N orman Soloman recently wrote in the Huffington Post: "At the core of the surveillance state is the hollowness of its democratic pretenses. Only with authentic democracy can we save ourselves from devastating evisceration of the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments."

Yikes! What information is being collected?

The National Security Agency (NSA) collects records of most calls made in the U.S., including the phone numbers and how long the call lasted, according to Pro Publica.

How many do they have?

According to Pro Publica, they collect several billion a day. They collect from email, Facebook and instant messages, via Prism, which involves the cooperation of nine technology companies -- Google, Facebook, Yahoo and others.

Also in the Pro Publica report: "Phone records become even more powerful when they are correlated with other types of data, such as social media posts, local police records and credit card purchase information, a process known as 'intelligence fusion.'"

Is it necessary for the government to gather this information for our own good?

Very debatable. Many call for a national conversation about surveillance. Some see whistleblowers like Julian Assange and Edward Snowden as traitors, others see them as heroes. A majority of Americans now believe that Edward Snowden is a whistleblower, not a traitor, according to results of a Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday and published on Common Dreams.

Are corporations part of all of this?

It seems that the U.S. government and governments around the world are hand in hand with big corporations pursuing information. According to Truthout news analysts Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, "we are in the midst of an epic battle between the people of the world and transnational corporations. Wealthy governments and corporations are merging in a global system in which private corporations have absolute power over your life."

How can you be part of a national conversation about all of this?

Scrutinize the media. Question authority. Talk with friends about it all. The Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center will hold a public forum on Thursday, July 25 at 7 p.m. at the Unity Church on Valmont and Folsom. We'll have speakers and ample time for people to learn and to question and strategize what to do.

To quote Soloman in the Huffington Post, from humble beginnings like community forums needs to arise a tide of "democratic mobilization to challenge the surveillance state's hold on power."

The Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center's "Peace Train" column runs in the Colorado Daily on Fridays.