Wednesday, July 24, 2013

NOW OR NEVER: Congress to Vote on Ending NSA Surveillance Today // Left-Right Coalition Needs You to Call Your House Reps

MARYLAND JUICE PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: If you paid attention to the news in the last month, you likely discovered that the NSA, America's top-secret surveillance agency headquartered in Maryland, has been spying on and harvesting data on your telephone usage, email communications, social media accounts, and much more -- all in the name of your safety. Numerous major corporations have been complicit in providing the NSA and FBI access to your communications data, including Google, Microsoft, Apple, Skype, AOL, YouTube, Facebook, Sprint, Verizon, AT&T and more. But the surveillance dragnet has involved millions of innocent Americans with little to no transparency for the public and minimal oversight from members of Congress. The only reason we now have proof of this government snooping on residents of the United States is due to the disclosures made from a handful of whistleblowers dating back to the George W. Bush administration, and most recently from 29-year-old former defense contractor Edward Snowden -- who is now being pursued as a "traitor" and "spy" by the Obama administration.

In fact, due to the NSA's classification of their spying operations as top-secret information, Senators who knew about what was going on were not even allowed to talk about it. But as the liberal blog DailyKos recently reported, a trio of U.S. Senators has been warning us for years about this civil liberties travesty (excerpt below):
DAILYKOS: Over two years ago [U.S. Senators] Merkley, Udall and Wyden warned about the administration's surveillance overrreach: "I want to deliver a warning this afternoon,” Wyden said. “When the American people find out how their government has secretly interpreted the Patriot Act, they will be stunned and they will be angry...."

U.S. HOUSE VOTE TO END MASS SURVEILLANCE OF AMERICANS TODAY: This may be the only vote the American public gets out of Congress to finally curtail years of sketchy behavior from government spying agencies, so your diligence as a voter is urgently needed today (details below). Dozens of groups on the left and right are mobilizing their supporters to call members of Congress and urge them to vote to end mass surveillance of Americans. The Huffington Post reported on the rare development yesterday, and noted that the NSA is now lobbying against the interests of the people (excerpt below):
HUFFINGTON POST: The National Security Agency called for a "top secret" meeting with members of the House on Tuesday to lobby against the first House amendment to challenge the agency's authority to cull broad swaths of communications data, according to an invitation circulated in Congress.

The amendment was authored by Rep. Justin Amash, a libertarian Republican from Michigan, and cosponsored by former chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and liberal Michigan Democratic Rep. John Conyers. The House ruled the amendment in order on Monday, and it is expected to get a vote sometime this week.

NSA head Gen. Keith Alexander scheduled a last-minute, members-only briefing in response to the amendment, according to an invitation distributed to members of Congress this morning and forwarded to HuffPost. "In advance of anticipated action on amendments to the DoD Appropriations bill, Ranking Member C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger of the House Intelligence Committee invites your Member to attend a question and answer session with General Keith B. Alexander of the National Security Agency," reads the invitation. The invitation warned members that they could not share what they learned with their constituents or others....
The Amash amendment would put the House on record when it comes to NSA snooping. The measure, which would be attached to the Pentagon's spending bill, "ends authority for the blanket collection of records under the Patriot Act" and "bars the NSA and other agencies from using Section 215 of the Patriot Act to collect records, including telephone call records, that pertain to persons who are not subject to an investigation under Section 215...."
But Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee with access to classified details about the program, said there is no evidence that the data collection had been directly responsible for stopping any single plot. Civil libertarians, meanwhile, are aghast at the NSA's broad interpretation of the law, and even the [Patriot Act's] author said he was surprised at how it is being used....

IT'S NOW OR NEVER TO STAND UP FOR YOUR CIVIL LIBERTIES: The excuse by our nosy bureaucrats and government contractors over the years has been that the mass surveillance of Americans was all made legal years ago through the Patriot Act and FISA Amendments Act. Today you have an opportunity to take that excuse away from lawmakers and finally tell Congress to put their money where their mouths have been regarding civil liberties and your privacy rights. Please contact Maryland's U.S. House members and ask them to support the "Amash amendment" to end mass surveillance of Americans:

  • CD1: Rep. Andy Harris (GOP)  -  EmailTweet  or call 202-225-5311
  • CD2: Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (DEM)  -  EmailTweet  or call 202-225-3061
  • CD3: Rep. John Sarbanes (DEM)  -  EmailTweet  or call 202-225-4016
  • CD4: Rep. Donna Edwards (DEM)  -  EmailTweet  or call 202-225-8699
  • CD5: Rep. Steny Hoyer (DEM)  -  EmailTweet  or call 202-225-4131
  • CD6: Rep. John Delaney (DEM)  -  EmailTweet  or call 202-225-2721
  • CD7: Rep. Elijah Cummings (DEM)  -  EmailTweet  or call 202-225-4741
  • CD8: Rep. Chris Van Hollen (DEM)  -  EmailTweet  or call 202-225-5341

This issue speaks to the fundamental balance of power between the people and our government, and Maryland Juice will be fairly unforgiving to those Democrats who choose to stand with the military industrial complex on the side of the Bush-Ashcroft-Cheney surveillance state. You can find additional details on the effort to protect our civil liberties through the "Amash amendment" in the ACLU Fact Sheet below:

Full disclosure: Note that I work for a progressive, Internet Freedom organization called Demand Progress that has been fighting the NSA's surveillance efforts.

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