You can take action in opposition to the NSA and FBI surveillance programs by clicking here:

We are calling on Congress to take immediate action to halt this surveillance and provide a full public accounting of the NSA's and the FBI's data collection programs. We call on Congress to immediately and publicly:

1. Enact reform this Congress to Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, the state secrets privilege, and the 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;

2. Create a special committee to investigate, report, and reveal to the public the extent of this domestic spying. This committee should create specific recommendations for legal and regulatory reform to end unconstitutional surveillance;

3. Hold accountable those public officials who are found to be responsible for this unconstitutional surveillance.

Some participants (more added as they join in):

Katherine Maher (Access) = krmaher Steve Anderson (OpenMedia) = Steve_Media Trevor Timm (EFF) = TrevorEFF Josh Levy (Free Press) = levjoy Sina Khanifar (FixTheDMCA) = sinakh Zaid Jilani (PCCC) = boldprogressives David Segal (Demand Progress) = davidadamsegal Geoffrey MacDougal (Mozilla) = Taliesan Julian Sanchez = js-normative JP Schneider (Mozilla) -- jdotp

Comments: 839 • Responses: 84  • Date: 

squatly338 karma

What can those outside of the US do? For example, I am from the UK and would like to help however I can.

boldprogressives282 karma

One thing PCCC has been doing is fundraising for Edward Snowden's legal defense fund. Recall that Snowden has unveiled the scope of spying not only on Americans but on foreign citizens as well. You can donate here:

beatmaster8042 karma

isn't there the danger of losing the whole debate and goodwill of people by relying so heavily on Snowden? he could be the main source for everything good that comes out of it, but it could end the questioning of secrets entirely when he ends up being an overly engaged but mistaken idealist.

boldprogressives131 karma

We're defending Snowden because he did the right thing -- and if he's demonized in the public sphere, it may harm the entire cause. But PCCC in the coming weeks is going to be heavily engaged on the larger issue of indiscriminate government spying, and continue to demand that Congress investigate, share its results with the public, and then take action to change the law.

saintgoldie41 karma

My support of Snowden has been met with disdain. Not from everyone, but from most. It is very difficult to talk about his patriotism and whistleblower status. Do you have a clear/boiled down/easy for people to hear explanation of the significance of his actions in relation to civic duty etc?

boldprogressives28 karma

Curious, what's the political affiliation of the people giving you this response?

saintgoldie30 karma

They range from politically underactive democrats to bleeding heart liberals. Some of whom are 'on the fence'. (edit -I was not expecting this response - some view me as naive) The republicans are not talking to me right now :)

[deleted]10 karma


boldprogressives25 karma

We do think it will work, that's why we're pursuing it :)

taliesan88 karma

Everyone can sign at http://StopWatching.Us. Many of the people who built the site (me included) don't live in the US.

krmaher76 karma

Hey there! There are a few things that people can do to help. As taliesan said, you can sign the petition at StopWatching.Us. We'll be continuing to evolve the site so that international folks can better take part, and then we'll be delivering those petitions to Congress.

You can also sign onto a joint petition by Access and EFF to the CEOs of the nine internet companies listed in the Guardian and other reports. A huge part of their existing and growth markets are outside the US. Tell them that as a customer, you demand they use their influence and stature to call on Congress for reforms. They all have big offices in DC and contacts in Congress. Here's the link to Access' petition:, and here's the one from EFF: (they're the same letter).

Finally, as a UK -- or European -- citizen, you can get in touch with your MEP from the UK and demand they support the European Commission's inquiry into PRISM.

While you're at it, you probably want to tell those MEPs to support a strong Data Protection Regulation -- legislation currently in front of committee that will be critical to preserving privacy in Europe:

Edit: embedded links

davidadamsegal43 karma

Others will surely have more to say -- Access and OpenMedia and other orgs involved here do a lot of international work. I really think that one useful angle is to put pressure on web corporations that are based in the U.S. but also operate (and frequently have way more users) abroad.

twrling26 karma

Tracy Rosenberg with Media Alliance here. Hey everyone. I think there's critical things for people outside the US to do. International pressure is crucial to moving the bar in Washington DC. The UK government needs to hear from UK citizens that they're not happy with US snooping on their communications with people residing in the US and they want the UK government to insist that it stop. No blanket surveillance without a reason. I don't know what petitions etc are up and running in the UK, but get to know your MP, make sure they know what you think and make sure others do the same. And yes, throw Mr. Snowden a few bucks too....

Peter1000006 karma

Rebounding on that, do people who, have a past in USA(lived 3 years) and are europeans, have NSA records?

NickCalyx24 karma

I would say that the chances are quite high, wouldn't you ?

jlangvad331 karma

United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Article 12 “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” [emphasis ours]

Article 19 “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”. [emphasis is mine]

jlangvad239 karma

Basically, NSA spying on citizen conflicts with UNs Declaration of Human Rights. I think it's time for UN to step up the criticism of NSA and PRISM

krmaher118 karma

Totally. I'd point out that international civil society organizations made a statement to the UN Human Rights Council on Monday about this. Here's the statement:

And here's the story about how it happened:

krmaher76 karma

Also, the UN Human Rights Council also recently received a report by the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, Frank La Rue, on this exact subject: surveillance and human rights, which specifically mentioned FISA. Because of the mention of FISA, the U.S. delegation declined to endorse his findings.

Specifically, La Rue said that the superior technical capabilities of states, along with the increasingly favorable economics of surveillance, means that states can now “achieve almost complete control of tele- and online communications.”

In its section on the extra-territorial application of surveillance law, La Rue cited FISA as part of “alarming trend towards the extension of surveillance powers beyond territorial borders," which would increase the "risk of cooperative agreements between State law enforcement and security agencies to enable the evasion of domestic legal restrictions," and that "these forms of surveillance raise “serious concern with regard to the... inability of individuals to know that they might be subject to foreign surveillance, challenge decisions with respect to foreign surveillance, or seek remedies.”

