80+ orgs ask U.S. Congress to halt government surveillance

Over 80 organizations, civil liberty groups, Internet companies, public figures and private individuals have launched the StopWatching.Us initiative and have signed an open letter to the U.S. Congress, protesting the NSA’s and the FBI’s data collection programs and demanding their shutdown.

“This type of blanket data collection by the government strikes at bedrock American values of freedom and privacy. This dragnet surveillance violates the First and Fourth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, which protect citizens’ right to speak and associate anonymously and guard against unreasonable searches and seizures that protect their right to privacy,” they wrote in the letter.

They also demand that:

  • The Congress “provide a full public accounting” of these data collection programs
  • Change the Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act and the FISA Amendments Act in order 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”
  • Create a committee to investigate the extent of the domestic spying (and, of course, report its findings to the public); and
  • Prosecute and hold accountable public officials that were involved in it and were responsible for it.

Members of the public who want to sign the letter as well can do so on the initiative’s homepage.

Among the organizations that supported the initiative are the World Wide Web Foundation, the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Open Technology Institute at New America Foundation, reddit, the ACLU, the Free Software Foundation, and Mozilla.

The latter has, in fact, also changed the default Firefox homepage to include a link to the initiative’s website in the hopes of spreading the word as far and wide as possible.

“Mozilla believes in an Internet where we do not have to fear that everything we do is being tracked, monitored and logged by either companies or governments. And we believe in a government whose actions are visible, transparent and accountable,” stated Mozilla Privacy Chief Alex Fowler.

He also pointed out that Mozilla hasn’t yet received an order from a U.S. court to share information with government agencies, but that it could happen in the future as they build new server-based services.

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