Protests Grow over NSA's War on the Bill of Rights
October 31, 2013
The World Can't Wait & Jim Newell / The Guardian & Marc Ash / Reader Supported News
As the US has tacitly admitted monitoring the communications of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, including personal mobile calls, and the heads of dozens of other countries, Washington found itself the target of the first large protest against NSA spying. The protests were staged on the anniversary of the 2001 USA Patriot Act, which provided much of the legal architecture for massive domestic and global US spying that followed.
Vast NSA Surveillance of Whole Populations
Protects US Dirty Wars We Say NO MORE!
The World Can't Wait
The "us" being watched by the US has become more widely apparent, as the US has tacitly admitted monitoring the communications of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, including personal mobile calls, and the heads of dozens of other countries.
The response of those leaders, who haven't been much outraged about the surveillance of millions of their citizens, has put the Obama administration and the NSA somewhat at odds over who knew what? Did the NSA keep the White House ignorant of the extent of spying? The White House seems to say so, but its Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, says they all knew.
But for Edward Snowden, the evidence would not have come out to us. The administration is doing an "internal review" of their surveillance activities, i.e. determining what they will admit to, while defending all of their unconstitutiional actions with the "everyone does it" explanation, and allowing President Obama "plausible deniability."
World Can't Wait joined the first large protest of NSA spying Saturday in Washington, on the anniversary of the USA Patriot Act, passed in 2001 as part of the legal architecture for mass spying on the world.
Edward Snowden sent a message, delivered by Jessalyn Radack:
We've learned that the US intelligence community secretly built a system of pervasive surveillance. Today, no telephone in America makes a call without leaving a record with the NSA. Today, no internet transaction enters or leaves America without passing through the NSA's hands. Our representatives in Congress tell us this is not surveillance. They're wrong.
Most of the established civil liberties and "peace" groups were not there, but lots of younger electronic privacy activists were, energized and angry about the constant new revelations.
Surveillance on whole populations, chilling protest and dissent here is used by the US government to enforce world-wide, systematic wars of aggression, unjust occupations, and “dirty” wars of targeted killing and secret ops. World Can't Wait's model MQ-9 Reaper drone soared along the march and behind the stage, with the message:
STOP US WARS & SURVEILLANCE BY DRONE!
The CIA and US Military, aided by the NSA, use killer robots flown from 8,000 miles away to attack people on the basis of suspected patterns of behavior (a “signature” strike) and on President Obama's order. Some call drone war a cleaner form of war because US forces are not at risk. We call it illegitimate, immoral and unjust -- murder. “American” lives are not more important than other lives.
We have a new flyer with links to films/reports on US drone war which we distributed Saturday October 26 at the StopWatching.us rally protesting NSA surveillance (click here for flier en español).
"We Need to End Mass Suspicionless Surveillance."
StopWatching.us and The Electronic Frontier Foundation
StopWatching.us is a coalition of more than 100 public advocacy organizations and companies from across the political spectrum. Join the movement at https://rally.stopwatching.us. This video harnesses the voices of celebrities, activists, legal experts, and other prominent figures in speaking out against mass surveillance by the NSA. Please share widely to help us spread the message that we will not stand for the dragnet surveillance of our communications. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is a nonprofit civil liberties law and advocacy center that has been fighting the NSA's unconstitutional spying for years. Learn more at https://eff.org.
Thousands Gather in Washington for
Anti-NSA 'Stop Watching Us' Rally
Jim Newell / The Guardian
WASHINGTON, DC (October 26, 2013) -- Thousands gathered by the Capitol reflection pool in Washington on Saturday to march, chant, and listen to speakers and performers as part of Stop Watching Us, a gathering to protest "mass surveillance" under NSA programs first disclosed by the whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Billed by organizers as "the largest rally yet to protest mass surveillance", Stop Watching Us was sponsored by an unusually broad coalition of left- and right-wing groups, including everything from the American Civil Liberties Union, the Green Party, Color of Change and Daily Kos to the Libertarian Party, FreedomWorks and Young Americans for Liberty.
The events began outside Union Station, a few blocks away from the Capitol. Props abounded, with a model drone hoisted by one member of the crowd and a large parachute carried by others. One member of the left-wing protest group Code Pink wore a large Barack Obama mascot head and carried around a cardboard camera.
Organizers supplied placards reading "Stop Watching _____", allowing protesters to fill in their own name -- or other slogans and occasional profanities. Homemade signs were more colorful, reading "Don't Tap Me, Bro" "Yes, We Scan" and "No Snitching Allowed".
