27 October, 2013
Thousands of American citizens have marched on the National Mall in Washington, DC to protest covert NSA surveillance operations on the 12th anniversary of the Patriot Act. The organizers have presented Congress with a petition which has acquired over 580,000 signatures. The march was organized by the Stop Watching Us, a collective of 100 public advocacy groups.
Sympathetic protests were also organized in cities including Louisville, Kentucky, Austin, Texas, Birmingham, Alabama, and in eight German cities including Munich and Cologne.
Congressional representative Justin Amash told the citizens gathered that bringing his anti-NSA bill to Congress was his proudest moment as an elected official.
“Our own government has become a threat to freedom, at home and abroad,” said former Congressman, Dennis Kucinich.
Dennis Kucinich demanded an end to the Patriot Act and NSA
Media reports said:
The SWU include the American Civil Liberties Union, Freedom Works, as well as individuals like Chinese artist/activist Ai Weiwei and Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who worked with Edward Snowden to expose many of the NSA’s surveillance procedures.
The rally began at 11:30 am local time on October 26, the 12th anniversary of the US Patriot Act.
“First, we are asking for a congressional investigation so we can shed light on exactly what the National Security Agency is doing. Secondly, we ask for reform of federal surveillance law, specifically Section 215 of the Patriot Act, Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and the state secrets privilege,” Rainey Reitman, EFF activism director and lead organizer of the rally told tech news outlet CNET on October 25.
As thousands of people hit the streets to challenge illegal surveillance by US intelligence agencies in Washington DC, the US federal government for the first time in legal history officially announced it was going to use evidence collected without a warrant in a criminal case against a suspected terrorist.
A video of Edward Snowden’s statement was read by former US Department of Justice ethics adviser, Jesselyn Radack in the rally.
On the rally, Wide Awake News founder Charlie McGrath told RT:
“We need a 100 million, 200 million, 300 hundred million people to wake up and realize that we have turned into a Stasi-style police state,” McGrath said.
“Congress seems to be interested in nothing more than collecting the revenue that they need in order to maintain their positions of power by the same military and security-industrial complex that is watching the people of this country and the world illegally.”
Ahead of the mass rally, the US Department of Defense published a YouTube interview with NSA Director and CYCOM Commander General Keith Alexander trying to justify the agency’s programs. So far less than 2 percent of viewers agreed with Alexander’s reasoning.
Edward Snowden’s full statement was read out in front of the people assembled at Washington DC. Former US Department of Justice ethics adviser Jesselyn Radack read a statement. The statement said:
In the last four months, we’ve learned a lot about our government. 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.
We’ve also learned this isn’t about red or blue party lines. Neither is it about terrorism.
It is about power, control, and trust in government; about whether you have a voice in our democracy or decisions are made for you rather than with you. We’re here to remind our government officials that they are public servants, not private investigators.
This is about the unconstitutional, unethical, and immoral actions of the modern-day surveillance state and how we all must work together to remind government to stop them. It’s about our right to know, to associate freely, and to live in an open society.
We are witnessing an American moment in which ordinary people from high schools to high office stand up to oppose a dangerous trend in government.
We are told that what is unconstitutional is not illegal, but we will not be fooled. We have not forgotten that the Fourth Amendment in our Bill of Rights prohibits government not only from searching our personal effects without a warrant but from seizing them in the first place.
Holding to this principle, we declare that mass surveillance has no place in this country.
It is time for reform. Elections are coming and we’re watching you.
A banner in the rally read: “Thank You Snowden” united thousands of protesters at the Capitol in Washington DC.
Protesters in Chicago gathered in the Federal Plaza to make it loud and clear that the US Government works for American people, not the other way around, and that they “exist to protect our rights, not violate them.”
Megaupload founder and online activist Kim Dotcom supported the Stop Watching Us movement for privacy and internet freedom, and reminds US citizens how back in 2007 US president Barack Obama promised to protect them from illegal and unconstitutional wiretapping.
Writer and a privacy advocate from San Francisco Rainey Reitman and attorney Kurt Opsahl stood next to hundreds of thousands of petitions signed to protect privacy rights.
Twelve large boxes of the 575,000 petition signatures were presented to the crowd at the foot of the US Capitol. The number of signatories then stood at over 580,000.
Whistleblower Thomas Drake addressed the people. “I am fortunate that I did not end up in actual prison,” he said. “The last thing a free and open society needs is a digital fence around us.” He called for the restoration of the Fourth Amendment and said that NSA surveillance “engenders fear and erodes our freedom.”
The march gathered at the foot of the US Capitol. Speakers addressed on the issue: NSA spying and government monitoring of communications.
The Washington march moved to the sound of heavy drums.
