On June 5, 2013, the Guardian exposed a top-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court order that requires Verizon to give the National Security Agency records — so-called “metadata” — on all telephone calls in its systems.
The next day, the Guardian reported on the PRISM program, which allows the NSA to access millions of users’ emails and Web activity. PRISM and programs like it allow massive collection of communications from people outside the U.S., but they also sweep in domestic data.
The NSA’s spying programs threaten our basic rights to connect, communicate and organize. The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech and assembly, and the Fourth Amendment guarantees protection from warrantless seizure.
But companies like AT&T, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Verizon are tracking our phone calls and monitoring our emails, Web chats and other online activity — creating giant databases that are ripe for NSA spying. Worse, some of these companies are colluding with the government in ways that threaten free expression, privacy and the public interest.
The Free Press Action Fund helped found the Stop Watching Us coalition, which launched a petition calling for NSA accountability and legal reforms to protect our privacy. Close to 600,000 individuals and hundreds of organizations have signed on.
The coalition is urging Congress to form a special committee to investigate and report on the extent of the NSA’s spying. We’re also calling for revisions to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the Patriot Act so that they explicitly prohibit the blanket surveillance of Internet activity and phone records of U.S. residents.
On Oct. 26, 2013, the Stop Watching Us Coalition held the largest domestic rally against government spying to date. The Rally Against Mass Surveillance drew prominent speakers and thousands of people to Washington, D.C.
The fight for strong reforms continued throughout 2014 on into 2015, and on June 2, 2015, Congress passed the USA Freedom Act, which President Obama signed into law that same day. The new law curbs surveillance of our phone records and marks an important step toward protecting our privacy. But the Act does nothing to rein in online surveillance. The Free Press Action Fund will continue to advocate for more comprehensive reforms in the years ahead.