"They think an open government means our information is open for the taking," David Segal of Demand Progress, an internet activist group, said to kick off events. As the march proceeded from Union Station to the Capitol reflecting pool, the crowd sang various chants, from "Hey hey, ho ho, mass surveillance has got to go" to "They say wire tap? We say fight back!"
David Reed, of Maryland, said he felt compelled to show up because of the "apathy" he sees among much of the public towards whistleblowers. Reed said he attended the trial of Chelsea Manning, the military whistleblower who leaked thousands of State Department cables to Wikileaks, as an observer, and was "disappointed that so few people showed up".
"The courtroom only held about 30 people, and there were few days that it was filled up," said Reed, who described himself as "just a concerned citizen". "We just stand by and watch."
The program at the reflecting pool included ex-politicians, whistleblowers, professional activists, poets and a punk band, YACHT, who performed their song Party at the NSA. ("Party at the NSA/Twenty-twenty-twenty-four hours a day!")
Thomas Drake, the former NSA official who blew the whistle on government surveillance and waste following 9/11 and was charged under the Espionage Act, was on hand, talking to reporters about, among other things, recent revelations that the US government had tapped the phone of the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and other world leaders.
"For what? Why would you violate her rights? Because, what, she might know something about terrorism?" he said. "What is that all about? They're an ally! They're partnered with us. I mean there are threats to the international order and stability. Why would you breach the trust of the chancellor of Germany?"
When Drake addressed the crowd, he said any domestic surveillance legislation that might result from the Snowden leaks "must include whistleblower protection", because "without adequate protections, [government employees] are more likely to turn a blind eye" to abuses of power. He warned against the "acid turned up by the potent brew of secrecy and surveillance".
Another well-received speaker, Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico and 2012 Libertarian party candidate for president, said "there's only one way to fix the Patriot Act: and that's to repeal the Patriot Act". He too was concerned about the apathy towards surveillance programs that comes when someone thinks it's "not about me".
But the big star of the day, despite his physical absence, was Edward Snowden -- "Thank you, Edward Snowden" was the most popular banner slogan among the cord. Jesselyn Radack, a former Justice Department ethics advisor who is now a director with the Government Accountability Project, read a statement from Snowden to the crowd.
"This isn't about red or blue party lines, and it definitely isn't about terrorism," Snowden wrote. "It's about being able to live in a free and open society." He also noted that "elections are coming up, and we are watching you". Members of Congress and government officials, he said, were supposed to be "public servants, not private investigators".
William Evans, of Richmond, Virginia, may have best embodied the nonpartisan atmosphere and message of the event. He wore a "Richmond Tea Party" baseball cap, as well as a Code Pink sticker saying "Make Out, Not War".
He is a member of the Richmond Tea Party but not of Code Pink, he said, adding that he "just loved" what the sticker said. Evans said he was attending to protest the "shredding of the constitution" and added that he was happy that "you guys on the left are finally starting to see it".
"We may not always agree on our belief system," he added, "but thank God we agree on the constitution."
Tossing Angela a Fig Leaf
Marc Ash / Reader Supported News
(October 29, 2013) – The New York Times reports that US president Barack Obama is "poised to order the National Security Agency to stop eavesdropping on the leaders of American allied nations." Diane Feinstein reportedly agrees.
All of which wildly misses the point, and pays little more than lip-service to the far broader problem: The NSA and the US government are spying on anyone and everyone in the world they choose, including but certainly not limited to heads of allied states -- including Angela Merkel -- and the American people.
Tossing a token fig leaf to those foreign elected officials the US government and the NSA arbitrarily deem to be leading states that conduct their affairs in an acceptable manner is nothing other than cheap theater, and an insult to those very leaders. All of this electronic invasion of sovereignty is presented as a means to enhance American national security. In fact, as it alienates our staunchest supporters, it isolates the US it makes the nation far more vulnerable.
What is of even greater concern is that the proposed meager act of contrition is entirely discretionary. At this moment in time, this sitting US president has decided to extend this measure of good grace to a handful of chosen favored elites. Nothing that is now is proposed would create any lasting impediment to doing all of this again if a John McCain, Mitt Romney, Ted Cruz, or Hillary Clinton were elected president. In short, it's grandstanding without substance.
What is needed is a substantive change in course. It's not enough that our allies cooperate with us, we must also cooperate with them. The US must adhere to a code of ethics that other nations have confidence in. Yes, it is a complicated and adversarial world, but betraying the trust of all nations makes it no safer.
To believe that a unified Europe cannot impact US economic and security interests is a silly notion. The leaders of Europe don't need fig leaves, they need the kind of respect for the sovereignty of their nations and their people that builds lasting partnerships.
Marc Ash was formerly the founder and Executive Director of Truthout, and is now founder and Editor of Reader Supported News.
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