NickCalyx298 karma

Hey all, Nick Merrill from The Calyx Institute here - we are a member of the coalition as well, and I'm happy to be here and to take part in this !

trevorEFF288 karma

Does everyone know Nick? He is a hero. He was the first person to challenge a National Security Letter in court, despite the fact he was breaking the (unconstitutional) gag order, just by telling his lawyer he received one.

Read more about his story here:

More good news: A judge in California just ruled all National Security Letters unconstitutional in an EFF case a month ago. The case is on appeal and the ruling is on hold until the Court of Appeals hears the case.

PhishGreenLantern159 karma

You know, this actually speaks to the whole "nothing to hide" issue. Here you have a situation where, down the road, the issue at hand would be found to be unconstitutional (ie: the NSL). But in order to even challenge the letter Merrill had to break the law and talk to his lawyer. Imagine a situation where that act was known and both Merrill and the lawyer were snapped up for breaking the law.

Without the ability to break the law we lose the ability to challenge it. If we lose the ability to challenge the law we've lost our freedom.

NickCalyx33 karma

My fear at that time was that I would just disappear

The President at the time had asserted that he had the right to declare anyone to be an enemy combatant and jail them indefinitely

NickCalyx69 karma

thanks trevor.. in case anyone doesn't know about the Doe v. Ashcroft/Doe v. Gonzalez/Doe v. Mukasey/Doe v. Holder case here are a couple of references:

"How Doe v. Ashcroft Struck Down A Provision Of The USA PATRIOT Act" -

"Doe v. Holder : Internet Service Provider's NSL"

"My National Security Letter Gag Order"

"Doe v. Mukasey (Doe v. Gonzalez Doe v. Ashcroft)" -

julmariii12 karma

Im just going to ask for us non USA redditors: Is Doe like "John Doe" i.e Everybody? Or is it some other term or an actual person?

NickCalyx9 karma

In certain contexts John Doe ( or Jane Doe ) is used as a name when they don't know ( or can't say ) the person's name.

VictoryAkara130 karma

I have a question for anyone who is willing to provide a good response for people to read.

There are a lot of people that are under the assumption that just because they are doing nothing illegal, means they have nothing to hide.

What would you tell them to get them to open up there eyes a little?

trevorEFF317 karma

The old adage 'if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear,' was originally coined by Richard Nixon's attorney general John Mitchell, who notoriously allowed rampant domestic spying, and later went to jail during Watergate.

This is one of the best article ever written on the FISA Amendments Act and warrantless wiretapping, and it explains how that phrase is meaningless in this context:

Two more things:

  1. Anyone who says 'if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear,' doesn't really believe it if you press them on it. Just ask them to turn over their email passwords to you so you can publish their emails on the Internet. They'll naturally recoil in horror.

  2. Luckily, this country was founded on the opposite principle. The Fourth Amendment puts the burden on the government to show why they can invade our privacy, not the other way around. We shouldn't have to prove that we're not breaking the law, the government has to prove that they have a reason collect our data. That's why this NSA spying scandal is so outrageous.

VictoryAkara22 karma

Thank you for the awesome response. And I wholeheartedly agree with you 110%. Just sickens me that some people actually believe that they should have the right.

A follow up question if you do not mind answering or someone else :

Has this NSA spy scandal actually ever STOPPED some sort of terrorist attack / Bombing / School Shooting / Someone committing suicide and whatnot? Or is it just like the TSA in that regard?

trevorEFF58 karma

The government last week said that the NSA program stopped a New York City subway bombing attempt in 2009. But the Associated Press looked into it, and found the claim to be very misleading. Turns out, the government didn't need the NSA program, and could have easily gotten all the emails and phone records by going through normal, Fourth Amendment complaint criminal procedures.

So far no other concrete evidence has been provided that it's been effective.

Dskhanna100 karma

There are a bunch of problems with this argument.

  1. First is massive overcriminalization: each of us has likely committed felonies this year. One new book title is "Three Felonies a Day" on the topic of overcriminalization. Did you use Google under the age of 18? Until recently that was a violation of their terms of service, which under some jurisdictions is a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) [Hacking statute]. Have you jailbroken/unlocked your iPhone - unlocking is now illegal, jailbreaking an iPhone is legal but an iPad is not (yes no sense). One of the critical checks upon government power is that it has to expend energy and resources to investigate criminal activity - it's one check that protects us even with overcriminalization.

In a world where we have all violated the law, and the federal government has information on all of us - it's a system ripe for abuse. And that abuse could be a prosecutor looking for a win (US v. Drew), it could be to go after partisan rivals (Nixon IRS/Tea Party IRS), or it could be used to go after "troublesome" people trying to change society and policy (Martin Luther King Jr. comes to mind who the FBI was trying to go after).

  1. Even if you didn't commit a crime, people have personal details they may not want exposed. With the Verizon data, even who you call can be used to learn more. Big data can be applied in interesting ways, a new book talks about how Target knows when a woman is pregnant - in one case before her own family knew. Information about calling an HIV clinic, or an abortion facility could be cross-compared with other data and lead to conclusions about very personal details of people's lives. Details that we have a right to keep private.

  2. This data is being shared with other countries, at least the UK, so if you trust the good folks at the NSA, do you trust every other country's intel services?

  3. The NSA doesn't seem to be very good at internal security - trusting all our records with them seems like a big target.

  4. Given how data costs continue to plummet every year on path similar to Moore's Law, retaining all this data is now possible. . . and technology people (you all) know that once someone is in data form it generally never goes away (unless there are serious space constraints which are disappearing).

