Tag: Domestic Surveillance

BLOCK S.139 IN THE SENATE!

 

Let your senator know that nothing less than real NSA surveillance reform will do.

Perhaps you’ve been following the continuing debate in Congress on NSA surveillance, and the expiration of Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act that makes the dragnet possible. If so, then you likely heard that Thursday the House voted down Rep. Amash’s amendment, the USA RIGHTS Act, that would have given us real mass surveillance reform. You may also know that they approved a bill, S.139, which extends Section 702 for 6 more years.

Here’s how your representatives voted on:

We still have a chance for meaningful surveillance reform this coming Tuesday when the Senate takes up S. 139. We need 41 senators to come to the aid of the Constitution by voting no on cloture for S. 139. 27 Senators voted yesterday against the Senate considering S. 139 at all, so we only need 14 more.

If S. 139 were to pass, that would not only mean six more years of the NSA spying on American citizens, but also an expansion of ‘about collection’ abilities by law enforcement.

A no vote for cloture on S. 139 will stop it from even being considered, and open the door to considering real reform. We’re urging everyone to contact their senator’s office – but especially if you are a constituent of one of the pivotal senators below.

Find Your Senator

By Danielle Kerem

Over the past year, documents released under the Freedom of Information Act have revealed new details about the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Homeland Security’s suspicionless surveillance of domestic advocacy groups. Significantly, the FOIA documents suggest that Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street, School of the Americas Watch, and the anti-Keystone XL Pipeline movement were targeted based on these organizations’ First Amendment protected views rather than for valid law enforcement purposes. In light of the growing evidence of federal agency interference in constitutionally protected political activity, Restore the Fourth has joined with sixty seven other civil society organizations in calling on Congress to launch an investigation into the nature of, and justification for, F.B.I. and D.H.S. monitoring of non-violent activists and organizers.

The letter and petition, addressed to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, offer an outline of the F.B.I. and D.H.S.’s surveillance activities in relation to the four abovementioned advocacy groups. Evidence gleaned from the recently released documents indicates that in the aftermath of the police shooting death of unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, both the F.B.I. and D.H.S. routinely tracked the physical movements and social media accounts of Black Lives Matter protesters – even soliciting intelligence on a planned, peaceful demonstration at the Mall of the Americas from a confidential informant. In recent years, New York City’s discriminatory stop-and-frisk program as well as expansive surveillance of Arab and Muslim Americans (whereby the NYPD spied on at least 20 mosques, 14 restaurants, 11 retail stores, two grade schools, and two Muslim Student Associations in New Jersey aloneoffer additional examples of communities of color disproportionately shouldering the burden of arbitrary law enforcement surveillance.

As the FOIA documents further detail, the F.B.I. – leveraging the agency’s counterterrorism authority despite acknowledging School of the Americas Watch’s peaceful organizational mission – actively monitored and infiltrated the human rights group. Similarly, in the absence of any suspicion of criminal activity, the FBI also surveilled and interrogated climate change activists coordinating efforts to oppose the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

The federal government does, of course, have a lengthy history of targeting racial justice advocates and political dissidents, a history that extends back to the F.B.I.’s Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO). Established in 1956, COINTELPRO instituted a destructive regime of government surveillance, infiltration, and covert action aimed at obstructing and discrediting diverse expressions of domestic dissent. Martin Luther King Jr., in addition to other prominent civil rights leaders, was relentlessly surveilled and harassed by government agents in an effort to silence critiques of racial and economic inequality. Reverend Jesse Jackson, commenting on COINTELPRO’s onerous impact on civil rights advocacy at the time, remarked:

“When you have this feeling that the government really is watching you, you know, taps your telephone, maybe in your text files, it has a chilling effect. It takes away your freedom. And often for leaders, none of us are perfect, it neutralizes people.”

In spite of the renewed commitment to the protection of citizens’ First and Fourth Amendment rights that emerged out of the landmark findings of the Church Committee’s 1975 investigation, the F.B.I. and D.H.S.’s persisting surveillance of citizens engaged in lawful political expression highlights the continued need for greater transparency and oversight to mitigate the chilling effect that surveillance overreach has on political participation and counter the erosion of Americans’ civil liberties. A congressional inquiry into the revelations of government spying on Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street, School of the Americas Watch, the anti-Keystone XL Pipeline movement, and other non-violent political activists is a key step towards ushering in the legal and institutional reforms needed to prevent the misuse and abuse of law enforcement power.