Edit 7:05pm EDT: Unfortunately the amendment failed. The good news is that, thanks to your work, it was an unbelievably close 217-205. A month ago those defending these programs wouldn't have conceived they'd be getting this level of opposition on Capitol Hill. We need to capitalize on this and keep the fight going. Sign up for our newsletter at restorethefourth.net to get updates on future events, and join us on 1984 Day and continue our fight for the Bill of Rights.

Edit 2: The list of how each rep voted isn't available yet but should be tomorrow. We'll make sure it's publicized.

Edit 3: List is up: http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2013/roll412.xml

This vote is taking place in a few hours. We need you to call your reps ASAP. They've taken notice of the pressure you've put on already, and we need to keep adding it on. There's an easy-to-use tool that will help you find your rep's phone number and a script for when they answer at defundthensa.com.

Here are some other resources...

ACLU form to call Congress

Amash NSA Amendment Fact Sheet

demandprogress.org form to call Congress

Freedom of the Press Foundation guide on encryption

restorethefourth.net blog post

#defundspying on Twitter

Who we are

/u/drewaccess - Drew from Access Now

/u/alexabdo - Alexander Abdo from the ACLU

/u/Ryanradia - Ryan Radia from the Competitive Enterprise Institute

/u/DavidAdamSegal - David Segal from Demand Progress

/u/TrevorEff - Trevor Timm from the EFF

/u/Sinakh - Sina Khanifar from FixtheDMCA.org and Taskforce

/u/levjoy - Josh Levy from Free Press

/u/douglasmacarthur and /u/NeutralityMentality from Restore the Fourth

/u/willrinehart - Will Rinehart from TechFreedom

/u/Dskhanna - Derek Khanna, writer, has contributed to The Atlantic, Forbes, Human Events, and National Review











Comments: 641 • Responses: 86  • Date: 

LogicalTimber339 karma

I just called both my representatives. In each case the phone was answered by a real person on the first ring. I just said that I'm a constituent of Representative ____ and encourage them to support Representative Amash's amendment to HR-2397. They thanked me and said it would be passed along. One asked for my name. It took less than thirty seconds total.

If you're hesitating, please pick up the phone! It was faster and easier than ordering takeout.

Edit to add: This is the first time I've called my representatives on any topic. I had no idea it was that simple a process.

2nd edit: The list is out. Both my representatives voted against it. I'll be voting against them next chance I get.

trevorEFF12 karma

Everyone upvote this!!

sinakh271 karma

Just want to start by saying that if you oppose NSA surveillance, you should pick up the phone and call your representatives in Congress right now. A vote on the Amash amendment is happening in the next few hours, and we need as many calls in support as possible to sway the vote.

You can find your legislator's phone number at any of these links:

NeutralityMentality84 karma

Hijacking top comment to point out that if the schedule proceeds as planned, the vote on the Amash amendment will be at 3:30pm EST. WE HAVE AN HOUR, CALL CALL CALL!!!

sinakh66 karma

Latest info is that Amash bill vote won't happen until between 6pm and 730pm EST. Which is good: that gives us 3 more hours - call in now!

brownboy1316 karma

In all honesty, what chances do you guys give this vote of actually passing/failing?

douglasmacarthur66 karma

Someone working on Capitol Hill that I'm in contact with estimated a 15% chance last night. Which is a much higher chance of something like this happening this week than we thought there was a few days ago.

Even if it doesn't pass, however, the important thing is that it isn't a route. They're afraid of the movement against unconstitutional surveillance right now and if there's a couple hundred votes for this today they'll know they should be.

NeutralityMentality25 karma

It's just not clear. The NSA and WH have gone to bat against the amendment, but 100,000+ calls to Congress should have an impact. Regardless of if it passes, anything over 100+ Yes votes will send a huge message compared to anything that Congress has done so far on NSA surveillance.

trevorEFF43 karma

I want to re-iterate this. BY FAR the most important thing you can do is call your representative. It is MUCH more effective than emailing, and just a couple dozen calls can swing a rep one way or another.

