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Today Is The Day We Fight Back Against Government Surveillance


Today, many people in the online world, including the Geek Alabama blog, is participating in a protest against surveillance.  As you know, the National Security Agency (NSA) has been in the news where they spy and gather information on everything we do online, from e-mails, social media posts, pictures, phone calls, web activity, and more.  Basically, many people who are connected believe the Federal Government should not be spying on us unless they have a court order to do so.  It’s time for the public and Congress to have a long-overdue debate about the true scale of government surveillance programs, and the laws that govern them.  In simple terms, it’s time to demand a change!

The NSA has grown into a major monster which needs to be defeated!  They collect billions of cell phone locations a day.  They collect billions of intelligence from USA computers each month.  They are collecting the content and metadata of emails, web activity, chats, social networks, and everything else as part of what it calls “upstream” collection.  The NSA collects and reads e-mails, contact lists, and communications from people, including Americans, that enters and leaves this country.  And sadly, the NSA has secretly broken into the main communications links that connect Yahoo and Google data centers around the world.  Who cares about privacy, the NSA owns me and you now.

There are currently two bills being debated in Congress.  One bill, called the FISA Improvements Act, would be a dream come true for the NSA, and it would allow the NSA to continue everything they do with a blank check.  The bill would codify the NSA’s unconstitutional call-records program and allow bulk collection of location data from mobile phone users.  This also means any law enforcement agency could go around a court order and allow them to investigate people it doesn’t have probable cause to scrutinize, without a warrant.

The other bill, that most geeks/nerds, and online people support, is called the USA Freedom Act.  The bill would:

  • End the bulk collection of Americans’ records shared with third parties and put reasonable limits on Patriot Act powers targeted at people in the United States. The new restrictions would apply not only to phone records collected under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, but national security letters and pen registers that have also been abused.
  • Amend the 2008 FISA Amendments Act to require the government obtain a court order before using information about Americans collected during foreign intelligence operations.
  • Increase transparency by allowing communications providers to disclose the number of surveillance orders they receive, mandate the government publish how many people are subject to surveillance orders, and make public significant FISA court opinions since July 2003.
  • Create a public advocate that could advise the secret surveillance court in certain cases.

The NSA has gone unchecked for years.  And this should not be a Republican or Democrat issue, this should be an American issue.  The spying done by the NSA is unconstitutional and violates the First and Fourth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, which protect citizens’ right to speak and associate anonymously, guard against unreasonable searches and seizures, and protect their right to privacy.

The Day We Fight Back, the day of activism, was announced on the eve of the anniversary of the tragic passing of activist and technologist Aaron Swartz. The protest is both in his honor and in celebration of the victory over the Stop Online Piracy Act two years ago this month, which he helped spur.  Participants including Access, Demand Progress, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Fight for the Future, Free Press, BoingBoing, Reddit, Mozilla, ThoughtWorks, and more, will join potentially millions of Internet users to pressure lawmakers to end mass surveillance — of both Americans and the citizens of the whole world.

On January 11, 2013, Aaron Swartz took his own life.  Aaron had a brilliant, inquisitive mind that he employed towards the ends of technology, writing, research, art, and so much more. Near the end of his life, his focus was political activism, in support of civil liberties, democracy, and economic justice.  Aaron sparked and helped guide the movement that would eventually defeat the Stop Online Piracy Act in January 2012.  That bill would have destroyed the Internet as we know it, by blocking access to sites that allowed for user-generated content — the very thing that makes the Internet so dynamic.

So what you can do to make sure the NSA stops their spying?  Simple, call and e-mail your representative in Congress!  The USA Freedom Act is a great start to stopping the unlawful spying coming from the NSA.  But it also can be amended to make sure all possible ways of unlawful spying is stopped forever. To learn more about The Day We Fight Back, and to contact your legislators, go to:

Follow #StopTheNSA on Twitter

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