a computer flag him as suspicious because he has an unusual pattern of behavior.

The nothing-to-hide argument focuses on just one or two particular kinds of privacy problems—the disclosure of personal information or surveillance—while ignoring the others. It assumes a particular view about what privacy entails, to the exclusion of other perspectives.

It is important to distinguish here between two ways of justifying a national-security program that demands access to personal information. The first way is not to recognize a problem. This is how the nothing-to-hide argument works—it denies even the existence of a problem. The second is to acknowledge the problems but contend that the benefits of the program outweigh the privacy sacrifice. The first justification influences the second, because the low value given to privacy is based upon a narrow view of the problem. And the key misunderstanding is that the nothing-to-hide argument views privacy in this troublingly particular, partial way.

Investigating the nothing-to-hide argument a little more deeply, we find that it looks for a singular and visceral kind of injury. Ironically, this underlying conception of injury is sometimes shared by those advocating for greater privacy protections. For example, the University of South Carolina law professor Ann Bartow argues that in order to have a real resonance, privacy problems must “negatively impact the lives of living, breathing human beings beyond simply provoking feelings of unease.” She says that privacy needs more “dead bodies,” and that privacy’s “lack of blood and death, or at least of broken bones and buckets of money, distances privacy harms from other [types of harm].”

Bartow’s objection is actually consistent with the nothing-to-hide argument. Those advancing the nothing-to-hide argument have in mind a particular kind of appalling privacy harm, one in which privacy is violated only when something deeply embarrassing or discrediting is revealed. Like Bartow, proponents of the nothing-to-hide argument demand a dead-bodies type of harm.

Bartow is certainly right that people respond much more strongly to blood and death than to more-abstract concerns. But if this is the standard to recognize a problem, then few privacy problems will be recognized. Privacy is not a horror movie, most privacy problems don’t result in dead bodies, and demanding evidence of palpable harms will be difficult in many cases.

Privacy is often threatened not by a single egregious act but by the slow accretion of a series of relatively minor acts. In this respect, privacy problems resemble certain environmental harms, which occur over time through a series of small acts by different actors. Although society is more likely to respond to a major oil spill, gradual pollution by a multitude of actors often creates worse problems.

Privacy is rarely lost in one fell swoop. It is usually eroded over time, little bits dissolving almost imperceptibly until we finally begin to notice how much is gone. When the government starts monitoring the phone numbers people call, many may shrug their shoulders and say, “Ah, it’s just numbers, that’s all.” Then the government might start monitoring some phone calls. “It’s just a few phone calls, nothing more.” The government might install more video cameras in public places. “So what? Some more cameras watching in a few more places. No big deal.” The increase in cameras might lead to a more elaborate network of video surveillance. Satellite surveillance might be added to help track people’s movements. The government might start analyzing people’s bank rec­ords. “It’s just my deposits and some of the bills I pay—no problem.” The government may then start combing through credit-card records, then expand to Internet-service providers’ records, health records, employment records, and more. Each step may seem incremental, but after a while, the government will be watching and knowing everything about us.

“My life’s an open book,” people might say. “I’ve got nothing to hide.” But now the government has large dossiers of everyone’s activities, interests, reading habits, finances, and health. What if the government leaks the information to the public? What if the government mistakenly determines that based on your pattern of activities, you’re likely to engage in a criminal act? What if it denies you the right to fly? What if the government thinks your financial transactions look odd—even if you’ve done nothing wrong—and freezes your accounts? What if the government doesn’t protect your information with adequate security, and an identity thief obtains it and uses it to defraud you? Even if you have nothing to hide, the government can cause you a lot of harm.

“But the government doesn’t want to hurt me,” some might argue. In many cases, that’s true, but the government can also harm people inadvertently, due to errors or carelessness.

When the nothing-to-hide argument is unpacked, and its underlying assumptions examined and challenged, we can see how it shifts the debate to its terms, then draws power from its unfair advantage. The nothing-to-hide argument speaks to some problems but not to others. It represents a singular and narrow way of conceiving of privacy, and it wins by excluding consideration of the other problems often raised with government security measures. When engaged directly, the nothing-to-hide argument can ensnare, for it forces the debate to focus on its narrow understanding of privacy. But when confronted with the plurality of privacy problems implicated by government data collection and use beyond surveillance and disclosure, the nothing-to-hide argument, in the end, has nothing to say.

Daniel J. Solove is a professor of law at George Washington University. This essay is an excerpt from his new book, Nothing to Hide: The False Tradeoff Between Privacy and Security, published this month by Yale University Press.