American citizens fuming over revelations of digitally-enabled domestic spying by government agencies can take to the streets this 4th of July.
Two organizations, StopWatching.Us and Restore The Fourth, have organized rallies in more than 90 U.S. cities this Thursday to peacefully protest surveillance operations undertaken by the National Security Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. They hope to push lawmakers to review acts that have made the blanket spying activities legal.
Both organizations are less than three weeks old, having sprouted up immediately after the Guardian and the Washington Post reported details of the PRISM spying program based on documents provided by former government contractor Edward Snowden, purporting to show extensive access to user data from big tech companies like Facebook, Google, and Apple.
Exercising The Right To Petition The Government
StopWatching.Us is primarily a petition site that has garnered more than 500,000 signatures from individuals. Businesses and organizations ranging from Reddit to the ACLU have also lent their support. The organization has also sent an open letter to Congress, with support from Mozilla, maker of the Firefox Web browser, demanding that lawmakers review the Patriot Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and disclose the extent of NSA spying. (Currently, details of the program are classified.)
Restore the Fourth is a nonpartisan group whose aim is to strengthen the protections of the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits "unreasonable searches and seizures," as it pertains to digital surveillance. Restore The Fourth is the actual organizer of the Fourth of July protests, with StopWatching.Us joined to further the cause and push Congress to action.
As for the specifics of what these groups are hoping to achieve, it's not simply to spread broad claims asking for ambiguous change. Through StopWatching.Us's letter to Congress, both organizations have outlined a clear and distinct three-step plan they intend to pursue:
1) Enact reform ... to Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, the state secrets privilege, and the FISA Amendments Act to make clear that blanket surveillance of the Internet activity and phone records of any person residing in the U.S. is prohibited by law and that violations can be reviewed in adversarial proceedings before a public court;Section 215 of the Patriot Act is what allows the NSA to secretly compel businesses like Google and Facebook to hand over their data, and FISA (the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) is the 1978 piece of legislation, amended in 2008, that established the court system such requests move through.
2) Create a special committee to investigate, report, and reveal to the public the extent of this domestic spying. This committee should create specific recommendations for legal and regulatory reform to end unconstitutional surveillance;
3) Hold accountable those public officials who are found to be responsible for this unconstitutional surveillance.
So if fireworks and barbecue just don't seem patriotic enough this year, check here to find a protest near you.
Photo by gemstone