Read Julian Sanchez's awesome piece here:

And I briefly touched on this in my article with National Review:

Dskhanna35 karma

Also the phone unlocking issue demonstrates how corporations can use agency regulation and the law for their own purposes rather than the general good. Therefore you may be violating laws written by corporations without even knowing it and placing yourself in liability. For our phone unlocking campaign, my Congressional testimony was on the sheer ridiculousness of making this illegal. Most people are unaware of it being illegal because it's a good technology = makes no sense. But it's a clear example of crony-capitalism, which combined with a police state where the NSA knows everything - is a very scary thing. There were 23 million jailbroken phones, until January when that was illegal, determining all those phones and arresting all of them for a felony would have been possible if the govt was so inclined.

davidadamsegal59 karma

Mass surveillance is used by institutions to entrench their power. The U.S. has a recent and ongoing history of spying on activism of all sorts, disrupting attempts -- via peaceful, legal means -- to turn the country/world into a better place. Including, of course, the OWS movement. (And anti-war and labor and racial justice movements, and so on, before that.) So if you love everything about the state of the world and you trust a crony-capitalist government to do what's right then perhaps you can rationalize not having much to worry about. But if you can imagine ways in which you'd like to see governance and/or the corporations who have outsized influence over it improve... a broad surveillance state is a great way of ensuring that the status quo will be entrenched.

lyserge56 karma

I find this article explains the issues quite well:

In particular, this key paragraph:

"Commentators often attempt to refute the nothing-to-hide argument by pointing to things people want to hide. But the problem with the nothing-to-hide argument is the underlying assumption that privacy is about hiding bad things. By accepting this assumption, we concede far too much ground and invite an unproductive discussion about information that people would very likely want to hide. As the computer-security specialist Schneier aptly notes, the nothing-to-hide argument stems from a faulty "premise that privacy is about hiding a wrong." Surveillance, for example, can inhibit such lawful activities as free speech, free association, and other First Amendment rights essential for democracy."

Dskhanna10 karma

Great quotation.

Dskhanna57 karma

I'd be interested in Reddit'ers response to DNI Clapper's statement's to Sen. Wyden where he appeared to lie to Wyden about the NSA's programs:

March 12, 2013, Senate Intelligence Hearing:

Wyden: And this is for you, Director Clapper, again on the surveillance front. And I hope we can do this in just a yes or no answer because I know Senator Feinstein wants to move on. Last summer the NSA director was at a conference and he was asked a question about the NSA surveillance of Americans. He replied, and I quote here, '...the story that we have millions or hundreds of millions of dossiers on people is completely false.' The reason I'm asking the question is, having served on the committee now for a dozen years, I don't really know what a dossier is in this context. So what I wanted to see is if you could give me a yes or no answer to the question: Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?"

Clapper: "No, sir."

Wyden: "It does not."

Clapper: "Not wittingly. There are cases where they could inadvertently perhaps collect, but not wittingly."

Wyden: "All right. Thank you. I'll have additional questions to give you in writing on that point, but I thank you for the answer." (video here:

Clapper's statement appears to have misled the relevant Congressional Committee, and more importantly, misled Members of Congress who don't receive the information that the Intelligence Committee receives. Ultimately these statements misled the general public. This obfuscation of the truth inhibited the Intelligence Committee from performing proper oversight, which is the primary role of the Intelligence Committee. There is little point in having an oversight committee for intelligence if members of the intelligence community can simply lie when asked questions before a hearing.

Misspeaking at a hearing may be a mistake. Misspeaking before the Intelligence Committee is an extremely grievous mistake. But even more egregious here is the Clapper had ample time to correct the record and apparently failed to do so. Statements made at hearings are not coffee shop like discussions; rather, they are carefully prepared in advance. [We now know that Wyden send him the question in advance and gave him a chance to correct the record after the fact but Clapper failed to do so].

If Clapper did not have a prepared answer for this question, it's extremely likely that the NSA counsel would have reviewed his statement after the hearing - putting him on notice that if his statement was incorrect he had the obligation to correct it. In fact, if the NSA's counsel knew that Clapper was lying or misspeaking, he may have had a legal obligation to tell Clapper to inform the Committee of his misstatement. And, under a similar procedure for lying at court, if Clapper refused to correct the record then the Counsel may have had an obligation to tell the Committee anyway. This gives some perspective on the legal severity of lying to a congressional committee.

President Obama has claimed that Congress was aware of all ongoing programs of this nature. The Administration can't have it both ways. It can't claim that Congress was in the loop and signed off when the Director of National Intelligence appears to have at best misled and at worst lied to the relevant oversight branch.

You can read the rest of my argument on the implications of Clapper's testimony here:

acerskin49 karma

Hey. Thanks for the AMA..

How big an effect do you think the petition can have? Are any of the elected "leaders" supporting the petition?

Though I already signed it, I am still sceptical of the impact we can have..

levjoy71 karma

The only way to stop secret surveillance is to organize a movement against it and to hold our elected officials accountable. They're the ones who passed the laws that are letting this happen; they're the only ones who can pass the reforms we're calling for.

davidadamsegal53 karma

It's definitely got to go deeper than just petitions -- we'd love to hear your thoughts on what the broader community is willing to do. The RestoreTheFourth activity seems incredibly important, and many of our orgs are looking for ways to support those events.

We've had a number of elected officials speak out in support of investigations and accountability, and a substantial minority of elected officials have been voting against Patriot Act and FISA Amendments Act reauthorization in recent years -- some specifically because of their concerns about these programs. We need to figure out ways to support and work with them.

boldprogressives35 karma

We've already seen Members of Congress from both parties step up to take on this issue -- buoyed by the public outpouring of outrage and action.

One example, within less than a week of the news breaking, we had legislation from Rand Paul that would limit the scope of government spying, and Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley got bipartisan support -- from Republican Sens. Heller and Lee -- for a bill that would make FISA court holdings public so we finally know more about the scope of the secret law governing spying.

EDIT: I also want to add that there will be a defense appropriations bill up for a vote next week and an intel bill in a few weeks -- getting a critical mass especially for a House vote on great legislation from folks like Alan Grayson, Justin Amash, and John Conyers makes it a very winnable goal.

Dskhanna21 karma

Having worked on the Hill for three years, I was surprised at the impact that a number of constituents calling their office could have upon a Congressional Member. Now if a 1000 people called their Congressman in February and said the NSA is monitoring us, make them stop, that would have probably been disregarded -- but now we have the data to back up the assertion that the NSA is obtaining this data.

