The tide is turning against the NSA’s unconstitutional surveillance programs. Tuesday, a diverse group of political advocacy groups and other associations filed suit against the NSA for “violating their First Amendment right of association by illegally collecting their call records.” Today, dozens of organizations including Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and reddit will release a letter demanding “dramatically increased transparency around U.S. government surveillance efforts.” Two-thirds of Americans support public congressional hearings on these programs. Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee began such hearings, which AP described with the headline “NSA spying under fire.”
These organizations and the American people are right to fear the NSA’s secret and unconstitutional collection of private information, the threat of which goes beyond the illegality and the ongoing violation of your privacy. For instance, Edward Snowden demonstrated that the NSA’s internal safeguards are not effective at controlling their employees’ or their contractors’ access to information. Who knows what someone with different intentions but access to the same information might have done? Additionally, we’re setting the precedent that it’s OK for the government to violate our rights and privacy this way, and allowing our government to create more and more tools with which to do so. This brings us much closer to the wide-scale use of spying as a political tool, something oppressive governments have employed throughout history.
While yesterday’s hearings were a step in the right direction for Congress, it was also revealed that the NSA can look at telephone and Internet data not only from a suspected terrorist, but from “everyone that suspect communicated with, and then from everyone those people communicated with, and then from everyone all of those people communicated with.” As the momentum to challenge unconstitutional surveillance builds, the magnitude of the threat does as well. Both of these are strong reasons to increase efforts to spread awareness and pressure the government to take additional action.
George Orwell’s novel 1984 is a chilling vision of what might lie ahead if we don’t take action. While the technology used in the novel is different, the basic principles are the same. And while we may not live in a society like Orwell described this year, or next, that is only because of the vigilance we have shown in preventing it, and now that vigilance is needed as much as ever.
That’s why we’re calling August 4th “1984 Day.” From marches in NYC and Los Angeles to speeches by policymakers and whistleblowers in San Francisco, Restore the Fourth chapters across the country will be observing 1984 Day to remind policymakers that 1984 is a warning, not an instruction manual, and to warn Americans what might happen if they let themselves believe national security requires disregarding privacy, individual rights, and the rule of law.
Just as our protests on July 4th got the attention of the NSA as well as that of national and international media, 1984 Day’s events will serve as a reminder that our protests were not just a party. To capitalize on our great work two weeks ago, we must teach them that it was the start of a still-growing movement, one that will not stop until unconstitutional surveillance is ended. This will be Restore the Fourth’s second set of simultaneous nationwide events, but instead of each city hosting a protest, this time different local chapters will be experimenting with a variety of event types, from rallies to speaking engagements to street theater and much more. While some already have something scheduled, most of the local organizers that put together July 4th’s protests are convening now to decide what 1984 Day’s events will be. Remember to subscribe to our newsletter and check out the national Facebook event page so that you receive updates on newly scheduled events, especially if there isn’t one planned for your area yet. If you’re interested in helping, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll either put you in contact with those already working on it or set you up to take the lead yourself.
It’s 2013 and 1984 still hasn’t quite come. By working together on August 4th, we can make sure it doesn’t come in 2014 or any other year either.