On Tuesday, February 11, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee was joined in a press conference supporting The Day We Fight Back by several organizing forces in the national movement to end mass surveillance. But one day earlier, on Monday, February 10, BORDC communications specialist, Adwoa Masozi, gave RT a small preview of what was to come, "It's becoming more and more clear by the day that our struggle for civil liberties and the protection of that, it's becoming less a left—right issue, and becoming more of an America versus authoritarianism issue. What we want to come out of this is legislation that has teeth - legislation that will put the American people in a position of power."
This is the best we've seen in the last 10 years in terms of mass transpartisan mobilization. At the table we have groups like FreePress, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Mozilla, CODEPINK, and Occupy elements like SF99%...alongside the Bill of Rights Defense Committee mobilizing on the ground to continue fanning the flame for justice, accountability, and transparency where our rights and civil liberties are concerned.
The press conference, held just outside of the Capitol building, featured a brilliant cast of speakers including Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), who spoke of the dramatic impact his bill, the Surveillance State Repeal Act, would have on stemming the abuses of the intelligence community. Holt said,
My bill would also prohibit the government from forcing American technology companies to compromise their software and hardware by building in back doors that the NSA could use to spy on us. And it would create in the law for the first time protections for whistleblowers in the national security sphere.
Linda Schade of Defending Dissent Foundation described the present societal conditions serving as catalyst for civil liberty advocates across the country. "Even worse, we know that they are using this information to monitor, infiltrate and disrupt OUR political efforts to restore government to lawful accountability. Whether we are on the Left or on the Right, we will not have our right to dissent trampled," Schade said.
She echoed the mission of day, the call to action for everyone participating in The Day We Fight Back and desirous of a nation where your every move and thought isn't being aggregated, mapped, and labeled. "Today We Fight Back. Today we call on Congress to pass the USA Freedom Act, and even better the Surveillance State Repeal Act. And we call on our own government, to STEP BACK. Today we assert our right to free speech, we assert our right to privacy and we assert our right surveillance free political activity. Today We Fight Back."
Rabbi Arthur Waskow, of the Philadelphia based Shalom Center, described his experience living through the COINTELPRO era as one of its political targets. He went on to explain why the Fourth Amendment is exists and is integral to upholding a democracy.
There is a reason that in the Bill of Rights is the Fourth Amendment, providing that warrants to invade our privacy must name a specific person, must be authorized by a judge, and must be based on probable cause that the specific person named might have committed a crime," Rabbi Waskow explained. "The reason is that the people who wrote the Fourth Amendment lived under a King, the British king, who issued what were called “writs of assistance.” These allowed searches of anyone for any reason. No court, no cause need be involved. The Fourth Amendment was intended to prevent "writs of assistance."
He continued, "And what the NSA now does is using millions of writs of assistance.
Several others spoke, including Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK and Nathan White of DemandProgress.
Noor Mir of the Washington Peace Center explained that the NSA is an extension of the war on terror that has been committed against brown and black communities in the United States for years. She also asked how the US government can allow the NSA to act with impunity even though it is unable to even define what terrorist means. Mir went on to describe the plight of the Muslim-American community post 9/11.
In 2011, the FBI had 15,000 informants, mostly aimed at the Muslim community, and 45,000 “unofficial” ones providing extensive information on Muslim-American life and association. Even though in 2003, the Department of Justice issued guidelines outlawing racial profiling, it made a blanket exception for “national security” and “border integrity”; Now, the Obama administration has continued that exception, with thousands of informants invading Muslim owned businesses and mosques, even student organizations. It has been documented that the NSA tracks with fervor phone calls made to places like Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Palestine, or Iran (see source below). The language I speak on the phone is not always English-- what if it's Urdu? What if it's Arabic? There are 2.8 million Muslim-Americans in the United States. Are they not part and parcel of the freedoms that this Constitution offers?
The day turned out to be an utter success by measure of people's responses to the call to action by the thousands of online and grassroots organizations urging their supporters to call Congress. FreePress reported:
By day’s end, 86,206 people had called their members of Congress and 178,227 people had sent emails to their elected officials.As The Day We Fight Back progressed, we noted six amazing moments:
- People were placing calls to Congress at the rate of 5,000 per hour by midmorning.
- Google, Twitter and other big Internet companies sent messages to millions of users, urging them to take action and spread the word. And the Free Press Action Fund was among many organizations — including the ACLU, Demand Progress, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Fight for the Future, Greenpeace and RootsAction — whose members participated in the online protest.
- Celebrities like Mark Ruffalo and Evangeline Lilly, veteran journalists like Bill Moyers, and members of Congress like Reps. Raul Grijalva and Zoe Lofgren and Sens. Rand Paul, Tom Udall and Ron Wyden took to social media to spread the word.
- More than 6,000 websites put up images supporting the action — including social media stars like Upworthy, blogs like BoingBoing, Web platforms like Drupal and companies like ThoughtWorks.
- People in Canada, Colombia, India, Ireland, South Africa and Sweden gathered at dozens of worldwide events.
- Cartoonists got active, and winners of a recent Web We Want contest were announced. Check out the winning anti-surveillance images here, here and here.
BORDC executive director, Shahid Buttar, made closing remarks about what is still to come in our battle against the national security state.
We have not seen all of the Snowden revelations nor have the intelligence agencies responded to them by becoming anymore forthcoming about their crimes en mass upon the American people. Congress continues to legislate in the dark. We don't yet know how vast is the ice berg...