“For the first time, a majority of Senators took a stand against simply rubber-stamping provisions of the Patriot Act. The Senate will be back for a special Sunday session on May 31 just hours before the June 1 sunset. It’s more urgent than ever that we call on Congress to let Section 215 die!”
From Justin Elliott of Propublica.org:
An amendment designed to bar the National Security Agency from undermining encryption standards was approved by the House last night.The measure was inserted into a defense appropriations bill and approved on a voice vote.
The move follows reporting last year by ProPublica, the Guardian, and the New York Times on the NSA’s efforts to weaken encryption, including by influencing the development of standards by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
The amendment is separate from another one the House adopted last night that is designed to block the NSA from conducting “backdoor” spying on Americans by querying databases of foreign intelligence.
The web of NSA surveillance that has slowly been uncovered over the past few months just grew a little bigger today thanks to a New York Times report explaining the finer points of the agency’s data gathering practices. The NSA has publicly admitted to monitoring the phone calls and emails of individuals within U.S. borders who are communicating with so-called “targets” abroad – but details in leaked documents indicate that the agency also monitors the communication of people who may not talk directly to targets, but mention their names or information associated with them.
The Times explains how it began and how it works:
“To conduct the surveillance, the N.S.A. is temporarily copying and then sifting through the contents of what is apparently most e-mails and other text-based communications that cross the border.”
In the wake of the traumatic attacks on 9/11, Congress rushed to pass the PATRIOT Act, which greatly expanded the ability of the U.S. government to spy on American citizens.
Since the leaks by Edward Snowden, even the original author of the PATRIOT Act, Rep. James Sensenbrenner, has said that the authority claimed by the government to spy on Americans far exceeds the intent of the law.
The leaks and recent admissions about NSA programs have pierced the veil of secrecy surrounding government spying and created an opening for us to take action. Now’s the time to push hard and get members of Congress on the record and show them that there is grassroots momentum to take on this fight.
Recently, Congressman Rush Holt, an outspoken advocate of reining in the growing surveillance state, introduced legislation to repeal the PATRIOT Act and restore our constitutionally protected civil liberties.
Tell Congress: Join Rep. Holt and fight to repeal the PATRIOT Act.
To sign, click here.
“Massive warrantless surveillance of law-abiding citizens has a profoundly negative impact on the constitutionally-protected right of association utilized by all those who seek to engage in public advocacy,” said the executive director of CAIR’s San Francisco Bay Area chapter.
“The American Muslim community has complained of such wholesale surveillance for more than a decade – with FBI visits, mosque surveillance, etc. CAIR welcomes the opportunity to challenge NSA spying alongside other organizations.
The plaintiffs in the case are all associations that utilize telephones in exercising the First Amendment right to bring people together to work to change policy or laws.
The plaintiffs are, according to CAIR.com:
- First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles
- Bill of Rights Defense Committee
- California Association of Federal Firearms Licensees
- Council on American-Islamic Relations National, California, and Ohio
- Franklin Armory
- Free Press
- Free Software Foundation
- Greenpeace, Inc.
- Human Rights Watch
- Media Alliance
- National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, California Chapter
- Open Technology Institute
- People for the American Way
- Public Knowledge
- Students for a Sensible Drug Policy
- The Calguns Foundation
- Unitarian Universalist Service Commission
With each new group filing lawsuits against the NSA, the spying program the U.S. government has been engaged in may finally be dismantled. Even if the political will to do so isn’t there, it will surely get harder and harder for the Obama administration to keep it up for much longer, as more heat is put on Washington from an angry populace.
What’s also encouraging is that many of these groups are frequently involved in politics and the law while fighting for the rights of their respective clients, and will no doubt have extremely knowledgeable and experienced lawyers in the courtroom on their (and our) side.