Look at what Rep. Justin Amash, the sponsor of this important NSA amendment, said about calling just yesterday: "Phone calls to your Representative's office are much more effective than most people think."

Go to http://defundthensa.com to look up your representative and see a script you can read when you call.

hemo_jr250 karma

A staffer for Rep Ted Poe (TX-2) just told me he would not only be voting for the Amash Amendment, but would be speaking on the floor, in support.

douglasmacarthur89 karma

Awesome. Thank you so much for calling.

NeutralityMentality12 karma

That's awesome!

unix_kid98 karma

Assuming we are successful in our fight against the NSA, we must correct the issue that lead to the mass collection of data in the first place: centralization of the internet, and lack of encryption at the network level.

I bring this up, because, even if we stop the NSA, there's nothing stopping corporations and other nationstates from doing such with the current status of the internet.

What are your views on this, and what do you think of CJDNS, and other projects to create decentralized infastructure? Also, how can we get such technology out to the mainstream public?

alexabdo42 karma

There is a lot that private industry can do to help maintain our privacy, including by forcing encryption by default, so that everyday emails are not exposed to everyone as they fly around the internet. But the most pressing problem now is the NSA's effort to "collect it all." Encryption would make it harder for them to do so, but we need legal reform for a lasting solution.

Read more about it here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jul/24/amash-amendment-nsa-surveillance

unix_kid36 karma

Legal reform would be a lasting solution until any other nation state decides it wants to collect data en masse. The internet is global - if I want to access a website, in say, the UK, the packets could go through a number of different countries. It takes the cheapest route, not the geographically shortest. How many times will my data be copied and stored under a nation's "security" program? The Amash Amendment is a step in the right direction, but it's not preventing the UK or any other country from collecting a treasure trove of data on us.

Surveillance is a global issue, and that's why I asked specific questions on specific technologies such as CJDNS and related projects.

For the less tech-savvy users, having encryption by default would definitely be another step in the right direction.

alexabdo20 karma

You're absolutely right. A lasting international solution will require that the companies we entrust with our private information secure our communications in transit (and in storage).

I say that legal reform is necessary too, though, because it reflects a congressional awareness of the privacy implications of the increasing digitization of our lives. We need that type of societal judgment to allow for further reforms, such as pushing for HTTPS everywhere, etc.

NeutralityMentality15 karma

The centralization of the Internet is definitely a hugely important piece of the puzzle. I think it's important to keep in mind that at the end of the day, encryption can't stand up to a gun pointed at your head, so digital security will always be affected by laws and law enforcement. As always, it's not either/or, it's both!

ryanradia11 karma

I'd love to see thousands of underseas fiber optic cables built, but that's just not a feasible option for the foreseeable future. Some degree of centralization is inevitable if there is to be an Internet resembling the one we have today; and in fact there are many benefits of there being a handful of tier 1 providers. Even if the number of internet companies expanded dramatically, the NSA has plenty of resources each of those companies a court order with the same force as the one it sent to Verizon.

FrankMurdochsGhost45 karma

This seems to have come right out of nowhere. I wake up one morning and there's a move to remove money from the NSA if they don't stop collecting phone metadata and it's a rush to get the word out because it's being voted on in two days. Were you as caught off guard as I was?

Also: Would you rather fight 100 duck-sized horses or one horse-sized duck?

douglasmacarthur58 karma

I was as surprised as you were. I wouldn't say I was "caught off guard." I'm on guard for this kind of news 24/7. It's part of the job.

I'd rather fight one horse-sized duck because, as a San Jose Sharks fan, beating up a duck of any kind is highly satisfying to me.

hockeyking65516 karma

/r/hockey welcomes you

douglasmacarthur40 karma

implying I don't already post in /r/hockey

alexabdo29 karma

It has been a whirlwind in the surveillance area since the leaks, but Rep. Amash's amendment is the result of many years of work by a lot of people very concerned about overreaching NSA surveillance.

For years, several senators (mainly Sens. Wyden and Udall) warned the public about a secret interpretation of the a surveillance statute that would shock ordinary Americans. Now we know what it is, and it is time to mobilize to stop the "collect it all" mentality.

