A coalition of 85 technology companies, organizations and privacy advocates — including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation — is launching a website Tuesday calling for a special congressional committee to investigate the National Security Agency’s secret surveillance program.
Sina Khanifar, participating advocate and founder of FixtheDMCA.org, told Mint Press News in a statement that the “Stop Watching Us” movement is intended to push the government to create an investigative Congressional body similar to the Church Committee, which was formed to investigate the Watergate scandal in the 1970s.
“As it stands, we simply don’t know the scope of the NSA’s surveillance programs,” he said. “Greater transparency is critical.”
The NSA surveillance program has come under national — and international — scrutiny after former CIA-staffer-turned-NSA-contractor Edward Snowden leaked information regarding the agency’s policies, revealing it regularly monitors communication data of users of major, U.S.-headquartered websites, as well as phone call “metadata” through a secretive partnership with Verizon.
The Washington Post and The Guardian reported the U.S. government accesses messages, video, audio, photographs and “connection logs” that provide insight into the location of information of users.
Outrage from both sides of the political aisle is anchored in questions over the constitutionality of the spying program, as it may present grave violations of the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure.
The Stop Watching Us website serves as a platform for Americans to petition the government to investigate the “full extent of the NSA’s spying programs.”
A letter to Congress, used as part of the petition and published on the site, lays out the group’s concerns, along with demands that Congress reform Section 215 of the Patriot 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.”
It also demands Congress reform the FISA Amendments Act, which allows for mass communications surveillance, and to hold public officials accountable for the NSA spying program.
The Stop Watching Us movement is being backed by Internet browser Mozilla, which is linking the website to its browser’s start page for easy access.
“They’ve been instrumental in pulling this together, and I’m personally very excited about having millions of eyeballs directed at this message,” Khanifar said.
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