So the petition is a great start, but a campaign towards individual Members is important. Particularly campaigns with specific asks. For example, I wrote an article recently on whether DNI Clapper lied before the Senate Intelligence Committee and whether that may be a serious potentially impeachable offense:

Dskhanna20 karma

Also, a petition allows you to find out who your allies are. And there are a number of Tea Party, Libertarian and conservative groups that are very engaged on this issue. Campaign for Liberty, R Street and Freedomworks have signed the letter to Congress so far. So this is really a non-partisan effort, and because it's not on traditional party lines (like other tech issues) it may be more achievable.

acerskin3 karma

This is great.. Thanks!

Is there any way to show our support for these bills?

NickCalyx6 karma

yes you would need to at the very least telephone your senator or congressperson and ask them to co-sponsor the bills

or better yet organize an event in your community where you teach people what the problem is and urge them to call, or write letters

arayanexus39 karma

First off - thank you all. For all the tremendous work that you do to fight and educate.

What can an average Jane desk-jockey (who needs to keep her day job to pay the bills) do to compete against a government who can not only set this up, but get my representatives to pass laws to make (most of) this legal?

To risk being rude, I'm not looking for the answer "Donate to the EFF and other orgs". While I understand that does help... I'm still sitting here at my desk clicking "submit" on another form of petition. And I do. And I will continue. But there has to be something more...

boldprogressives65 karma

Right now, there is a culture on Capitol Hill where many Members think their only vulnerability on this issue is that they aren't supportive enough of overly broad government spying programs. By mobilizing, we can change that culture and let politicians know that there is actually a vulnerability to violating our basic freedom to privacy and other freedoms related to civil liberties. We saw Congress fall back during the SOPA/PIPA fight.

Also, I want to share a personal story. I once attended a meeting of for-profit college lobbyists. They had brought in Doug Sosnik, who was an advisor to President Clinton and also worked on Kerry's presidential campaign. Sosnik explained that he had worked for the MPAA and they thought they totally owned the issue of SOPA/PIPA and would win because they had Washington's lobbyists all on their side. Then he bluntly said they were "roadkill" because they didn't think about people outside of Washington. They didn't realize they would protest and wake up and work really hard to stop the legislation.

Washington's special interests -- in this case the military-industrial-intelligence-contractor complex -- are very powerful, but when ordinary people get into the game in huge numbers, they can lose. They WANT you to think you don't have any power. That's the way they win.

davidadamsegal17 karma

Polling on this issue has been really interesting, with Republicans expressing more outrage than Dems about surveillance. (Obv Obama being in charge is a big factor in that.) But that outrage isn't yet mapping as it could/should to responses from elected Repubs, out side of people like Paul, Lee, Amash.

The Tea Party runs people against incumbents for voting for resolutions to keep the government operating -- will it also run people against Repub incumbents who support surveillance, oppose civil liberties, etc? (Looking at you, New Hampshire's Sen. Kelly Ayotte...)

boldprogressives14 karma

Interestingly, in Georgia, tea partiers ran candidates against Republicans who opposed restricting lobbying gifts to lawmakers. This was an actual political liability for incumbents, a number of whom lost.

These left-right coalitions can be incredibly powerful.

rytis10 karma

Though I totally agree with you, you would be surprised at how quickly apathy sets in. PRISM is today's hot subject, but in three weeks? Will it still be in the national consciousness? Those lobbyists are trying to wait people out. And as for SOPA/PIPA, new legislation is being drafted that would essentially do the same thing. They are counting on people not gearing up for a second or third fight.

Sadly the general media upholds this approach. They report on every alleged or real terrorist incident (look at the insane coverage of the Boston bombing), yet barely mention what the downside of all this internal blanket spying is. I applaud your efforts, I will add my single voice, but this is going to be a tough fight.

boldprogressives18 karma

History has had many tough fights -- and thanks to people like you we've won them!

As for keeping the story going, Greenwald has pledged to continue to release spying scoops. I imagine The Guardian is working to fact-check every single thing they release vigorously, and it's only been a little bit more than a week and they broke two huge stories.

levjoy28 karma

To answer this and a related question above — there's always something more you can do.

The good folks running Restore the Fourth here on reddit are organizing IRL rallies on July 4. You can join those.

You can march in a local July 4 parade holding a "Stop Watching Us" sign (or something).

You can organize meetings at your member of Congress' local office where you can voice your concerns to staff (these can be very effective).

You can call your member of Congress once a day, every day, and help others do the same.

And you can become an organizer yourself, build out a network of other activists, and use the collective wisdom of the group to develop other, more creative tactics.

ragingranny8 karma

No matter what laws they pass or how they play word games to justify it, this is UNCONSTITUTIONAL and a violation of the UN Doctrine of Human Rights. We live in an increasingly paperless society. My phone calls, correspondence and documents on my computer and the internet ARE the 21st century equivalent of "papers".

NickCalyx11 karma

I agree, and The 800lb gorilla that the media is largely ignoring is that just 3 months ago the DNI testified before Congress that Americans data wasn't being captured by the NSA "willingly", yet it's apparent from the leaked FISA subpoena that this is far from being true.

rytis8 karma

So, wasn't he committing perjury?

NickCalyx4 karma

It sure looks that way to me.. I guess it depends on whether it was a sworn statement or not

SpinningHead27 karma

Do we know any more about how much and what kinds of data have been collected?

trevorEFF52 karma

These leaks have given us a better understanding than ever before about what kind of data is being collected, however, as Democratic Rep. Loretta Sanchez said two days ago after attending a classified briefing, this is 'just the tip of the iceberg.'

What we know:

--The leaked Verizon FISA court order in the Guardian showed the NSA is vacuuming up all call records data from Verizon customers in the US. That's not the content of the calls, but who you're talking to, when, where, and for how long. And this isn't just foreign calls, it's all domestic calls too.

After Senators confirmed these orders are "routine," it's been reported that similar orders exist for AT&T and Sprint too. They government is claiming they can do this under a controversial provision in the Patriot Act known as Section 215, which Sen. Ron Wyden has been warning about for years.

--PRISM is a program that involves the major internet companies: Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft, etc. This program allegedly does include content, but is targeted at foreigners who are talking to people in the US. It's not directly targeting US customers like the phone records program is. But naturally, US communications will get vacuumed up along the way too since the targets are all talking to people inside the US, and the NSA reportedly only has to be 51% certain the person they are spying on is in another country.

