Panel description: A recently launched campaign in Europe calls on individuals to “vote for [their] digital rights.” However, no such movement has caught on in the United States, despite the upcoming election cycle. Rallies and events—including the Rally to End Mass Surveillance and the Day We Fight Back—have demonstrated wide support for surveillance reform. By educating the public about surveillance issues, digital rights activists can ensure voters understand where their elected leaders stand on defending our privacy and Constitutional rights. The election year also offers an opportunity to engage with Congress members directly on surveillance. This panel will discuss the political environment around surveillance reform, including grassroots engagement and the potential for leadership on the issues. The panel will conclude with a discussion of the ongoing challenges faced in communicating to the public audience on the so-called “balance” between national security and civil liberties.
This panel is moderated by Amie Stepanovich who is Senior Policy Counsel at Access. Amie is an expert in domestic surveillance, cybersecurity, and privacy law. At Access, Amie leads projects on digital due process and responds to threats at the intersection of human rights and communications surveillance.
Americans do get that surveillance is happening even though Obama says it’s not. However many Americans believe that it doesn’t directly affect them. The real problem in America is that many believe that “If I am not doing anything wrong, I should have nothing to worry about.” So there is work to be done in order to make NSA surveillance an election issue.
One success in fighting NSA Surveillance was an amendment, the Massie-Lofgren Amendment, added to an annual defense spending bill to end backdoor spying and sabotage commercial software with backdoor entry points. But more work needs to be done. The unfettered surveillance has a chilling effect on our democracy.
Since 9⁄11 there is a lot of sharing of this information going on. Your personal information that the NSA collects can go all the way down to the “bungling local cop”.
JTTF, or Joint Terrorism Task Force has secret contracts with local law enforcement which essentially draft local law enforcement into acting as part of the federal anti-terrorism force.
Fusion Centers were created by US DHS to facilitate sharing the collected personal data. All this data can be used to profile individuals. For example, a Muslim who makes many calls outside the US could be labeled as a terrorist suspect.
President Obama’s planned reform of data collection will immunize corporations. It is actually an expansion because not only will call metadata be collection, but cell phone connections will be logged. For instance, just cell phones being in the same room, being in range of each other will be logged.
One violation of the law that is currently happening is that if someone is being investigated, queries to the NSA database will return all information logged within the previous 5 years. This includes all indiscriminate data.
Another problem is that not all congressmen have access to what is going on in the intelligence agencies. Congressmen who don’t have access are told to just go along with those members who are on the Intelligence Committee, because “they are the ones who have the information”. However, those on the Intelligence Committee are not sharing much information with other congressional members.
Another problematic issue is that with Obama’s reform, secrets classifications can be awarded to those outside of the government, such as bankers. This would mean bankers and people in other corporations could have access to your personal information that the NSA has collected.
Executive order 12333 is also problematic because there is no oversight, either by congress or the courts. Even though the executive order involves collecting overseas data, a lot of domestic data is collected through this as well. Even Feinstein, who defends the collection of surveillance data including cell phone meta data, has said that there are no privacy protections built in.
NSA lost its push for the Clipper Chip in a previous battle to enable backdoors in encryption, however, the NSA is still working on putting backdoors into encryption standards. One driving force for this in a “surveillance state” is money. There is a lot of money to be made in surveillance technology.
Call to action: call your representatives out on the NSA Surveillance issues. Impress upon them on how important the issue is to you. It is essentially a virtual “stop and frisk” policy that violates your rights. Use tools to protect your own privacy from surveillance. There are many options, but to get started, you can check out “Reset the Net” Privacy Pack.