Greenpeace takes to skies to protest NSA’s illegal mass surveillance program
The environmental campaigning group Greenpeace, digital rights watchdog Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the Tenth Amendment Center (TAC) joined forces to fly an airship over the NSA’s data center in Utah to protest the government’s illegal mass surveillance program.
Here’s a riddle: why would Greenpeace use its airship, which we’ve flown in the past to speak out against burning coal or overfishing, for a high-flying protest of the NSA’s illegal internet spying program?
Answer: It turns out the NSA’s illegal spying is a problem for the environment, too, just like coal or overfishing.
Here’s why: Greenpeace works with millions of people around the world every day who are trying to protect the environment, and to do that, they have to organize.
In the US and in any country that aspires to respect human rights, our ability to organize is protected by basic freedoms: things like our freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom from unreasonable searches. In the 21st century, we exercise most of those freedoms on the internet. Government surveillance like the NSA’s illegal spying program stifles our ability to do that, and will make it harder for people around the world to organize for the environment.
The data center there is one of the locations that the NSA uses to store data obtained via its internet surveillance program. Our 135-foot-long airship carried a banner with the message, “NSA Illegal Spying Below” along with a link steering people to a new web site, StandAgainstSpying.org, which a separate, diverse coalition of over 20 grassroots advocacy groups and Internet companies also launched today. The site grades members of Congress on what they have done, or often not done, to rein in the NSA.
As an organization that has been the target of government surveillance in the past, Greenpeace knows the chilling effect that programs like the NSA’s can have on our democracy. That’s why in addition to protest, we also are suing the NSA for violating our First Amendment right of association by illegally collecting call records.
This isn’t a partisan issue. It’s not often that Greenpeace partners with conservative groups, but we’re happy to join coalitions with groups from across the political spectrum that are willing to fight for the basic rights that are integral for a healthy democracy. And if Greenpeace and a conservative group can agree that NSA internet spying is a problem, shouldn’t that tell Congress something?
You don’t need your own airship to tell the government to respect your rights to privacy and assembly, and keep its hands off your internet.
“Rights rise or fall together,” Greenpeace Senior IT Campaigner Gary Cook said. “Greenpeace has learned firsthand that people cannot protect their right to clean air and water if our civil rights – including the right to free association and the right to be free of unreasonable searches – are stripped away.”
“The public needs to be brought into the Congressional debate around surveillance reform happening right now,” EFF Activism Director Rainey Reitman said. “We’re flying an airship over the Utah data center, which has come to symbolize the NSA’s collect-it-all approach to surveillance, and demanding an end to the mass spying. It’s time for bold action in defense of our privacy.”
“Our right to privacy is not a partisan issue. It’s a human rights issue,” said Michael Boldin, executive director and founder of the Tenth Amendment Center. “This coalition gives great hope for the future because it shows that people across the political spectrum can set aside differences to work together for common cause.”
Go to www.StandAgainstSpying.org and enter your zip code to look up your congressional members’ scores and find out whether they’re doing enough to rein in the NSA. They use the site to tweet directly at your members of Congress, thanking them for defending privacy or asking them to do more in the fight against mass spying. You can also sign an open letter to President Obama urging him to end the mass surveillance programs immediately, without waiting for Congress to act.