The supposed authority they're using for this program is the FISA Amendments Act, a terrible law passed in 2008 that was meant to institutionalize Bush's warrantless wiretapping program. Congress shamefully re-authorized this bill in December while rejecting any of the modest transparency amendments that were offered by Sen. Ron Wyden. You can read more about that vote and the law here:

thesoftbulletin11 karma

We know they took all the metadata about phone calls, do we know if they took metadata on other cellular services? Like text messages or internet traffic history?

NickCalyx18 karma

Based on what was exposed in the Jewel v. NSA case I think that's a given

davidadamsegal32 karma

William Binney, who built data collection systems for the NSA but quit in disgust a decade ago, claims that there's much deeper surveillance going on, inclusive of the recording of calls and such. (His credibility is buttressed by the government's ongoing harassment of him.) This video is worth watching:

js-normative12 karma

The Wall Street Journal has reported that the metadata program encompasses records not only from phone carriers, but also Internet Service Providers and credit card companies. The one order we've seen encompasses all "routing information" which for cell phones would almost certainly include location information. The records obtained are "anonymized," though that means relatively little given the ease with which you can tie a number to a name even if you're not the NSA.

systemstheorist26 karma

I am pleased to see this many internet heavy weight attack this issue head on.

"What are the big risks that you feel no one is talking about yet?"

fightforthefuture48 karma

I think people aren't talking enough about what it means that several thousand (or more) employees and contractors for the NSA and FBI can access literally any person or organization's closely held secrets.

I mean, that is a ton of power.

What couldn't you do with it? Flip a presidential election. Dramatically manipulate the stock market value of a company. Destroy the career of a pretty good percentage of public figures over affairs, embarrassing fetishes, or minor past indiscretions.

And there are thousands of people with access to this at their desk, not to mention all the sysadmins like Snowden who clearly had access to more than anyone realized or really thought about.

Not to mention the fact that PRISM-- or a system like it-- was hacked by the Chinese a few years back, as reported in the Washington Post. So there's the potential for completely unauthorized access as well.

NickCalyx5 karma

The idea that building backdoors in for security reasons can backfire and cause less security reminds me of a story:

The case of a wiretapping scandal involving the mobile phone carrier Vodafone, operating in Greece.

Vodafone used Ericsson switches for their mobile carrier, which have a backdoor built into them to support "legal intercept" of conversations in order to comply with the US law known as "CALEA" ( Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act is a United States wiretapping law passed in 1994, during the presidency of Bill Clinton (Pub. L. No. 103-414, 108 Stat. 4279, codified at 47 USC 1001-1010). )

Because the phone switches had this backdoor built in, unauthorized person used this facility to record the phone calls of the Greek prime minister and others.. The guilty part(ies) were never caught.

( "The phones tapped included those of the Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis and members of his family, the Mayor of Athens, Dora Bakoyannis, most phones of the top officers at the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry for Public Order, members of the ruling party, ranking members of the opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement party (PASOK), the Hellenic Navy General Staff, the previous Minister of Defense and one phone of a locally hired Greek American employee of the American Embassy. Phones of Athens-based Arab businessmen were also tapped.")


Cmister20 karma

Has there been any evidence or suggestion that information gathered by the NSA that detects crime but not terrorism, has been shared with domestic law enforcement? Is there any history of such sharing? Are there any laws that prevent this type of information sharing?

js-normative26 karma

FISA information has been used at least once in an ordinary criminal case when a subject under FISA surveillance was recorded murdering his daughter. The metadata program operates under §215, and the law states that the "minimization procedures" governing that data shall: "allow for the retention and dissemination of information that is evidence of a crime which has been, is being, or is about to be committed and that is to be retained or disseminated for law enforcement purposes. "

MGmirkin16 karma

Unreasonable search & seizure much? Where's the probable cause? Where's the warrant? Where's the right to confront one's accuser? Etc.?

This stuff seems nothing more than "fishing." Tantamount to the government requesting access to your house any time it wants to barge in and search it, or to monitoring your comings and goings every second of every day without and actual reason for it.

NSL (National Security Letters)

PRISM (spying on the roots of the internet)

NSA collecting blanket phone records from phone compan(ies)

All things that need addressing.

js-normative23 karma

Unfortunately, a terrible and incoherent Supreme Court ruling from the 70s held that the Fourth Amendment generally does not apply to these types of records. I explain what happened—and why the Court needs to revisit that ruling—in a bit of detail here. (Ignore the linkbait headline chosen by my editor...)

lazl0w14 karma

What exactly can they see with this program?

sinakh22 karma

One of the biggest problems right now is the complete lack of transparency. We have no idea how much they have access too, but if Edward Snowden's claims are true, they can access almost anything you might be storing online: including emails, chats, video calls, etc. We're asking Congress to set up a committee to investigate because it's crucial that we find out.

letsvisitcountries12 karma

Will this act affect those outside of the US as much?

krmaher21 karma

This affects those outside the US as much, if not more, than those inside the US, as foreign nationals are explicitly the targets of this surveillance, and are not subject to the same protections afforded American citizens under law.

Much of the response to these revelations from the US administration and Congress has been to emphasize that "Americans" are not targeted (although that's a really low barrier of assessment, of just 49% likelihood that you are not a 'US person'). That reinforces the fact that these programs are explicitly intended to capture the communications of individuals outside of the United States.

This is a fairly clear violation of your rights to privacy and free expression as outlined in Articles 17 and 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) -- to which the United States is signatory -- as well as Articles 12 and 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

js-normative12 karma

As Katherine points out, it arguably affects those outside the U.S. even more. Information about Americans is at least subject to somewhat stringent "minimization procedures" that limit how it can be retained and circulated. There are no such protections for people outside the United States, and we do know our intelligence agencies selectively share the information they gather with allied foreign governments.

acangiano11 karma

What is your answer for those concerned that joining this list won't do much good and instead just solicit unwanted attention from big brother?

levjoy17 karma

Big Brother is watching anyway :)

But seriously, as I mentioned in the comment above, taking this action WILL do something if we form a critical mass. Our elected officials actually do listen to constituents when they speak loudly enough, and as others have already noted, there members of Congress who are already speaking out against this.

