(NaturalNews) "Democracy requires an informed citizenry in order to function properly, and transparency and accountability are essential parts of that. That means knowing what our government is doing to us, in our name." - Bruce Schneier
"No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honor and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks." - UN Declaration on Human Rights
"Unwarranted government surveillance is an intrusion on basic human rights that threatens the very foundations of a democratic society." - Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web
"[The National Security Agency's] capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't matter. There would be no place to hide." - U.S. Sen. Frank Church
"Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." - Founding father Benjamin Franklin
How valuable is individualism, freedom and privacy to you?
These are just some of the quotes adoring the Stop Watching Us website https://optin.stopwatching.us/, a citizen petition established in the wake of recent revelations that our own government, via the National Security Agency has been intercepting all our electronic communications for years.
The purpose of the site is to enlist tens of millions of Americans who are outraged over the NSA's blanket surveillance, which the agency and its government and administration defenders say is necessary to "keep the country safe from terrorism" (it would be appropriate at this point to re-read Ben Franklin's quote).
"The revelations about the National Security Agency's surveillance apparatus, if true, represent a stunning abuse of our basic rights," says the site, which contains a link to a letter that will automatically be sent to your member of Congress upon signing the petition. "We demand the U.S. Congress reveal the full extent of the NSA's spying programs."
Here are excerpts of the letter:
We write to express our concern about recent reports published in the Guardian and the Washington Post, and acknowledged by the Obama Administration, which reveal secret spying by the National Security Agency (NSA) on phone records and Internet activity of people in the United States.
The Washington Post and the Guardian recently published reports based on information provided by an intelligence contractor showing how the NSA and the FBI are gaining broad access to data collected by nine of the leading U.S. Internet companies and sharing this information with foreign governments. As reported, the U.S. government is extracting audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track a person's movements and contacts over time. As a result, the contents of communications of people both abroad and in the U.S. can be swept in without any suspicion of crime or association with a terrorist organization.
The letter goes onto note that the leaked reports constitute an abuse of a previously controversial section of the USA Patriot Act, which was passed immediately following the 9/11 attacks which gave the government substantial new surveillance power, by government agencies via secret court order.
"The data collected by the NSA includes every call made, the time of the call, the duration of the call, and other 'identifying information' for millions of Verizon customers, including entirely domestic calls, regardless of whether those customers have ever been suspected of a crime," the letter states. "The Wall Street Journal has reported that other major carriers, including AT&T and Sprint, are subject to similar secret orders."
Such blanket data collection by the federal government "strikes at bedrock American values of freedom and privacy," the letter declares, and is an action that directly violates provisions of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution regarding privacy guarantees and the inability to search one's "person, papers and effects" without "probable cause."
Will you sign?
Specifically, the letter demands that Congress:
-- Reform both Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which spells out "the state secrets privilege," and the previously passed and amended 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 examine the breadth and scope of the domestic spying and report back to the American people;
-- Hold those public officials responsible for either conducting or permitting such "unconstitutional" surveillance to account.
"It will be shocking for me if American citizens allow this to continue." - Ai WeiWei, a Chinese contemporary artist