Broad Coalition of Groups, Companies Team Up for Privacy

The outrage over the NSA’s domestic surveillance programs has motivated a broad coalition of advocacy groups and Internet companies to come together in an effort to bring it to an end. This coalition — which includes the EFF, FreedomWorks, ACLU, Daily Kos, Reddit, and Mozilla — has sent a letter to members of Congress to end the surveillance and launched a website, StopWatching.us, where concerned citizens can sign a petition supporting the principles of the letter to be delivered to lawmakers.

“The Washington Post and the Guardian recently published reports based on information provided by a career intelligence officer showing how the NSA and the FBI are gaining broad access to data collected by nine of the leading U.S. Internet companies and sharing this information with foreign governments,” noted the coalition. “As reported, the U.S. government is extracting audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track a person’s movements and contacts over time. As a result, the contents of communications of people both abroad and in the U.S. can be swept in without any suspicion of crime or association with a terrorist organization.”

“Leaked reports also published by the Guardian and confirmed by the Administration reveal that the NSA is also abusing a controversial section of the PATRIOT Act to collect the call records of millions of Verizon customers,” they continued. “The data collected by the NSA includes every call made, the time of the call, the duration of the call, and other ‘identifying information’ for millions of Verizon customers, including entirely domestic calls, regardless of whether those customers have ever been suspected of a crime. The Wall Street Journal has reported that other major carriers, including AT&T and Sprint, are subject to similar secret orders.”

The coalition explained that this sort of surveillance “strikes at the bedrock American values of freedom and privacy” and “violates the First and Fourth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, which protect citizens’ right to speak and associate anonymously and guard against unreasonable searches and seizures that protect their right to privacy.”

The coalition called on Congress to take action through reforming the Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, the section of the controversial law through which the Obama Administration is collecting data on Americans. They urged Congress to created a special committee to “investigate, report, and reveal to the public the extent of this domestic spying.” And they also want accountability for “those public officials who are found to be responsible for this unconstitutional surveillance.”

Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) have already proposed legislation that would provide a measure of transparency to FISA court when it comes to its approval of surveillance tactics on Americans.

Maintaining our civil liberties, which are protected by the Constitution, is a bipartisan issue. Whether or not the outrage over the broad surveillance is enough to prompt members of Congress to take action remains to be seen; however, if there was a chance to reform the PATRIOT Act, this is it.

 


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