UPDATE: 100 duck-sized horses for me. I imagine they'd look a lot like Florida Key Deer.

trevorEFF13 karma

One horse sized duck. Not even a close call.

NeutralityMentality9 karma

100 duck sized horses. For sure.

ktaa44 karma

What would you say is the biggest misconception about NSA surveillance? Is there anything most media outlets continue to get wrong in their coverage?

alexabdo82 karma

Biggest misconception is that the NSA only targets foreigners outside the U.S. We now have clear evidence that it actively collects data on people in the U.S.

And even for its supposedly foreign surveillance, like the PRISM program, the NSA sweeps in U.S. communications, too. In fact, when Bush administration officials testified in support of an earlier version of the PRISM program, they made clear that communications with one end in the U.S. were the most important to the NSA.

xoxax19 karma

But it's not a misconception http://www.reddit.com/r/1881a/

Yes, lots of US data gets caught, but non-Americans have zero legal rights under FISA 702

Where does ACLU stand on recognizing universal human rights to privacy?

If Amash passes, what do you think NSA will do instead to establish "probable cause" that a 702 target is not a US person ?

alexabdo37 karma

  • US data is directly and intentionally targeted in a number of ways, including under Section 215 of the Patriot Act (distinct from Section 702 of FISA). Look here: http://www.aclu.org/files/assets/myths_and_facts_re_sec._215_domestic_call_tracking_-_vote_yes_on_amash-conyers_amdt_101_-_7.23.13.pdf

  • As for 702, the entire point of the program was to allow the NSA to collect Americans' international communications. This is pretty clear from the testimony in support of passage of an early version of it in 2007, but also from the procedures the NSA uses to decide which U.S. communications to keep. You can see our analysis here: http://www.aclu.org/files/assets/explainer_v4.pdf

  • Privacy is a human right, not just a civil right.

  • On Section 702 targeting, two quick points. First, "probable cause" is not the standard for determining whether someone is a U.S. citizen or not under Section 702. Take a look at our analysis of the procedures (link above). The standard is even lower - if they don't have contrary evidence, they presume you're a foreigner. Second, that's a good question, but I don't think it justifies allowing the government to aggregate enormous databases of our private info. The real solution should be this: if the NSA is reviewing an intercept of a foreigner under Section 702 and it discovers that a U.S. person was on the call, it should either delete the info immediately or get a traditional wiretap order from the FISA court to review it. President Obama proposed exactly this in 2008, when he was a Senator.

drewaccess20 karma

Non-Americans might not have constitutional rights, but they do have human rights

As a party the ICCPR the US IS obligated to respect privacy rights of everyone.

The Amash Amendment won't necessarily impact 702, but it will provide momentum towards further reform -- hopefully towards reform of 702 as well.

levjoy10 karma

Somewhat related: Zeynep Tufekci's post on how the NSA's ability to track "hops" on a network can easily lead them to tracking the entire country: https://medium.com/technology-and-society/e78cbf912907

ufo831435 karma

I'm having trouble convincing my friends why the NSA surveillance is such a big deal. Can one of you please provide a solid and thorough answer to the statement "If you aren't doing anything wrong, you have nothing to hide"?

A lot of my friends and people I know have this mindset of "well I'm not a terrorist, so why does this matter to me?" Can you provide some messaging in response to both of those lines please?

trevorEFF57 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 sanctioned rampant and illegal warrantless domestic spying, and later went to jail during Watergate.

This is one of the best articles ever written on how the FISA Amendments Act allows warrantless wiretapping of Americans who have nothing to do with terrorism, and it explains how the 'nothing to hide' phrase is meaningless in the current debate over the NSA.

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 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 should be allowed invade an individual's 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 - they've turned that basic notion on its head.

alexabdo14 karma

We don't oppose overreaching surveillance because we are trying to hide criminal activity. We do so because privacy is necessary to a dignified life. We all engage in conduct that is very public in a sense but that we wouldn't want anyone else seeing. We all shower, have intimate relationships with our loved ones, and send embarrassing emails to friends. There's nothing criminal there, but we wouldn't want the NSA having a videotape of our activities or an archive of our sensitive communications.