AllHailScience10 karma

Personally, I am in complete support of what you are doing and already signed, but I have heard a lot of opposition particularly from older generations and those who are not tech savvy. If you had to convince someone (who maybe isn't as up to date on current technological affairs*) in 30 seconds or less why they should sign this petition, what would you say?

levjoy17 karma

I've been using a few examples:

  • Imagine if the government opened all of your physical mail before delivering it to you.

  • Imagine if the government went into everyone's homes and ripped off the window curtains.

  • An engaged democracy depends on the freedom to communicate and associate in private. (1st and 4th amendments.)

NickCalyx10 karma

It's true - this begs the question:

If FISA can issue bogus unconstitutional subpoenas for everyone in America's phone records or Internet traffic (without particularized suspicion or probable cause) then why couldn't it issue a blanket warrant to search everyone in America's home on the same basis ?

js-normative12 karma

Remind people old enough to remember the Church Committee what happened last time there was unchecked intelligence surveillance for "national security." Then ask them what it might have looked like if, say, J. Edgar Hoover had enjoyed access to the sheer quantity of data flowing through NSA today.

amilynn8 karma

Do Google, Microsoft, Skype, AOL, Facebook and the others have any legal recourse now that the public is aware of the problem? Is there any form of civil disobedience they could reasonably engage in to fight for our privacy?

davidadamsegal14 karma

Here's what Google's been saying. They're still constrained, but are pushing back against the secrecy that shrouds the program:

This morning we sent the following letter to the offices of the Attorney General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Read the full text below. -Ed.

Dear Attorney General Holder and Director Mueller

Google has worked tremendously hard over the past fifteen years to earn our users’ trust. For example, we offer encryption across our services; we have hired some of the best security engineers in the world; and we have consistently pushed back on overly broad government requests for our users’ data.

We have always made clear that we comply with valid legal requests. And last week, the Director of National Intelligence acknowledged that service providers have received Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requests.

Assertions in the press that our compliance with these requests gives the U.S. government unfettered access to our users’ data are simply untrue. However, government nondisclosure obligations regarding the number of FISA national security requests that Google receives, as well as the number of accounts covered by those requests, fuel that speculation.

We therefore ask you to help make it possible for Google to publish in our Transparency Report aggregate numbers of national security requests, including FISA disclosures—in terms of both the number we receive and their scope. Google’s numbers would clearly show that our compliance with these requests falls far short of the claims being made. Google has nothing to hide.

Google appreciates that you authorized the recent disclosure of general numbers for national security letters. There have been no adverse consequences arising from their publication, and in fact more companies are receiving your approval to do so as a result of Google’s initiative. Transparency here will likewise serve the public interest without harming national security.

We will be making this letter public and await your response.

David Drummond Chief Legal Officer


How realistic do you think is it for the government to stop spying on its citizens?

Disclaimer: Not shooting down the cause, just wondering if you think the US government is likely to listen rather than blow you off (as they seem to prefer the latter).

trevorEFF17 karma

The government is never going to stop conducting surveillance. Nor should they stop completely - if surveillance is narrowly targeted at people where there is probable cause of a crime, and an independent judge is overseeing it, it's should be legitimate to use to in criminal cases.

Unfortunately, there is no such oversight here. We don't even fully know what they're doing, and that is the first and biggest problem. The government needs to be transparent about what type of surveillance they're conducting and how many people it affects. It seems they've been operating a mass domestic spying program in complete secrecy for at least seven years.

Then, we need to pass laws that require this transparency. After that, we need to add much, much more oversight and restrictions on what they do, since we now know they are vacuuming up the phone records of every American with no suspicion of criminal activity whatsoever, which is antithetical to the Constitution

d0gsbody8 karma

If we don't stop this slide into pervasive surveillance, what unintended consequences do you think will have occurred in the next 20 years?

twrling14 karma

Guilty until proven innocent. With everything that implies.

BeyondAddiction8 karma

What steps are your companies taking to ensure that our information is kept secure from PRISM and other programs like it?

taliesan18 karma

At Mozilla, data associated with our user's browsing and search history is stored locally in the browser. We don't have any centralized database of our users browsing and searching data that is readable by Mozilla.

mxchael8 karma

Do you think encrypting web traffic in SSL can prevent the data from being mined? People think the companies who provide the certificates can't be trusted. Do we maybe need a open non-profit organisation for providing these certificates or do we need a whole new SSL/encryption alternative?

sinakh11 karma

I'd highly recommend reading security reseacher Moxie Marlinspike's take on SSL, security, and the future of online encryption:

"Generally speaking, all secure protocols need to provide three things: secrecy, integrity, and authenticity. If any of these break, the whole protocol breaks. SSL doesn’t do any of the three very elegantly by today’s standards (and in many cases just barely squeaks by), but most of the practical attacks we’ve seen over the past ten years have focused on the authenticity piece. The designers of SSL chose to use Certification Authorities as a key component of the authenticity process, and we’ve been stuck with that decision even after having long since outgrown the circumstances in which it was originally imagined.

Lately, however, the general perception of Certification Authorities seems to be shifting from the old vibe of “total ripoff” to a new vibe of “total ripoff and also insecure.” So there has been a growing amount of talk about changing the authenticity piece of SSL."

crudomacdoogle7 karma

What's the plan once this falls off the Media radar?

I already couldn't find it on CNN's front page last night.

davidadamsegal10 karma

This is part of why getting investigations moving is so important -- so there'll be ongoing attention on this issue, with a trickle of actionable revelations that keep it on the media's radar.

crudomacdoogle6 karma

Toward that end, do we have sympathetic congressmen who will champion the cause? Other than the ones who are already labeled as tinhatters.
This is the part that bothers me so much, I mean we already knew that the NSA has been doing this for years, but now we know how much our own congress doesn't give a shit.

twrling5 karma

Looks like that is starting to happen. Loretta Sanchez from Orange County isn't exactly a radical, but even she was getting into the act yesterday.

reddystone5 karma

Do you guys think that there are other countries out there watching its users too?