There was an effigy of a drone in the march, alongside a man in an Obama mask wielding a model surveillance camera.
People chanted: “Hey hey, ho ho, mass surveillance has got to go!” and “We are the people. Defend the Bill of Rights!” “This is what democracy looks like!” “They say wiretap; we say fight back!”
Speakers across the political spectrum addressed the people, who are demanding that Congress “investigate the full extent of the NSA spying program.”
David Segal stepped up to denounce NSA online intrusions, commenting that people’s communications “define our lives and even our very humanity…as we express our hopes and fears….they are watching us. They are running algorithms that study all of us…”
He went on to add that communications are ‘open for their taking’ to loud boos from the crowd.
“There would be no place to hide if this government ever became a tyranny….there would be no way to fight back,” he said.
Participants of the US protests were holding high placards bearing slogans “Stop Watching Us”. Many had pictures of Snowden’s face and messages of thanks.
Merkel on NSA spy list since 2002
The German Chancellor’s mobile phone has been on an NSA target list since 2002 and was code-named “GE Chancellor Merkel”, according to Der Spiegel.
The paper also reported that the US president Obama assured Merkel that he did not know her phone was tapped.
The monitoring operation was still in force even a few weeks before Obama’s visit to Berlin in June 2013.
In the NSA’s Special Collection Service (SCS) document cited by the magazine, the agency said it had a “not legally registered spying branch” in the US embassy in Berlin. It also warned that its exposure would lead to “grave damage for the relations of the United States to another government”.
Using the spying branch, NSA and CIA staff were tapping communications in Berlin’s government district with high-tech surveillance.
The magazine says that according to a secret document from 2010, such branches existed in about 80 locations around the world, including Paris, Madrid, Rome, Prague, Geneva and Frankfurt.
However, in is unclear, Der Spiegel reports, if the SCS obtained recorded conversations or just connection data.
President Obama, however, told Merkel that he was not aware that her phone was bugged, if he had known, he would have immediately stopped it, Der Spiegel reports as it also disclosed the recent conversation between the two.
The German newspaper cites the chancellor’s office, which said that during Wednesday call Obama expressed his deep regret and apologized to the Chancellor.
Earlier, Obama assured Merkel that his country was not monitoring her communications, but failed to confirm or deny the tapping took place in the past.
Speaking to her German counterpart, Susan E. Rice, the President’s national security adviser, also insisted that Obama did not know about the monitoring of Merkel’s phone, and said it was not currently happening. However, she also failed to deny it happened in the past.
Angela Merkel called President Obama over the German government’s suspicions the US could have tapped her mobile phone on Wednesday.
Following the call, US ambassador to Germany Steffen Seibert stated that Merkel had made clear to Obama that if the information proved trued it would be “completely unacceptable” and represent a “grave breach of trust”.
A few days earlier, the US president had to convince his French colleague of the same issues.
The Le Monde newspaper reported earlier this week that the NSA spied on the agency records of millions of phone calls of top French politicians and business people.
Later The Guardian revealed citing former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that the leadership of 35 nations was spied on; the list of countries however did not follow.
In response to allegations, Obama promised that the US secret service would revise its methods of working in order to both provide the security of citizens and not to interfere with their privacy.
Germany will send heads of its foreign and domestic intelligence agencies to Washington to hold talks with the White House and the National Security Agency in order to push forward” an investigation into allegations the US spied on its leader.”
“What exactly is going to be regulated, how and in what form it will be negotiated and by whom, I cannot tell you right now,” German government spokesman Georg Streiter told reporters.
Earlier, Germany and France said they want “a no-spy deal” with the US to be signed by the end of the year.
The Foreign Policy reported on Saturday that 21 one countries are now participating in talks over a draft UN General Resolution aimed at holding back US government surveillance.
EU leaders say their relations with the US have been undermined by reports of NSA spying on European leaders and ordinary citizens.
A partnership with America should be built on respect and trust, they said in a joint statement on Friday.
The European Parliament recently voted for the suspension of US access to the global financial database held by a Belgian company because of concerns that the US is snooping on the database for financial gain rather than just to combat terrorism.
However, anti-war activist Richard Becker doubted President Obama did not know the German Chancellor’s phone was bugged.
“These kinds of assertions are comical,” he told RT. “It shows that the US’ relationship with other countries is based on its notion of its “American exceptionalism.” There is in fact an American exceptionalism – no other country in the world spies on everybody else and all of the countries and feels free to intervene in all other countries,” he said.
Becker says the spying scandal shows “the nature of the relationships” between the US and other states.
“Even among the allies they are in contention and competition among each other and not to mention the kind of relationship that is carried out against those countries that the US considers its enemies,” he said.