In other words, the question isn't about whether we have something to hide, but about who controls our private information - us or the government?

Here's a colleague's explanation: http://www.aclu.org/blog/technology-and-liberty-national-security/plenty-hide

douglasmacarthur10 karma

This FAQ addresses that somewhat

So does this great reddit comment from last month

My answer the last time I was asked this:

Here's a paraphrase of what I tell journalists...

That's like seeing censorship and saying "I don't have any beliefs that are currently being censored." When some people's rights are being violated it is a threat to all the rights of all people. Desiring privacy isn't an admission of guilt. By allowing this violation of individual rights and of the law, we are allowing a precedent and an infrastructure be put into place that will be abused in the future, just it has by authoritarian governments throughout history.

Alopexx31 karma

As a US citizen, one thing I hear about constantly is what people outside the US can do?

Considering how much of internet traffic flows through our country, it almost seems like those outside the US effectively have to pass through US customs just to use the internet.

levjoy53 karma

It's really important for people outside the U.S. to speak out. You can do two things:

  1. Organize grassroots opposition to the NSA's spying programs, too. The EU and other bodies will hear you and the noise will make it back to the U.S.

  2. Remind the world that the Internet is a global phenomenon. According to the NSA, these programs are ok because they "only" target people outside of the U.S. But the Internet goes further than anything else toward making us global citizens. We should all be treated equally online.

mjtribute30 karma

The president has threatened to veto the DoD appropriations bill at one point. What's to say that he won't do so if the Amash-Conyers amendment is approved by the house?

NeutralityMentality62 karma

Today's vote will set the tone for all future NSA discussion in Washington. If it only gets 50 votes, the takeaway for lawmakers will be "the NSA is a dead issue." If it gets 200+ votes, this could start a bandwagon reigning in unconstitutional surveillance. The bill may well be vetoed, but that doesn't make today's vote any less important.

heavily_medicated28 karma

I have called my representative twice, David Scott (GA-R). Yesterday I was told that he had not come to a decision yet, and they would write me a letter or email in the coming days after the vote.

I called again today and the staffer told me that she couldn't disclose his stance on the issue! What the fuck is up with that? I'm pretty furious right now.

trevorEFF20 karma

Way to keep calling though. Now he knows the pressure's on.

ZombiesBoomToo22 karma

How can I work for you guys?? I'm tired of bullshit and want to be more active. What qualifications do you look for? I'm currently freelance in the film industry.

douglasmacarthur12 karma

You can sign up to volunteer with Rt4 here.

elreina18 karma

So let me get this straight...we have a constitution (with Bill of Rights) in place to protect our rights, which is the "Law of the Land". All branches of government swear to uphold it and their actions are bound by it. Despite this, it is being ignored and trampled by every branch of government.

1) What makes you think the Amash Amendment is going to do a damn bit of anything?

2) Shouldn't the focus be on killing things that circumvent or go against our defined system (i.e. restoring the system's integrity) rather than tweaking the details of the stuff that circumvents the system? The latter further enables our current twisted bastardization of our former system and moves us farther away from having any chance in hell of regaining control over it.

douglasmacarthur22 karma

So let me get this straight...we have a constitution (with Bill of Rights) in place to protect our rights, which is the "Law of the Land". All branches of government swear to uphold it and their actions are bound by it. Despite this, it is being ignored and trampled by every branch of government.

1) What makes you think the Amash Amendment is going to do a damn bit of anything?

It's much more specific. "We're not going to fund this as authorized by this" makes a set of NSA activity clearly illegal. Proving to the court system that it violates the BoR is a much more elaborate process. I believe, however, that some groups (e.g. the ACLU) are working on taking this to court on Fourth Amendment grounds.

2) Shouldn't the focus be on killing things that circumvent or go against our defined system (i.e. restoring the system's integrity) rather than tweaking the details of the stuff that circumvents the system? The latter further enables our current twisted bastardization of our former system and moves us farther away from having any chance in hell of regaining control over it.

