Protesters gather in dozens of cities to call for the end of the PATRIOT Act as the future of NSA spying hangs in the balance
Activists across the country held signs, computers, and tablets outside Senate offices with one message: “Sunset the PATRIOT Act.” Edward Snowden promoted the vigils, while 12,000+ websites join in solidarity
As the sun set on Thursday, activists and Internet users of varying political stripes gathered outside Senate offices across the country and in Washington, DC to call for Congress to oppose any reauthorization of the USA PATRIOT Act and instead let key provisions that enable NSA spying to sunset on June 1st.
Click here or here to see short videos from the vigil in San Francisco
The “Sunset Vigils” were organized in a rapid-response fashion by Internet activists using Facebook events, email, and social media to spread the word on less than 48 hours notice,
Whistleblower Edward Snowden encouraged redditors to attend the protests during his reddit AMAon Thursday afternoon, and more than 12,000 websites quickly mobilized to spread the word about the action using a “widget” released by theInternet Defense League.
Advocacy groups including Color of Change, CREDO, Demand Progress, Fight for the Future, Free Press Action Fund, MoveOn, Popular Resistance, and Restore the Fourth supported the vigils.
“The U.S. government is losing our trust every single day that these illegal spying programs continue,” said Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, “The crowds that gathered at sunset today are only the beginning. It’s time we come together and let the sun go down on this dark age of government surveillance. Together we will end the PATRIOT Act, and the sun can rise on a new day filled with freedom and privacy for all.”
“Just a few weeks ago an expiration of 215 of any length seemed impossible, but hundreds of thousands have spoken out and upended conventional inside-the-Beltway wisdom” said David Segal, executive director of Demand Progress. “More than 13 years since the Patriot Act’s passage, and after craven abuse of Section 215 and other authorities, we are reminded why sunsets are written into bills like this: It is time for the intelligence agencies to answer for their violations of the public trust.”
“The PATRIOT Act, passed when the nation was in shock from the September 11 attacks, was never meant to be permanent. That’s why sunset was written into the law,” said Becky Bond, Vice President of CREDO Mobile. “Our surveillance agencies have gone rogue, and sunsetting the PATRIOT Act – even if just for a few days – would be the first real step Congress has taken toward ending unconstitutional spying on Americans,” Bond continued.
““The NSA got caught with its hand in the cookie jar”, said Alex Marthews, national chair of Restore The Fourth. “The security agencies have been misusing the PATRIOT Act in order to spy on us all. Explain to me why we should let them keep doing it, instead of confining them to their real job: Spying on actual criminals and actual agents of foreign powers?”
“The balance between national security and civil liberties has been out of whack for more than a decade,“ said Free Press Action Fund Government Relations Manager Sandra Fulton. "People have had enough of government efforts to spy on all aspects of our lives. The nationwide sunset vigils have sent a signal to Washington: It’s time we closed this chapter on mass surveillance and restored everyone’s rights to connect and communicate in private.”
We’re so close to making the government get a legit warrant before they can monitor and track us. For all the people who have ever wanted to see or worked towards the end of the Patriot Act over the past dozen years, this is our moment.
If Congress does nothing—something they are very good at—the NSA’s mass phone data collection will begin shutting down on Friday. And on midnight of Monday, June 1, 2015, the section of the Patriot Act that has been used (illegally) to justify mass surveillance will sunset and no longer be U.S. law.
Here’s why we have such a golden opportunity right now.
Because of Rand Paul’s filibuster of the Senate yesterday, things have been pushed back so that a vote on limiting debate on whether or not to begin debate of reauthorization of the Patriot Act (either straight up or under the Orwellian “USA Freedom Act”) won’t happen until Saturday, after the NSA begins winding down its collection program. These motions on the reauthorization bills will require 60 votes to be approved, and that seems unlikely at this point. If they do somehow get 60 votes, a final vote won’t happen until Wednesday of next week.
But here’s the thing. All bills have to go through both the Senate and the House of Representatives before they can become law, and the House is leaving for vacation today until after the Patriot Act section expires. The House has already passed the USA Freedom Act, which renews the Patriot Act, so the only real way for Congress to stop a sunset at this point is for the Senate to pass that bill.
Our vote count shows that the Senate doesn’t have the votes to pass it, so if we can prevent a few on-the-fence Senators from siding with the NSA on this, we will be going back to a world where law enforcement and Intelligence officials need to actually get a warrant to spy on us.
At that point, if Congress wants to bring back the ability for the government to spy on us without a warrant they will need to affirmatively re-legislate the PATRIOT Act. It won’t be just a matter of extending sunset dates anymore. Every member of Congress will have to go down on the record saying they don’t want the government to have to seek a warrant to spy on us, which is a very unpopular position and something that 2/3rds of the House of Representatives have never had to vote on.