What can one do if they found out their government is spying on them? (especially if the country is democratic)

NickCalyx7 karma

To address the 2nd half of your question: maybe they should leak proof to the press or whistle blowing organizations.. they can go all out like Edward Snowden or they could use something like Strongbox to leak to the New Yorker magazine, or leak to wikileaks, etc.

js-normative7 karma

Yes. Some EU countries have raised an outcry over this program, but most are no less aggressive about surveillance, though few have quite the resources the NSA commands.

NacMacFeegle5 karma

First of all, thank you for doing this AMA.

Now, to my question. Without trying to sound defeatist, isn't it true that your efforts, all the talk about lawsuits against the U.S. Government, all the criticism from various parties etc. won't make the slightest difference for most Internet users since we are neither located in the U.S. nor are we U.S. citizens?

Isn't it the truth that no matter what you may achieve domestically, the rest of us will all still be subject to this surveillance, without possibility of challenging it in any real way (because frankly, signing a protest list won't actually do diddly squat when the U.S. intelligence community is on the other side)?

levjoy5 karma

Our domestic aims will help everyone. The NSA's spying programs technically target foreign communications (though nearly everyone in the U.S. gets caught up in them), so if Congress passes the reforms we're pushing for, people outside of the U.S. will benefit.

futrawo5 karma

Beyond supporting organisations like the EFF financially, signing petitions and generally trying to raise awareness, what can people do if they want to get more involved, or really make a difference?

levjoy8 karma

Hi - see my reply to a similar question here.

futrawo5 karma

What do you think it would take for organisations like the NSA to really give up the power that progams like PRISM seem to afford it? Do you think the attention that has been focused on this program will just cause it to be rehashed into some similarly capable alterntive or is there a real prospect to stopping this?

It seems that each new government is just granting the NSA more power and the construction of this new data centre in Utah seems to suggest that this is just the start of things to come. The future seems to look bleak for privacy and an open internet.

levjoy12 karma

It would take the reformation of the PATRIOT ACT and the FISA Amendments Act. The NSA is claiming its powers under those laws.

dguido5 karma

Q1: Can you respond to the following two statements?

David Kravitz, former senior technical adviser at the NSA, 1982–1993:

Now that the existence and scope of PRISM are public, the balance point between surveillance aimed at preventing & prosecuting against illegal acts and preservation of privacy rights may warrant reexamination, in that serious criminal and terrorist elements will attempt to bypass detection. To the extent that preemptive capture of data continues so as to enable later backwards tracking, perhaps a verifiably robust access control system that enforces cooperation of multiple authorized agents in order to conduct limited-scope search and retrieval can be implemented and maintained, so as to securely bridge the gap between collection and court-ordered use of data.

Randy S., former member of the NSA's Information Assurance Directorate:

I proudly served my country in NSA’s Information Assurance Directorate in the early ‘90s. I believe the current controversy has been dominated by sensational but likely highly inaccurate rhetoric about the NSA’s activities. I believe terrorist acts have been prevented from information acquired by NSA, so simply terminating the programs doesn’t make sense. Proper oversight, however, may be necessary. Ultimately, in an era of rampant sharing of personal information via social networking, I believe outrage over the government carefully using personal information to protect our nation is misplaced and hypocritical. Balance is needed in this debate, as General Alexander testified.


Q2: How do you reconcile the lack of outrage from the massive invasion of privacy by ordinary people enabled social media and consumer technology, like those on /r/findbostonbombers?

Q3: Are you making the claim that transport metadata is private information? Why? If yes, how do you expect to hold this information away from your service providers?

davidadamsegal4 karma

Q1: I think this is a tautology: "Proper oversight, however, may be necessary." But it seems to sum up the thinking of many surveillance state operatives -- is proper oversight not always necessary?

Any terrorist who was actually a threat was surely aware of these capabilities already.

Q2: There should be more concern about all sorts of privacy intrusions. But to have it all centralized in the hands of a single entity -- and the military, particularly -- is especially problematic.

NickCalyx3 karma

Q1: NSA surveillance played little role in foiling terror plots, experts say & Senators Wyden And Udall Say They've Seen No Evidence That NSA Surveillance Stopped Dozens Of Terrorist Attacks

Q2: For one thing, the scale of the invasion and depth of intrusion is simply not comparable, secondly the constitution protects us from Government abuses of our rights - not by individuals.

Q3: If metadata is not private information then why are warrants required for pen registers under the electronic communications privacy act ? Phone bills are collected by telecom carriers for billing purposes, and are considered private by federal law and cannot be obtained without legal process.

underdabridge4 karma

If surveillance is really global, can the US afford to not play the game? If you are successful will US citizens find themselves under surveillance by every great power except the United States?

js-normative15 karma

Not really. A huge percentage of global Internet traffic flows through the United States, but the reverse is not true; other countries are not really in the same position to spy on US-to-US traffic.

Drjabroni4 karma

What are you doing on the 4th?

davidadamsegal9 karma

I think it's most useful for us to turn our members (many millions of people between all the orgs involved here) out to events that are being planned across the country by those who've come together under the restorethefourth banner

SourBogBubbleBX34 karma

Considering I'm a Vermonter and my Senators Vetoed against these. Don't give up or Fold on this rather Tyrannical Surveillance program. Also What's is your Opinion on the Copy Righted Image they Stole for the PRISM LOGO.

trevorEFF18 karma

The PRISM logo copyright controversy is terrible/hilarious all around. The NSA took the image without the owner's permission, but now someone is sending takedown notices to people who made satirical t-shirts with the logo on it.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is introducing a great bill to tackle the problems with the Patriot Act and the collection of all US phone records, the Restore Your Privacy Act. Everyone should support it.

TheOwlsScowel3 karma

Does the ACLU have a chance in the courts?

js-normative11 karma

A thin but not nonexistent one. The easiest win would be on statutory grounds: The argument that the Patriot Act's §215 does not actually authorize data collection on this scale.

