It’s been four months since Edward Snowden exposed the NSA’s spying regime. Since then, we’ve discovered that the agency tracks our phone calls, our emails, our browsing history, and our contacts. It also tracks our contacts’ contacts…and their contacts.
We’ve also learned that the NSA has compromised the technical standards that are supposed to keep us secure online — including working with corporate partners to create “back doors” into their customers’ accounts, compromising encryption codes. It’s also targeting the TOR network, a global system that helps millions of activists, journalists, and other people around the world work anonymously and evade repressive regimes.
Meanwhile, journalist Glenn Greenwald, who broke the news via his reporting in the Guardian, promises there are more revelations to come.
For thousands of civil liberties activists in the United States, this news confirmed what they already knew: The NSA’s unconstitutional surveillance programs target millions of innocent people. But many Americans are confronting our government’s betrayal of the Fourth Amendment for the first time.
People are outraged. A recent poll showed that “a majority of Americans oppose mass surveillance of people’s Internet usage for future investigations.”
In the aftermath of these revelations, more than 570,000 people signed the StopWatching.Us petition. They’re demanding that Congress probe the NSA’s spying programs and reform the laws — the Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act — that got us here. On July 4, thousands gathered in New York City, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere to push Congress to protect our constitutional rights to privacy.
And in this era of intense political polarization, members on both sides of the aisle in Congress oppose the NSA spying. In July, an amendment that would have defunded the NSA’s phone-metadata gathering came within seven votes of passing.
Now the bipartisan coalition of organizations behind StopWatching.Us — including the ACLU, Access, Demand Progress, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Fight for the Future, Free Press, the Libertarian Party, and many others — is taking this fight to the streets: We’re gathering in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 26 to stage the nation’s biggest protest yet against mass surveillance.
On that day, thousands of people will march to Capitol Hill and advocate for our rights to connect and communicate in private. We’ll talk about how our privacy rights are essential to other movements to protect our civil rights and fight for social justice. We’ll explain how mass surveillance can destroy the lives of individuals and communities. And we’ll demonstrate that this issue is perhaps the only thing bringing together a Washington so divided that our government has shut down for the first time in 17 years.
Reining in overreach by the NSA, the most secretive and opaque federal agency around, may prove tough. But one thing is clear: The road to recovering our privacy rights runs straight through Congress. It’s time our elected officials heard from us.
Josh Levy is the Internet campaign director at Free Press.