Reddit, Mozilla Join Coalition Urging Congress To End NSA Surveillance
An effort in by tech companies, civil liberties organizations and public interest groups is currently underway urging Congress to immediately halt Prism, an Internet surveillance program recently uncovered, as well as other forms of Internet surveillance. Eighty-six organizations, including Mozilla, Reddit, the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, have co-signed a letter to Congress, and have also banded together to launch the online campaign, “StopWatching.us,” in which Web users can add their signatures to the petition.
“This type of blanket data collection by the government strikes at bedrock American values of freedom and privacy,” the letter notes. “This dragnet surveillance 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.”
But organizers don’t plan to stop their efforts with signatures. In a news conference, EFF activism director Rainey Reitman said the next step will be a “call day” in which supporters will be asked to make phone calls to Washington.
“It’s extremely unfortunate, but the thousands and thousands of emails may fall upon deaf inboxes,” he said, adding that supporters can follow when the call day occurs on the campaign’s Web site.
The 86 groups, which also include the American Library Association and the Internet Archive, are asking Congress for specific reforms including:
- Enact reform this Congress 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;
- 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;
- Hold accountable those public officials who are found to be responsible for this unconstitutional surveillance.
Not only does the coalition request a congressional investigatory committee, such as the 1970s church committee, to look into the National Security Agency’s actions, but it also demands reform to section of the USA Patriot Act that pertains to “business records,” which allowed secret court orders to compel Verizon to release months of detailed phone records to the NSA, as well as the FISA Amendment Act, which allows the government to conduct unconstitutional mass surveillance on communications. The group also wants the states secrets privilege, which protects the government from accountability relating to domestic surveillance, to be amended.
“Now is the time for Congress to act,” said EFF staff attorney Mark Rumold. “We don’t need a narrow fix to one part of the PATRIOT Act; we need a full public accounting of how the United States is turning sophisticated spying technology on its own citizens, we need accountability from public officials, and we need an overhaul of the laws to ensure these abuses can never happen again.”