More of a longshot: A First Amendment argument based on the right to anonymous speech or chilling of expressive association. Also a longshot: A Fourth Amendment win extending the logic of the concurrence in United States v. Jones (a unanimous ruling) that extended, comprehensive surveillance, even of something not normally protected (like public travel) can rise to the level of a Fourth Amendment search requiring a probable cause warrant.

atheism_is_gay3 karma

What do I need to do to get the people around me to pay attention to this scandal and educate themselves?

boldprogressives5 karma

Tell them to read Glenn Greenwald's articles on this issue. Not only is Glenn incredibly detailed, but once they're at The Guardian they'll probably enjoy reading so much actual substantive news that they won't want to stop reading on the scandal...

mvario3 karma

Just wondering if anyone has seen if any journalists have asked the Internet companies involved (Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, et al) whether they have turned over copies of their SSL secret-keys over to the NSA?

twrling7 karma

I haven't seen it. Most of the Internet coverage company has focused on their semantic denials, their asks to NSA to release their records, and theorizing about how much of their client base they are going to lose. While I suspect they won't lose as much as some say, one tactic we should consider is one-day boycotts of Google, Facebook, Skype. That I think we can pull off.

Shenanigans223 karma

What are some easy ways to send a message to those who support this stuff, besides the obvious like writing Congressman?

boldprogressives10 karma

Congress does a series of town halls during the summer. See if your Member is holding a town hall (you can call their office and ask). Go to the town hall. Tell them you don't want the government to engage in indiscriminate spying on you and your neighbors, friends, and loved ones. Bring as many people with you as possible to say this message. Take video of yourself saying it, and upload it to YouTube. Share it.

[deleted]3 karma


trevorEFF8 karma

The NSA and the White House keep saying, "we're not listening to your phone calls," which no one has accused them of in the first place. They are using this sleight of hand to avert attention away from the real scandal: they monitor who you're calling, who's calling you, where you're calling from, and for how long. This is incredibly invasive and in many way more invasive than listening to the content of your conversations.

iamanadviceanimal3 karma

I'm not american. Should I care? Why?

js-normative12 karma

Yes. The NSA is being much more aggressive about spying on YOUR traffic, and doesn't recognize any legal restrictions on what they can do with your data. They're at least SUPPOSED to try not to look at or circulate our Gmail messages; yours are fair game, and can be shared with your government.

NickCalyx6 karma

Yes because some other governments copied the US's approach with the PATRIOT Act, and thus the problem spread outwards from the US in some cases

Shnazzyone3 karma

how great is the danger that the public will lose interest in this topic and nothing will get done? how can we prevent that from happening?

boldprogressives6 karma

Every action that you take, online or offline, share it with your friends. 5 people. Just tell them, inform them about what you're doing.

TheyKilledKenni2 karma

What was your initial reaction when Obama said that "You can't have 100% security and 100% privacy"?

Also, thanks for doing this AMA! I appreciate the effort that you guys are doing to help educate people on this.

Edit: Wording

js-normative14 karma

You can't have 100% of either. What's really dangerous is the wishful illusion that 100% security can be achieved, and that if bad things still happen now and then, it must mean we need a few percentage points less privacy until we achieve perfect security.

trevorEFF12 karma

My first reaction was to recall Obama saying during his inauguration speech, "As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals." Sad to see him reject the principles he was elected on.

boldprogressives10 karma

That was a strawman. There is no one arguing that you can have 100% security and 100% privacy. What we are saying, however, is that it is wrong for the government to keep the extent of its spying so secret that Americans can't even fairly debate whether these are necessary intrusions on our privacy.

Dskhanna6 karma

Terrorism is obviously extremely bad, but these arguments could be used for other things too - they don't seem to have a logical basis when applied in other circumstances.

For example, when the FBI obtains a computer - the first thing they do is run a quick computer program against the HD to see if their are known hashes for child pornography. It's pretty effective (chance of an incorrect match is near impossible), and under their logic, minimally invasive. If NSA gets lots of data under PRISM, and are running key word searches etc, why can't Obama's logic be used for the FBI to search hashes for pictures for child pornography? Isn't child pornography and the abuse underlying it a truly disgusting and grotesque crime? Isn't protecting our children worth it?

Or, we could use the Verizon data to find everyone in the country who is speeding, because speeding cause accidents leading to hundreds of thousands of deaths annually. We could do the same thing with copyright infringement.

Or, corruption/ ethics violations is a serious problem too. I'm sure you can use Verizon data to find Congressional staffers using government phones to coordinate with campaigns or for financial contributions- Congressional staffers are normally issued Verizon phones.

Just because you have a rational for the action doesn't mean it's acceptable.

We make these trade-offs all the time in law. The 4th amt is about restricting govt power, knowing full well that it may inhibit govt capacity to prosecute crimes - that was an acceptable trade-off.

Obama said this is a middle ground, I'd like to see what the full proposal was that this is a compromise too!

NickCalyx4 karma

My reaction is: Look at prisons.

In prisons, they increase security to the point that the people who live there have near zero quality of life. Everyone goes through metal detectors and gets patted down constantly. They give them body cavity searches, they make them get naked against their will. They search people when entering and leaving the facility. They make people use the toilet in full view of everyone else without walls or privacy. It makes the TSA checkpoint at airports seem quaint.

Yet what's going on in prisons ? People are stabbing each other and dealing hard drugs.

My point is the government can increase "security" until our quality of life is completely gone, and the Constitution is but a memory, and America is but a shadow of its former self. Yet there is no real guarantee of obtaining any real form of security.

Razalas2 karma

How realistic is it to expect a congressional committee to discuss anything more than what has already been publicly released about these surveillance programs?

It has been hinted in some stories about the leak that this is the "tip of the iceberg", what other capabilities could the NSA or other intelligence organizations possibly possess that go beyond what we know of?

davidadamsegal6 karma

This stuff that Binney speaks about goes deeper than what's come out in the last couple weeks. I think hearings of some sort are a real possibility, but they're not the end game in their own right.