By Nadia Kayyali / Deep Links Blog
A coalition of 34 organizations from across the political spectrum is launching Fight215.org today to help concerned individuals contact lawmakers and demand an end to NSA’s unconstitutional mass surveillance under the Patriot Act.
The launch coincides with the countdown to the expiration of Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which the NSA claims justifies bulk collection of the phone records of millions of innocent people. Whistleblower Edward Snowden shared these thoughts with the coalition:
Suspicionless surveillance has no place in a democracy. The next 60 days are a historic opportunity to rein in the NSA, but the only one who can end the worst of its abuses is you. Call your representatives and tell them that the unconstitutional ‘bulk collection’ of Americans’ private records under Section 215 of the Patriot Act must end.
The 34 groups and companies joining Fight215 (see a full list at the bottom of this post) have come together to send a clear message: the politics of fear doesn’t trump the Constitution. The unconstitutional bulk collection of phone records must end now. In addition to organizations like EFF and Fight for the Future, the coalition represents the whole political spectrum, from R Street to Demand Progress.
It also includes press freedom organizations like Free Press and Freedom of the Press Foundation, civil rights organizations like ACLU and Council on American-Islamic Relations, student organizations like Student Net Alliance, and grassroots groups like Restore the Fourth. The coalition also includes companies like Sonic.net
Fight215 also features a video from intrepid filmmaker Kirby Ferguson, reminding us that the nearly 300-page Patriot Act was passed in the horrible aftermath of 9/11, with little time spent thinking about how it might violate the Constitution. Nearly fourteen years later, we know that one result has been the unconstitutional bulk collection of Americans’ private calling records.
It’s exactly that fear of terrorism that the NSA’s defenders have continued to use to defend bulk collection. And though they continue to throw around false claims that the program has stopped 54 attacks, those claims have been solidly debunked. In fact, as Senator Ron Wydenpoints out, “We have not yet seen any evidence showing that the NSA’s dragnet collection of Americans’ phone records has produced any uniquely valuable intelligence.”
In fact, the President, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB), and the President’s Review Group have all admitted that collection of call detail records is not necessary.
That’s why Fight215 is launching now. While ending phone record surveillance is just the first step to reining in surveillance abuses by the NSA, the expiration of Section 215 in just a few weeks provides a unique opportunity. The last time Patriot was reauthorized, we hadn’t seen the FISA court order authorizing the NSA to collect phone records in bulk.
We didn’t yet know just how badly the Patriot Act’s provisions had been twisted by the NSA. But given what we know now, it’s important to send the message that a vote to reauthorize bulk phone records collection is a vote against the Constitution.
This is our chance to end mass surveillance under the Patriot Act. Join us.
The full list of organizations signed on to Fight215.org represents a sampling of some of the strongest voices for freedom today: ACLU, Access, Advocacy for Principled Action in Government, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, American Booksellers for Free Expression, American Library Association, Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Brennan Center for Justice, Calyx, Center for Democracy and Technology, Council on American-Islamic Relations, Defending Dissent, Demand Progress, Downsize DC, Fight for the Future, Free Press, Freedom of the Press Foundation, Human Rights Watch, the Internet Archive, Liberty Coalition, Media Alliance, Openmedia.org, Open Technology Institute, Participatory Politics Foundation, R Street, Restore the Fourth, Roots Action, Silent Circle, Sonic.net, Student Net Alliance, Sunlight Foundation, Venture Politics, and X-Lab.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Nadia Kayyali is a member of the activism team at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.