A group of entertainment celebrities are fed up with the Obama administration’s willingness to spy on American citizens through the National Security Agency, or NSA – even comparing his actions to those exposed by Nixon’s Watergate scandal.
Actors John Cusack, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Will Wheaton join director Oliver Stone, former talk host Phil Donahue and several others appearing in a new video called “Stop Watching Us.”
The video begins with Daniel Ellsberg, the leaker of the “Pentagon Papers” – which revealed bald-faced deception of the American public during Lyndon Johnson’s administration – declaring, “Revelations that have emerged in the past few months from whistleblower Edward Snowden and others [continuing from the mouth of Donahue] have painted a disturbing picture of widespread, suspicionless surveillance of American citizens.”
“Every American is at risk of getting caught up in the NSA dragnet,” Stone warns.
Though the video never mentions Obama by name, it directly alludes to the surveillance scandal that forced another president, Richard Nixon, out of office.
Referencing revelations of illicit NSA and CIA intelligence gathering uncovered by the Watergate scandal, Ellsberg continues, “We’ve seen this story before, and we decided it was wrong.”
“It was wrong then,” Cusack chimes in, “and it’s wrong now.”
The video also includes a clip from former U.S. Sen. Walter Mondale, D-Minn., who investigated CIA and NSA intelligence gathering methods following Watergate: “Unrestrained, illegal, secret intimidation and harassment of the essential ability of Americans to participate freely in American political life shall never happen again.”
And yet, the video implies, it is happening again: under Obama.
The video is part of an effort to drum up support for “A Rally Against Mass Surveillance,” planned for 12 noon, Oct. 26 in Washington, D.C., by the organization Stop Watching Us.
Stop Watching Us is backed by over 100 various privacy, libertarian and civil rights groups. Many are left-leaning, such as MoveOn.org and the American Civil Liberties Union, but several groups from across the political spectrum – such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Free Press, FreedomWorks and the Libertarian Party – are also lending support.
“The NSA is spying on everyone’s personal communications. It’s operating without any meaningful oversight,” Stop Watching Us asserts. “[So] on October 26th, the 12th anniversary of the signing of the USA Patriot Act, we’re holding the largest rally yet against NSA surveillance. We’ll be handing more than a half-million petitions to Congress to remind them that they work for us – and we won’t tolerate mass surveillance any longer.”
Protesters plan to gather in front of Union Station at 11:30 a.m. by the Christopher Columbus Memorial Fountain in Columbus Circle and march to the National Mall at 3rd Street and Madison Dr. NW, in front of the Capitol Reflecting Pool, where there will be a stage set up for rally speakers, musicians and performers.
As WND reported, even the original author of the controversial Patriot Act, Rep. James Sensenbrenner Jr., R-Wis., has since filed a legal brief challenging the NSA’s interpretation that the law allows vast spying authority, contending that it never was intended to allow the collection of records of telephone calls of all Americans.
The brief is part of a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of New York and others against James Clapper, chief of national intelligence for President Obama, NSA director Keith Alexander, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and others.
The fight erupted after The Guardian published a classified document in June leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who now is residing in Russia.
The report detailed how the NSA is vacuuming up “call data from the Verizon phone network under the auspices of Section215 of the Patriot Act.”
The lawsuit seeks to defend “Americans’ rights to privacy, due process, and free speech.”
In a statement to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Sensenbrenner said, “I stand by the Patriot Act and support the specific targeting of terrorists by our government, but the proper balance has not been struck between civil rights and American security.”
He continued, “A large, intrusive government – however benevolent it claims to be – is not immune from the simple truth that centralized power threatens liberty. Americans are increasingly wary that Washington is violating the privacy rights guaranteed to us by the Fourth Amendment.”
The EFF noted that in July it filed an additional lawsuit against the NSA on behalf of 18 different groups ranging from environmentalists to churches. It argues that Section 215 violates constitution rights to freedom of association.
“Congress did not grant intelligence agencies unbounded record-collecting authority,” EFF Senior Staff Attorney David Greene said. “The law was crafted to allow the NSA to obtain only records that were relevant to ‘an authorized investigation.’ The NSA admits that the vast majority of the records it collects bear no relation to terrorism. The program’s limitless scope vastly exceeds what Congress intended.”