We are so close to an epic win on mass surveillance. That’s why we’re hosting sunset vigils across the country this evening at senators’ local offices to call on the Patriot Act to expire.
If you want this win; If you want the government to have to get a warrant before they can spy on you, your communications, and your family, Join us tonight.
BREAKING: nationwide sunset vigils TONIGHT calling for Congress to sunset the PATRIOT act
Activists will gather at sunset in in 50 cities to demand that Congress let Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act expire
On Thursday, activists in 50 cities will gather at sunset (starting at 7:00pm) to oppose the reauthorization of section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, which has been exploited by the government to justify mass surveillance. The “Sunset Vigils” will call for Congress to allow Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act to expire, and oppose attempts to reauthorize it. Organizers say sunsetting the PATRIOT Act is the most meaningful reform, and the only one that makes sense.
The sunset vigils are being organized by CREDO, Demand Progress, Fight for the Future, Free Press Action Fund, MoveOn.org Civic Action, Popular Resistance, and Restore the Fourth.
These rapid-response gatherings will be held at sunset outside of Senators’ offices. In Washington, DC, privacy advocates will gather at the West Lawn of the Capitol building.
Maira Sutton Global Policy Analyst, Electronic Frontier Foundation Phone: (415) 436 - 9333 x175, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
In a joint letter to Congress released today, more than 250 technology companies and user rights organizations say that the extreme level of secrecy surrounding trade negotiations have led to provisions in agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that threaten digital innovation, free speech, and access to knowledge online, and the letter calls on Congress to come out against the Fast Track (AKA Trade Promotion Authority [TPA]) bill for legitimizing this secretive process. Its signatories include AVG Technologies, DreamHost, Namecheap, Mediafire, Imgur, Internet Archive, BoingBoing, Piwik, Private Internet Access, and many others.
The letter specifically identifies the TPP’s threats based on leaked texts of the agreement—how it threatens fair use, could lead to more costly forms of online copyright enforcement, criminalize whistleblowing and investigative journalism, and create investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) courts that would further jeopardize user protections in domestic laws. The Fast Track bill, the companies write, would legitimize the exclusive process that has led to these and other provisions, as well as undermine lawmakers’ efforts towards striking the right balance between the interests of copyright holders and those of innovators and users.
“We simply cannot allow our policymakers to use secret trade negotiations to make digital policy for the 21st century,” said Maira Sutton, global policy analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “Leaks of the TPP agreement have revealed time and time again that this opaque process has led to provisions that undermine our rights to free speech, privacy, and innovation online. The TPP is a huge threat to the Internet and its users. Full stop.”
“The future of the Internet is simply too important to be decided behind closed doors,” said Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future. “The Fast Track / Trade Promotion Authority process actively silences the voices of Internet users, startups, and small tech companies while giving the biggest players even more power to set policy that benefits a few select companies while undermining the health of the entire Web.”
Harvey Anderson, Chief Legal Officer of the popular anti-virus software company AVG Technologies: “The current administration has done much to promote openness and transparency as governance principles and in managing Internet policy, they can, and we expect, that they can do much better than the current Fast Track bill.”
Carl Wilcox, CEO of nanotech firm Advanced Surfaces and Processes, Inc.: “Technology companies like us, especially startups and emerging companies, need a level business playing field, not one where mega corporations make the rules and can sue them in a mega-corporation court whose judges and attorneys are all employed by mega-corporations. TPP impacts us negatively when they dictate intellectual property, food safety, the price of prescription drugs, weak environmental, buy local and labor safety rules.”
David Heinemeier Hansson, partner at Basecamp and creator of the popular Ruby on Rails web development framework: “TPP makes a mockery of democratic legislative ideals. It’s shrouded in secrecy exactly because it would wither in sunlight. It’s a terrible piece of overreach to endow a few special interests with enormous and unsavory power. The whole thing needs to be scrapped and started over. International trade is too important to have it hitched to this collection of wishful thinking by a select few.
Cory Doctorow, author, journalist, and co-editor of Boing Boing: “Democracies make their laws in public, not in smoke-filled rooms. If TPP’s backers truly believed that they were doing the people’s work, they’d have invited the people into the room. The fact that they went to extreme, unprecedented measures to stop anyone from finding out what was going on—even going so far as to threaten Congress with jail if they spoke about it —tells you that this is something being done *to* Americans, not *for* Americans.”
Founder of the Copia Institute, Mike Masnick: “In the last two decades the Internet has been one of the main drivers of economic growth, progress and prosperity worldwide. And, yet, leaked portions of the TPP agreement and the current fast track bill shows that no one is even considering the impact on the digital economy and digital rights. The TPP and TPA are not designed for an Internet era, or even taking the Internet economy into account. That the whole thing has been written in secret only makes this more concerning over the impact it will have on the most dynamic and important sectors of the economy today.”