“Stop Watching Us”: As Diplomatic Fallout Grows, Thousands Protest NSA Surveillance in D.C.

Democracy Now*

Photo: peacelogs.com
Photo: peacelogs.com

HAVANA TIMES – As new revelations of National Security Agency spying stoke the ire of Germany, France and Spain, thousands of people marched in Washington, D.C., on Saturday in a rally against government surveillance. Organizers say the protest was the largest to date against NSA monitoring since Edward Snowden’s disclosures became public in June.

We hear from Jesselyn Radack, a former Justice Department lawyer who now works for the Government Accountability Project, reading a message from Edward Snowden; NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake, who was charged with espionage after he was suspected of revealing information about the agency’s warrantless wiretapping program; and New Mexico’s former Republican governor, Gary Johnson.

AMY GOODMAN: Spain has become the latest country to be the target of widespread U.S. surveillance. According to an article published today in the Spanish newspaper El Mundo, the National Security Agency recently tracked over 60 million calls in Spain in the space of a month.

The disclosure comes as a delegation of German and French lawmakers are in Washington today to press senior U.S. government and intelligence officials for answers on allegations of widespread spying by the United States in their home countries. The German newspaper Der Spiegel has revealed the NSA was using the U.S. embassy in Berlin to spy on Germans, including Chancellor Angela Merkel. According to the magazine, Merkel’s mobile number had been listed by the NSA’s Special Collection Service since 2002.

All of these reports have been based on leaks by Edward Snowden. In a moment, we’ll be joined by journalist Glenn Greenwald, who first broke the Snowden story, but first we turn to Saturday’s protest in Washington organized by the Stop Watching Us coalition. At the rally, Jesselyn Radack, a former Justice Department lawyer who now works for the Government Accountability Project, read a message from Edward Snowden himself.

JESSELYN RADACK: [reading] “We are 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 the government to stop them. It’s about our right to know, our right to associate freely, and to live in a free and open democratic 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, and doing so in secret.

“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 are watching you.”

Thank you, from Edward Snowden.

AMY GOODMAN: Jesselyn Radack, reading a message from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden at Saturday’s Stop Watching Us rally in Washington, D.C. National Security Agency whistleblower Thomas Drake also spoke. He was charged with espionage after he was suspected of revealing information about the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program.

THOMAS DRAKE: Due to the material evidence disclosed by Edward Snowden, we now know in great detail—and, I will add, with much more to come—that the NSA does not have an honorable track record of telling the truth—


THOMAS DRAKE: —while keeping track of us without our consent, hiding behind secret laws, secret opinions and secret interpretations in the shadowlands of surveillance.

CROWD MEMBER: Unacceptable!

THOMAS DRAKE: I agree, unacceptable. And we only know—we only know of government spying, illegality, wrongdoings and violations due to the disclosures of whistleblowers, the public’s eyes and ears exposing abuse of government power in the public interest. But without adequate protections, employees are more likely to turn a blind eye to the privacy violations of innocent Americans than risk professional and career suicide.

It is the constant possibility of observation without our consent as the governed by those in power that stultifies society, renders creativity mute, engenders fear and erodes our freedom, with the acid served up by the potent brew of secrecy combined with surveillance for the sake of security, while forsaking our liberties as a price we must pay to make us feel safe. I don’t think so.

I was fortunate that I did not end up in actual prison, having lived a virtual version for a number of years, for coming out of the system and speaking truth to and of power—clearly a dangerous act of civil disobedience and individuality, for sure, in these times, and now defined as a criminal act by the national security state, aided and abetted by journalists and reporters—expressing one’s fundamental and inalienable right to individual sovereignty in the face of a government bent on destroying it.

The last thing a free and open society needs is a digital fence around us creating a virtual turnkey tyranny with the barb-wire surveillance not only keeping track of our comings and goings, but now increasingly wanting to know what we think and feel, the very essence of who we are and share as human beings. I fundamentally reject this dystopian premise—



THOMAS DRAKE: —and the siren call of security if we just give up our essential liberties, given what happened to me and other whistleblowers like Edward Snowden. And so, it is time to roll back the surveillance state. It is time to restore the Fourth Amendment. It is time to repeal the PATRIOT Act. It is time to repeal the FISA Amendments Act. It is time that the United States government stops watching us.

AMY GOODMAN: Former National Security Agency whistleblower Thomas Drake, speaking Saturday at the Stop Watching Us rally. He was charged with espionage after he was suspected of revealing information about the agency’s warrantless wiretapping program. All 10 original charges against him were dropped. Former Republican governor of New Mexico, Gary Johnson, also addressed the crowd.

GARY JOHNSON: The government has granted itself power that it does not have. We have to stand against this. Angela Merkel, thank you for bringing the attention to the world that the U.S. is monitoring the cellphones of 35 world leaders. Thank you for allowing us to recognize that 70 million cellphone conversations in France every month are being monitored. Edward Snowden, thank you. Thank you for bringing to the attention of the world the fact that the U.S. government, the NSA, is engaged in massive information gathering—125 billion cellphone conversations a month, judges granting legal authority for the NSA to monitor 113 million Verizon users. This is not due process!

AMY GOODMAN: Former Republican governor of New Mexico, Gary Johnson, at the Stop Watching Us rally on Saturday.

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