Why does our focus have to be on one or the other? You can't fix the system without knowing what kinds of outcomes the flawed system are leading to and simultaneously addressing those outcomes. We're focusing on a specific type of outcome right now, but that doesn't mean no one is doing anything about process, or that we think they shouldn't be.

Dskhanna17 karma

Something to point out when you call. The story originally published was about Verizon phone records. Congressional staffers and Members are usually given Verizon phones, ask them:

"How do you feel knowing that the data from your phone and that of your staffers is part of the NSA database? Are you not worried that that information could be abused at some point in the next century? If you trust US intelligence, do you trust British, Australian, Canadian and Dutch intelligence to be as careful? If you recognize that the IRS has abused its discretion in the past, are you confident that this type of information couldn't be used for political purposes in the future?"

lightanddeath17 karma

Just wanted to say that you guys make me want to be a lawyer and spend my life slugging it out with the Federal government. Can't think of many worthier causes. Thank you.

willrinehart12 karma

I am not a lawyer and I still am slugging it out!

alexabdo17 karma

Hi, this is Alex from the ACLU. Proof: https://twitter.com/AlexanderAbdo/status/360090042833707009

NeutralityMentality16 karma

Hey, I'm Ben Doernberg from RT4 NYC. Proof: https://twitter.com/RestoreThe4thNY/status/360090550105415682

sinakh12 karma

Also, I'm Sina Khanifar from TaskForce.is. Proof: https://twitter.com/sinak/status/360090450356486145

drewaccess12 karma

willrinehart11 karma

dildog15 karma

What exactly can NSA see, traffic wise? It is commonly accepted that SSL is being intercepted, but what about VPN, SSH tunnels ? What are good anonymous options for consumers to protect their privacy ? thanks

trevorEFF16 karma

If you want to know how you can protect your privacy in the age of NSA surveillance, I recommend this just-published guide by my Freedom of the Press Foundation colleague Micah Lee: https://pressfreedomfoundation.org/encryption-works

Though it's a very complicated subject, Micah writes in a simple style almost anyone can understand, and he uses Snowden — along with the journalists he has communicated with — as illustrations to show how encryption does and doesn't work.

ryanradia14 karma

If you are transmitting or receiving encrypted data on the public Internet, it's quite possible the NSA is intercepting it. This is especially so if the data is traversing other countries, as the law bars the NSA from intentionally targeting Americans' communications contents.(50 USC sec. 1881a) not to be confused with metadata, which the Amash amendment addresses

NeutralityMentality14 karma

Also, the NSA's policies permit it to indefinitely retain encrypted communications, so they can break the encryption at a later time.

Descent90012 karma

Realistically, what are the chances of legislation actually being successful? Many politicians have been pretty quick to demonize Snowden and create this image that he is some traitor of the United States.

ryanradia18 karma

This vote isn't (or shouldn't be) a referendum on Snowden, despite several disingenuous media articles. Rather, it's a vote on the merits of the NSA suspicionless domestic surveillance program. Even if one thinks Snowden was wrong to leak documents about the program, the cat is out of the bag and the time has come to decide whether we want to allow these programs to continue in their current form.

willrinehart7 karma

Ryan is right. Snowden's leaks have brought media attention to the government's surveillance methods. It is a pressing concern and a policy discussion on the legal bounds on the government that we have sorely needed to have for years now.

trevorEFF18 karma

It's tough to say because the NSA is putting on the full-court press right now, holding secret briefings with Congress because it's so concerned their powers will be taken away.

But the polls lately have been pretty consistent: In yesterday's Washington Post poll, a staggering 74% said the NSA is violating privacy rights with its phone records collection program. And in a recent Quinnapiac poll, 55% said Edward Snowden is a whistleblower -- which crossed all party, gender, and age lines. So members of Congress, while they may have downplayed it at the beginning, are being forced to listen.

alexabdo10 karma

Want to echo Sina's comment that if you oppose indiscriminate NSA surveillance of our communications, you should pick up your phone and call your representatives in Congress now.

