June 14, 2013

Why we care about the NSA & how to stop it.

Update: U.S. has been signing agreements with fiber-optic cable owners to safeguard ability to conduct surveillance (washingtonpost.com)

Why you should care about the NSA and what we all can easily, actually do to end the US ability to spy on innocent citizens everywhere.

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” ~ Alice Walker

Source: reddit, which has been all over this.

For an “NSA PSA,” here.

For much, much, much more—and constant awesome updates—click here.

First: What’s wrong with our Government spying on us?

First, the founders of our country designed the government such that it had constraints on its power. This is because they realized that, while not discounting external threats, a citizenry is under constant threat from those who govern it.

First amendment? It’s in there because, historically, if your government didn’t like what you were saying or what religion you were, they might lock you up for a long time or kill you.

Fourth amendment? (For reference, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”)

It’s in there because, historically, if your government didn’t like you, they might send jackbooted thugs to your house to rifle it for evidence that you were committing some sort of crime and lock you up forever. Papers? Well, this is your writings. What you think. Like your posts to reddit. Now, case law, over the years, is has been construed such that many things you think MIGHT be your papers and thus free from government prying aren’t really free from government prying, but that’s arguably a real erosion of your rights as the Founders intended.

Your odds of a government coming after its citizenry, historically, are MUCH GREATER than your odds of some militants in another country being able to damage a country through killing its citizenry.

Now, even despite US protections as guaranteed in our Constitution, you can see this through our history. In the ’70s, Nixon had federal law enforcement wiretap folks, like Martin Luther King, who were not necessarily a criminal danger, but who espoused ideas threatening to the orthodoxy and the power elite. These abuses were why the Church committee was formed in the ’70s–as a way to try to curb the abuse of citizens BY THEIR OWN GOVERNMENT.

What we have now, is a case where the NSA is gathering lots of lots of intelligence on citizens who are under no suspicion of having committed a crime. And they are storing it in perpetuity. (Let’s set the content question aside… IMO, when the government says they are not storing content, I find this -highly- questionable. Part of the reason the media and politicians are reacting strongly against these leaks is that they definitively prove that our government officials are liars.)

How does this play out in the future? As an example, well, we just went through a big financial meltdown. The banks were clearly responsible for some wrongdoing that caused widespread suffering. No bankers were prosecuted. This lead to some dissent, probably justified (Occupy).

Now, let’s say that Occupy had found that magical spokesman that could have compellingly made the case that would move a large number of citizens to decide to eliminate Congress or even change our government fundamentally. Or, in the case of our particular goverment, might have resulting in legislation mandating breakups of mega-banks.

If that person had had 15 years of content stored in a data center in Utah and there’d been, oh, evidence of an affair (as was used against MLK) or some sketchy porn or even something that could be misconstrued (look at the spin on Snowden as a person as opposed to focus on the content of his leaks), your executive branch might be able to give your charismatic spokesman a quiet call saying, “why don’t you just spin the message this way… and we’ll give you consideration X, Y, and Z. Because if you keep talking the way you are and embarrassing us, we might just have to let the media know about that sketchy event 5 years ago.”

Now, you might not be that charismatic guy in our hypothetical Occupy. But maybe it was your house that was foreclosed on and maybe it’s you that’s suffering due to income inequalities. Now that guy who could change your society in a way that helps you is no longer in a position to do so. And if he is resistant to the goverment’s point of view and continues with his campaign anyway, and you feel, through the force of your convictions that maybe you want to donate to him or participate in a march with him, maybe the law enforcement agency decides that they should look at YOUR history instead.


Secondly: Yes, you can make a difference!:

Make it clear to your representatives that you support the actions of Ed Snowden and ask that he be treated as a whistleblower and patriot. A phone call or written letter is effective. Sending a letter and then following up with a phone call is best.
Make it clear to your representatives that you are against the NSA program and all others like it that we don’t know about (and explain exactly why). Having talked to people who have worked on the staff of Congresspeople I know that a phone call makes a good amount of impact, an email you wrote helps but is less effective, but if you know you are too lazy for that click here and do this. I’ve been informed by /u/secondlogin that “as few as SEVEN personally written letters to a representative can turn their attention to a given subject. NOT EMAIL SPAM. A personal, written letter will be put on the top of their mail stack and taken directly to the Rep.”
Find out who your representatives are and post a tasteful, well-written message on their Facebook profiles. This is somewhat effective because it is “public.” It raises awareness of the issue and if there are enough concerned people commenting they (or someone from their staff) will often respond so you can have an actual dialogue. I did this during the CISPA uproar and actually had a conversation of sorts on the issue with my Congressman. Tell your representatives you support this bill.
Contact the “Intelligence Gang of 8” and let them know their actions are a reprehensible betrayal of the American people’s right to privacy: Representative Mike Rogers, Representative Dutch Ruppersberger, Senator Diane Feinstein, Senator Saxby Chambliss, Representative John Boehner, Representative Nancy Pelosi, Senator Harry Reid, and Senator Mitch McConnell
Call and/or fax the office of POTUS: President Barack Obama Phone:(202) 456-1111 Fax:(202) 456-2461
Follow up. Call back and ask what progress has been made or what new information they have available to you regarding your last call. These people represent you — it is okay to hold them personally accountable to you (but don’t overdo it or you’ll be dismissed as psycho and your opinion will matter less).
Watch how the government handles Ed Snowden. If he is mistreated we should organize and protest.
We should organize and protest against the NSA spying program (among other issues). I am a supporter of /r/Occupy because I believe it is the movement with the most steam and potential. It isn’t perfect but I’d rather not sit around and wait for something better to come along.
“Sign” the petition to repeal the Patriot Act . “Sign” the Avaaz petition about PRISM. “Sign” the whitehouse.gov petition to pardon Edward Snowden. While this is better than doing nothing, it’s not doing much so don’t give yourself too much credit. Contacting your reps is much more effective.
Snowden plugged /r/restorethefourth and if we support him, we should participate in that in his honor. Don’t consider this having actually done anything to help but subscribe to /r/restorethefourth to stay aware in the future.
Talk to other people about the issue as you go about your day. Inform people of what happened and make sure you explain why it is wrong and how it can be misused. Encourage them to take the actions above.

Feel free to copy and paste this post whenever you encounter someone on Reddit who says, “But what can I do about it?”

BONUS: Fight these thoughts (that lead to powerlessness and inaction):

      “I can’t make a difference because I am one person.”


      “Someone else will fix it.”


      “It’s too late.”


      “I’ll worry about that when it effects me personally.”


      “There is nothing I can do about it.”


    “I am a lazy, selfish human being.”
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