Scenes from a Restore the 4th rally against surveillance
In one of dozens of pro-privacy rallies around the country, demonstrators gathered blocks north of the White House on Independence Day to voice their worries.
They want privacy, and they’re willing to say it in public
Patrick Maynard, The Baltimore Sun
7:01 a.m. EDT, July 4, 2013
WASHINGTON — The crowd’s signs ranged from the earnest — “Privacy IS security” to the humorous — “Sorry about all the porn, it was research.” The attendance list is equally diverse, with everyone from members of the peacenik group Code Pink to a man waving a “don’t tread on me” Marines flag. All were gathered Thursday for a single purpose: To request that the United States government stop spying on them.
Chants of “restore the 4th” were common at an Independence Day rally in Washington’s McPherson Square, within shouting distance of the White House.
The call was a reference to the Bill of Rights article barring unreasonable search and seizure.
Speaker Madea Benjamin, who is a founder of Code Pink, argued that while such dissent was patriotic, even a fallback “love it or leave it” strategy wouldn’t work for many activists.
“A lot of people say ‘if things get really bad in the United States, maybe we can move somewhere else, like Canada’,” she told the crowd. “Don’t count on it. I can’t even go into Canada, because the FBI has shared our files with the Canadian government. And when people like me, who protest getting getting into the war with Iraq … some of us can’t even go to countries like Canada.”
Benjamin went on to urge celebration of whistleblowers, with words of praise for Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning, John Kiriaku and Thomas Drake. Those men leaked information about domestic spying programs, CIA torture programs, American drone activities and National Security Agency inefficiency, respectively.
Mentions of former Marylander Snowden got especially loud applause from the crowd.
“It’s very clear that he’s trying to show us for the first time that the NSA is focusing domestically,” said attendee Erik Sperling, describing how there had previously been a strong division between domestic law enforcement and international intelligence.
“The firewall is being eroded — it’s basically been destroyed.”
Snowden’s leaks in early June primarily acted to reveal two programs.
The first revelation, of a set of bulk government requests for metadata, told Americans that many citizens were having their entirely domestic call activity batch-stored by the intelligence community.
The second revelation involved a much more comprehensive profiling tool known as PRISM, which compiles detailed dossiers on worldwide Internet users, including the actions of many Americans.
Snowden is now seeking asylum internationally. Asked to explain why he repeatedly lied to Congress and the American public about the surveillance of their communication patterns, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has claimed in the past that he had simply forgotten about an important section of the USA Patriot Act, one of the most well-known pieces of intelligence legislation in the last two decades.
“I simply didn’t think of section 215 of the Patriot Act,” he wrote in a June letter.
At the Washington rally Thursday, which filled the southern quadrant of the park, speakers included Mudusar Raza, a practicing physician and Islamic community leader from Frederick. Raza made the argument that each amendment of the Bill of Rights relied on other amendments, even though each individual part is often most vigorously supported by groups that oppose each other.
“We are a step away from a police state,” he told the crowd. “Evil flourishes when good people do nothing. You need to continue this effort.”