Find your legislator's contact info here: https://ssl.capwiz.com/aclu/callalert/index.tt?alertid=62783916&type=CO?ms=fb_acluaction_130723_AmashAmendment?ms=tw_acluaction_130723_AmashAmendment

Dskhanna9 karma

Having worked in Congress, I can verify the impact that constituent outreach can make. I highly encourage people to contact their Member of Congress. It's easy and it can have an impact. I wanted to put forward some articles that I wrote that may provide some information on why this type of surveillance is so dangerous. We are a bi-partisan coalition here, this is not a left-right issue.

Article in National Review: http://goo.gl/dbI7oc, Article on Prism in the Atlanic on the slippery slope we are on: http://goo.gl/X8T0Ma

c0ldfusi0n8 karma

As a Canadian [and/or citizen of the world], how does this whole thing impact me and my data?

Edit: Endless thanks for doing what you're doing.

douglasmacarthur10 karma

I'm actually Canadian myself and the token non-American in Rt4. Concretely, this all impacts us because so much of our online activity is with Americans or involves American companies and American servers. There's also apparently a level of spying on foreign governments taking place.

I feel that aside from any direct influence on us, however, we should care simply because the United States is so important and has, in general, been such a positive influence on the world. We should want it to continue to be a positive influence and to continue to be an example for the rest of the world. If the most powerful nation on Earth and the "last great hope" can't respect individual rights and abide by its own constitution, what chance is there for the rest of us? How far behind could we be?

So that's why I'm as concerned about this as anyone and why I'm volunteering my time to help Americans hold their own government accountable.

c0ldfusi0n5 karma

Follow-up question then:

As a Canadian [and/or citizen of the world], what can/should I do about this?

Thank you!

drewaccess4 karma

You could get in touch with friends in the US and urge them to call their Congresspeople. And nothing is stopping you from calling a Congressperson and telling them you're worried about current surveillance practices! The Amash Amendment is gathering steam leading to the vote and every call counts at this point.

This vote also won't be the end of the debate. You can urge Canadian politicians to not cooperate with international surveillance cooperation in Five Eyes:


WhyHellYeah-6 karma

douglas is a censoring prick. Who cares what comes out of Canada when they are censoring pricks?

douglasmacarthur5 karma

Nice try, NSA.

taweus7 karma

I heard that the NSA would ask/notify Congress before they start collecting and storing GPS data from citizens. Does the NSA legally have to ask/notify Congress?Also, can the NSA consider GPS data as meta-data?

Edit: The reason for question is I don't really trust the NSA saying they would notify Congress if they expanded the program. So I just want to make sure they have to.

trevorEFF11 karma

The NSA has been very deceptive about its use or non-use of cell phone location data. They've told Congress they don't collect it, but often times they end that phrase by saying "under this program," which is their way of saying they could be collecting it under another one of their many still-hidden programs.

Sen. Ron Wyden strongly hinted yesterday in his must-read speech, that the NSA isn't being truthful about collecting location data.

Critically, the NSA says they already have the legal right to collect location data. They just choose not to. Because, you know, they're such masters of restraint.

For more, see here: http://www.latimes.com/news/nation/nationnow/la-na-nn-nsa-phone-location-data-20130624,0,6266092.story

NeutralityMentality3 karma

From what I've seen, it's not clear that the NSA is not currently doing location-tracking. They've denied doing location-tracking in specific programs, but Senator Wyden said earlier this week, "Today, government officials openly tell the press that they have the authority to effectively turn America's cell phones and smartphones into location-enabled homing beacons."

Sexy_Sasquatch6 karma

Thank you for doing this timely AMA!

douglasmacarthur3 karma

No problem. Thanks for calling Congress.

QuakerPunk5 karma

Beyond the August 4th rallies, what other events/efforts are in the pipeline for Restore the Fourth?

douglasmacarthur6 karma

After 1984 Day, we're most likely going to spend August getting as many people as possible to attend town hall meetings during the summer recess, which well let Americans address their representatives on unconstitutional surveillance with the media watching. We'll also be helping train people for this task.

