Dozens of civil liberties organizations and Internet companies—including the Electronic Privacy Information Center, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, ThoughtWorks, and Americans for Limited Government—today joined a coalition demanding Congress initiate a full-scale investigation into the NSA’s surveillance programs. This morning, we sent an updated letter to Congress with 115 organizations and companies demanding public transparency and an end to illegal spying.
The letter comes even as dozens of groups are organizing a nationwide call-in campaign to demand transparency and an end to the NSA’s unconstitutional surveillance program via https://call.stopwatching.us
It’s been less than two weeks since the first NSA revelations were published in the Guardian, and it’s clear the American people want Congress to act. The first step is organizing an independent investigation, similar to the Church Committee in the 1970s, to publicly account for all of the NSA’s surveillance capabilities. This type of public process will ensure the American people are informed, once and for all, about government surveillance conducted in their name. Our letter tells Congress:
This type of blanket data collection by the government strikes at bedrock American values of freedom and privacy. This dragnet surveillance violates the First and Fourth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution…
In addition, our stop StopWatching.us global petition has gathered more than 200,000 signatures since it was launched one week ago. The petition calls on Congress and the President to provide public access and scrutiny of the United States' domestic spying capabilities and to bring an end to illegal surveillance. Please support our efforts to rein in the NSA’s surveillance program by adding your name now.
The StopWatching.us campaign has called for a number of specific legal reforms in addition to calling for an investigation, including reform to the controversial Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, which was cited in the shockingly broad FISA order that demanded Verizon hand the NSA phone records data on millions of its US customers. The groups also call on Congress to reform the FISA Amendments Act, the unconstitutional law that allows, nearly without restriction, the government to conduct mass surveillance on communications going into and out of the United States. The letter and petition also demand that Congress amend the state secrets privilege, the pernicious legal tool the government has asserted in an attempt to block judges from deciding the constitutionality of the NSA’s domestic spying program.
You can read the full coalition letter, with an up-to-date list of the signees, below.
Dear Members of Congress,
We write to express our concern about recent reports published in the Guardian and the Washington Post, and acknowledged by the Obama Administration, which reveal secret spying by the National Security Agency (NSA) on phone records and Internet activity of people in the United States.
The Washington Post and the Guardian recently published reports based on information provided by a intelligence contractor showing how the NSA and the FBI are gaining broad access to data collected by nine of the leading U.S. Internet companies and sharing this information with foreign governments. As reported, the U.S. government is extracting audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track a person's movements and contacts over time. As a result, the contents of communications of people both abroad and in the U.S. can be swept in without any suspicion of crime or association with a terrorist organization.
Leaked reports also published by the Guardian and confirmed by the Administration reveal that the NSA is also abusing a controversial section of the PATRIOT Act to collect the call records of millions of Verizon customers. The data collected by the NSA includes every call made, the time of the call, the duration of the call, and other "identifying information" for millions of Verizon customers, including entirely domestic calls, regardless of whether those customers have ever been suspected of a crime. The Wall Street Journal has reported that other major carriers, including AT&T and Sprint, are subject to similar secret orders.
This type of blanket data collection by the government strikes at bedrock American values of freedom and privacy. This dragnet surveillance 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.
We are calling on Congress to take immediate action to halt this surveillance and provide a full public accounting of the NSA’s and the FBI’s data collection programs. We call on Congress to immediately and publicly:
1. Enact reform this Congress to Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, the state secrets privilege, and the FISA Amendments Act to make clear that blanket surveillance of the Internet activity and phone records of any person residing in the U.S. is prohibited by law and that violations can be reviewed in adversarial proceedings before a public court;
2. Create a special committee to investigate, report, and reveal to the public the extent of this domestic spying. This committee should create specific recommendations for legal and regulatory reform to end unconstitutional surveillance;
3. Hold accountable those public officials who are found to be responsible for this unconstitutional surveillance.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Advocacy for Principled Action in Government
American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression
American Civil Liberties Union
American Civil Liberties Union of California
American Library Association
Americans for Job Security
Americans for Limited Government
Art is Change
Association of Alternative Newsmedia
Association of Research Libraries
Bill of Rights Defense Committee
Bradley Manning Support Network
Campaign for Liberty
Center for Democracy and Technology
Center for Digital Democracy
Center for Financial Privacy and Human Rights
Center for Media and Democracy
Center for Media Justice
Competitive Enterprise Institute
Cyber Privacy Project
Defending Dissent Foundation
Detroit Digital Justice Coalition
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Electronic Frontiers Australia, Inc.
Electronic Privacy Information Center
Entertainment Consumers Association
Fight for the Future
Foundation for Innovation and Internet Freedom
Free Software Foundation
Freedom of the Press Foundation
Friends of Privacy USA
Fund for Constitutional Government
Get FISA Right
Government Accountability Project
Green Party of the United States
Institute of Popular Education of Southern California (IDEPSCA)
Knowledge Ecology International (KEI)
Law Life Culture
Mansfield North Central Ohio Tea Party Association
May First/People Link
Media Mobilizing Project, Philadelphia
Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition
National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
National Coalition Against Censorship
National Security Counselors
New Sanctuary Coalition of NYC
New York Civil Liberties Union
Open Technology Institute
Participatory Politics Foundation
Patient Privacy Rights
People for the American Way
Personal Democracy Media
Public Interest Advocacy Centre (Ottawa, Canada)
Project on Government Oversight
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
Progressive Librarians Guild
Restore America's Voice
Rights Working Group
Rocky Mountain Civil Liberties Association
Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy & Public Interest Clinic
Taxpayers Protection Alliance
Tenth Amendment Center
The AIDS Policy Project, Philadelphia
The Other 98%
TURN-The Utility Reform Network
Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center
William C. Velasquez Institute (WCVI)
World Wide Web Foundation