On the upcoming July fourth holiday, concerned citizens and rights advocates will take to the streets in cities across the United States in an effort to refocus the national debate away from the whistleblower scandal on to revelations that the US government is 'blatantly violating' the Constitution's Fourth Amendment, and thus Americans' right to privacy.
The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution:
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.
The rallies, organized by the independent grassroots coalition "Restore the Fourth," are in response to information—recently leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and revealed through a series of Guardian articles—that the National Security Administration is conducting a covert and widespread surveillance campaign tapping and collecting individuals' phone and electronic mail records.
Currently over fifty actions are planned for cities across the country.
"These demonstrations seek to demand an end to the unconstitutional surveillance methods employed by the U.S. government and to ensure that all future government surveillance is constitutional, limited, and clearly defined," the group writes on their fundraising site.
As much of the coverage of the NSA spying scandal has focused on the whistleblower himself, "Restore the Fourth" hopes to refocus the debate on the government's gross violation of Americans' constitutional rights.
"No matter how we feel about Edward Snowden, all of us have to face the fact that our government has been actively spying on us without probable cause. Remaining silent about this blatant violation of the Bill of Rights is no longer an option, regardless of your opinion of the man himself, or the other issues that have divided us," campaigner Robert Heldreth writes on the group's blog.
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"We must now shift the bulk of our attention away from Edward Snowden. The most pressing and urgent question is this: How will we respond now that we know that the government is violating the constitution on this scale? And what actions must we take to ensure that our leaders not only hear our voices, but listen?"
Snowden himself echoes this belief in a statement issued Monday via Wikileaks:
In the end the Obama administration is not afraid of whistleblowers like me, Bradley Manning or Thomas Drake. We are stateless, imprisoned, or powerless. No, the Obama administration is afraid of you. It is afraid of an informed, angry public demanding the constitutional government it was promised — and it should be.
Snowden's statement reads like a call to action which many are heeding.
Though not directly affiliated with any particular non-profit, the campaign is backed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the rest of the Stop Watching Us coalition in demanding transparency and meaningful reform to domestic surveillance programs.
Over half a million people have thus far joined the groups in signing an open letter to Congress, in which they are calling on their legislators to
- Enact reform this Congress to Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, the state secrets privilege, and the FISA Amendments Act 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 special committee to investigate, report, and reveal to the public the extent of this domestic spying. This committee should create specific recommendations for legal and regulatory reform to end unconstitutional surveillance;
- Hold accountable those public officials who are found to be responsible for this unconstitutional surveillance.