Many of the local orgs are planning regular protests the 4th of each month or most months indefinitely. We also expect to have some kind of singular march on Washington either in the fall or the spring. 4/4/14 is one date being seriously considered.

NeutralityMentality5 karma

Good question. Starting on August 5th, Congress will be on recess, giving us opportunities to talk to Congress in their home districts. Do you have any suggestions?

sceendy5 karma

I am doing my senior capstone project about how online communities have been able to come together for these types of issues (though it is mainly focused on analyzing how online communities were able to defeat SOPA)... so first, I applaud what you guys are doing to unite these communities because I know that you guys have all played significant roles.

Also, I just want to know how you guys push for calls. I mean, recently people that worked for senators/reps were on here and commented that emails often go ignored. So, emails are becoming less effective (as trevoreff mentioned)...thus making me wonder what other options you guys are looking to pursue as calls are essentially the most effective at this point.

douglasmacarthur6 karma

There's a lot you can do besides emails...

  • Calls (of course)

  • Physical letters

  • Town hall meetings and the like

Often you can even arrange a face-to-face meeting with your representative or a member of his/her staff.

Most people aren't very politically active and that means those who are have more influence by default. We all get two votes because half of people don't vote. We all get ten phone calls a day because most of us don't call. And we all get a thousand face-to-face meetings per meeting because most people don't bother trying to get one.

AndrewIsMyName4 karma

Do you think the NSA surveillance weakened American citizens trust in the Government and will this trust ever be gained back?

alexabdo11 karma

There's a famous Supreme Court line: "People in an open society do not demand infallibility from their institutions, but it is difficult for them to accept what they are prohibited from observing."

This is the primary trust problem that we have right now in the U.S. The government has shielded from view for too long so much that should never have been secret in the first place. Secret law has no place in a democracy.

epsd1013 karma

NSA officials have said on the record that dragnet telephone metadata collection does not invade privacy, but is also essential to the agency's investigations. In other words, it's not a big deal, but is also crucial.

Why do you believe the NSA wants/needs access to metadata on millions of innocent people?

ryanradia8 karma

NSA wants to examine its phone records database for purposes of "contact chaining". Thus, once NSA think it has found a bad guy, it can figure out the identities of everybody who he has called – and in turn everybody who those people have called. This is supposedly useful in identifying attacks before they happen. The current debate isn't about whether this practice should be allowed at all, but whether NSA should have to obtain legal process every time it wishes to obtain a set of phone records about a suspect.

GrinningPariah3 karma

Why has the media coverage of these affairs been so bad? What can we do to help better journalism?

douglasmacarthur4 karma

Contact media outlets and tell them to cover it. They count viewers/readers just like representatives count voters.

Ihmhi3 karma

Given your respective experiences with internet privacy, encryption, etc. - do you forsee these privacy-enhancing tools (such as TOR, Truecrypt, etc.) being used more, or are they too difficult for the average person to use?

I've often found FOSS I love but it's almost always lacking in presentation or usability - two kind of important things to the end user.

NeutralityMentality5 karma

Making security for end users is something many groups are working on, but I'm not sure it's the right solution long-term. Bruce Schnier has a great comparison: what if when you bought a car, the salesman said "by the way, your car doesn't have brakes, and that's really dangerous, so good luck making it home, and here's a list of good brake places that might be able to help you." Expecting everyone to be a digital security expert just isn't realistic.

CSPrivacy3 karma

The fact that their excuse is that they aggregate the data to de-identify individuals is 100% bullshit and they know it. Re-identification is now so easy that people can do it in their sleep.

alexabdo5 karma

Very true. There are many studies now about how easy it is to identify people's supposedly anonymous information. E.g.: http://phys.org/news/2013-03-easy-identity-cell.html

trevorEFF3 karma

Yeah we all know how difficult it is to identify someone by their phone number...

alegomaster3 karma

What do you think about privacy in Canada? It seems all the focus is on the US.

drewaccess8 karma

There is evidence that Canadian authorities, at least at one time, had similar surveillance programs. The Globe and Mail reported on metadata collection. Canadian intelligence (CNES) similarly tried to limit their scope to non-Canadians, but it is unclear just how extensive the Canadian program was. It's safe to say we can't trust a government to cease using bulk collection once it has begun.

