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Feb 20, 2003 to Feb 6, 2013

Open Letter to Obama and Congress - Restrict the Surveillance

It appears that spying on citizens is impacting bottom lines. Today, major tech companies released the following letter.


Dear Mr. President and Members of Congress,

We understand that governments have a duty to protect their citizens. But this summer’s revelations highlighted the urgent need to reform government surveillance practices worldwide. The balance in many countries has tipped too far in favor of the state and away from the rights of the individual — rights that are enshrined in our Constitution. This undermines the freedoms we all cherish. It’s time for a change.

For our part, we are focused on keeping users’ data secure — deploying the latest encryption technology to prevent unauthorized surveillance on our networks and by pushing back on government requests to ensure that they are legal and reasonable in scope.

We urge the US to take the lead and make reforms that ensure that government surveillance efforts are clearly restricted by law, proportionate to the risks, transparent and subject to independent oversight. To see the full set of principles we support, visit ReformGovernmentSurveillance.com


AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter, Yahoo


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Notable absences

Noting the hypocrisy of these companies that have been profiting from this for years, it's nice to see at least a symbolic gesture in the right direction. It isn't enough, though. They've lost significant trust, and this could just be a PR stunt to win back customers.

Let's see who isn't on the list (yet)… phone companies, online retailers, hardware manufacturers...


Then, in today's news, we find that the NSA is spying on everyone playing multiplayer online games. They pretend to be something they aren't, then troll around. Great use of public funds, eh?

What country was this again?


What he said...

Yeah, I'm pretty cynical as well but am hoping the latest news re WOW and Second Life will wake up a few more people about the inanity of the scope of US Govt surveillance.

Meanwhile blogger Marcy Wheeler continues to shame the MSM national security crowd to do more than stenography. Here's the link to today's useful investigative post that touches on President Obama's decisions re transparency & surveillance generally:


Glenn Greenwald continues to stay abreast of all things civil liberties but until the new media outlet is launched, a good way to keep informed is to follow his Twitter feed at https://twitter.com/ggreenwald

The other blogger I recommend checking in on to stay informed on these matters is young Kevin Gosztola at Firedoglake: http://dissenter.firedoglake.com/
He has developed excellent sources over the last year, perhaps because of his coverage of the Manning trial? In any case, he also is forcing the MSM to step up their game. Check out his current coverage of drone-related activity in Pakistan as a good example. Are you seeing this kind of coverage elsewhere? If not, why not?


Open letter from 500 authors...

Writers from around the world say:

"A stand for democracy in a digital age

In recent months, the extent of mass surveillance has become common knowledge. With a few clicks of the mouse the state can access your mobile device, your email, your social networking and internet searches. It can follow your political leanings and activities and, in partnership with internet corporations, it collects and stores your data, and thus can predict your consumption and behaviour.

The basic pillar of democracy is the inviolable integrity of the individual. Human integrity extends beyond the physical body. In their thoughts and in their personal environments and communications, all humans have the right to remain unobserved and unmolested.

This fundamental human right has been rendered null and void through abuse of technological developments by states and corporations for mass surveillance purposes.

A person under surveillance is no longer free; a society under surveillance is no longer a democracy. To maintain any validity, our democratic rights must apply in virtual as in real space.

* Surveillance violates the private sphere and compromises freedom of thought and opinion.

* Mass surveillance treats every citizen as a potential suspect. It overturns one of our historical triumphs, the presumption of innocence.

* Surveillance makes the individual transparent, while the state and the corporation operate in secret. As we have seen, this power is being systemically abused.

* Surveillance is theft. This data is not public property: it belongs to us. When it is used to predict our behaviour, we are robbed of something else: the principle of free will crucial to democratic liberty.

WE DEMAND THE RIGHT for all people to determine, as democratic citizens, to what extent their personal data may be legally collected, stored and processed, and by whom; to obtain information on where their data is stored and how it is being used; to obtain the deletion of their data if it has been illegally collected and stored.


WE CALL ON ALL CITIZENS to stand up and defend these rights.

WE CALL ON THE UNITED NATIONS to acknowledge the central importance of protecting civil rights in the digital age, and to create an international bill of digital rights.

WE CALL ON GOVERNMENTS to sign and adhere to such a convention.

Signed by more than 500 writers from around the world"


Stand Up For Your Rights

The writers' petition has one especially memorable line:
WE CALL ON ALL CITIZENS to stand up and defend these rights.

I would love to see that happen even if it's just by writing our (sympathetic) congresspeople. Let's do that. After all, as many have said to me, if you haven't done anything wrong, what can they do to you? Americans' right to free speech is a cornerstone of our democracy and it's very much under threat. Be against blanket surveillance of citizens.


Proud to be on "The List."

I recently heard a news report that claimed the NSA can handle 5 BILLION online transfers a day. Think about that. That's almost the population of the entire planet.
If they could only have concentrated that much "firepower" for the healthcare website.

I say prove them to be what they are. Go ahead monitor me. Convict me of a crime that you've "made up". Put me in one of your FEMA camps somewhere. It will prove that we no longer live in the republic we thought we did.



I'd say their spying on all of us for no good reason already proves we no longer live in that republic.

These are the actions of those we typically consider the worst people on the planet - the Stasis, secret polices, inquisitors, and so on.


Why bother?

And now whistleblowers have united and written a letter…. Worth reading. It ends:

"Still, why bother? What can one person do? Well, Edward Snowden just showed you what one person can do. He stands out as a whistleblower both because of the severity of the crimes and misconduct that he is divulging to the public – and the sheer amount of evidence he has presented us with so far – more is coming. But Snowden shouldn't have to stand alone, and his revelations shouldn't be the only ones.

You can be part of the solution; provide trustworthy journalists – either from old media (like this newspaper) or from new media (such as WikiLeaks) with documents that prove what illegal, immoral, wasteful activites are going on where you work.

There IS strength in numbers. You won't be the first – nor the last – to follow your conscience and let us know what's being done in our names. Truth is coming – it can't be stopped. Crooked politicians will be held accountable. It's in your hands to be on the right side of history and accelerate the process.

Courage is contagious."

It is.


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