A call for transparency is a first step towards reform. We deserve to know more!

alexabdo3 karma

International pressure on the U.S. to stop dragnet surveillance is an extremely important part of the conversation. Pressure your leaders to engage the U.S. in a debate about the privacy rights of us all. Privacy is a human right, not just a civil right.

dispellado3 karma


Dskhanna3 karma

The House will debate Justin Amash's ‪#‎NSA‬ Amendment at 5:15 pm ET. You can watch live here: http://www.c-span.org/Live-Video/C-SPAN/ Be sure to call your Representative and urge them to vote YES: 202-224-3121

CSPrivacy3 karma

What do you think is the best stage for those involved with this story to use in order to truly firm their positions? Traditional (AP, etc), niche (EFF, IAPP, EPIC, FPF), or others?

alexabdo5 karma

They are all important. It all comes down to secrecy: The NSA has been able to accumulate so much data on every single American for so long because it succeeded in keeping it secret. Now that we know how the NSA is actually using its surveillance powers, we need to spread the word so that everyone understands the true consequences of giving the NSA this much power.

Here's a must-read speech by Sen. Wyden about how misleading the intelligence agencies have been: http://www.wyden.senate.gov/news/blog/post/wyden-on-nsa-domestic-surveillance

alexabdo3 karma

All, thanks so much for your questions and your support. I have to sign off now, but please keep the debate alive! And if you have other questions to ask, tweet at me (@AlexanderAbdo).

LibertyMcG2 karma

The human brain is wired to wildly exaggerate the terror threat ( http://bit.ly/162DtWE ), and the government and media have incentives to exaggerate it as well. In the face of that, how can we help people realize the terror threat is being overblown and that they're making a terrible bargain with their liberties?

alexabdo4 karma

I think President Obama said it best in 2009: "We uphold our most cherished values not only because doing so is right, but because it strengthens our country and keeps us safe. Time and again, our values have been our best national security asset - in war and peace; in times of ease and in eras of upheaval. Fidelity to our values is the reason why the United States of America grew from a small string of colonies under the writ of an empire to the strongest nation in the world."

(Ignore the part of the speech where he outlines a system of indefinite detention.)

flynavy462 karma

Seeing that the amendment was only 12 votes short of being adopted and you having previously expected only a 15% chance of being adopted, would you say this was a better result that you had expected to recieve? In other words did you guys expect it to be as close of a vote as it was?

I know you had mentioned that even if the vote failed that it would get the president's attention. Do you think our phone calls had a major impact?

douglasmacarthur8 karma

Seeing that the amendment was only 12 votes short of being adopted and you having previously expected only a 15% chance of being adopted, would you say this was a better result that you had expected to recieve?

Slightly better than I would have guessed early this afternoon. Way better than I would have guessed a few days ago. This is major progress. It's an unacceptably low amount of progress, but progress all the same. We need to keep going.

I know you had mentioned that even if the vote failed that it would get the president's attention. Do you think our phone calls had a major impact?

I don't think they did. I know they did. Given how DC works, the traffic these pages have been getting, and reports from our contacts in DC, we can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that this movement had a big impact on the numbers we were able to get today and that those in favor of unconstitutional surveillance are very afraid of it. Don't give up.

Salutatorian2 karma

Looks like it was rejected...

douglasmacarthur5 karma

It failed 217-205. That's unbelievably close. A month ago those defending these programs wouldn't have conceived they'd be getting serious opposition in the HoR. We need to use this to our advantage and keep the fight going.

konrad91 karma

I once emailed you about an 8 year girl working the cash register at a gas station at 11pm on the North/South Carolina border, and I was told this was perfectly fine.

Can you explain how this was OK and not illegal for several different reasons? The person who emailed me wouldn't answer that.

douglasmacarthur2 karma

Let's focus on the movie, people.