Group hosts anti-NSA, pro-Fourth Amendment rally


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It’s been nearly one month Edward Snowden, a now former technical contractor for the National Security Agency and once a CIA employee, leaked details of top-secret U.S. and British government mass-surveillance programs to the global press community.

He is the source of leaking to the UK-based Guardian and the Washington Post classified information regarding the collection of U.S. citizens’ phone records and online data by the NSA.

According to the leaked data, nine major companies have been involved with opening their servers to government surveillance —Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook, PalTalk, YouTube, Skype, AOL, and Apple. 

To date, difficulties have arisen in the Snowden’s efforts into securing a country in which to settle down, as nearly two dozen countries have kept him out of their domestic boundaries.

But despite a global exile, Snowden appears to have found support right here in Iowa City; nearly 60 people descended on the Pedestrian Mall on Thursday afternoon to voice their support for him.

Surrounded by patriotic-focused, hand-crafted signs that read the Fourth Amendment and other anti-Big Brother stances, local activist Sean Curtin said Snowden represents a “modern day Paul Revere,” someone who should be praised rather than be picked at.

Centered near the Weatherdance Fountain, a two-hour nonviolent rally was headed by Restore the Fourth, a nonpartisan group of citizens who seek to strengthen the Fourth Amendment in the era of digital surveillance. It is part of a growing nationwide movement that began after Snowden’s leaks.

Iowa City’s rally was one of more than 100 cities across the nation to fight against the “NSA surveillance and ensure the privacy of people’s phone and Internet activity,” a Tuesday news release from the group said.

The rally, organizers said, sought to demand the U.S. government adhere to the “constitutionally dictated limits” of the Fourth Amendment and show support for Snowden.

The demands, according to the release, include “enacting reform of the USA Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act … creating a special committee to investigate, report, and reveal to the public the extent of this domestic spying; holding accountable those public officials who are found to be responsible for this unconstitutional surveillance; and guaranteeing due process for the NSA whistleblower.

“None of this is a conspiracy,” Curtin said. “It’s a fact. We’re rapidly losing our freedom in America, and the dirty truth is that both parties are to blame.”

Curtin said the national protest has been decades in the making, dating back to the Harry Truman and Lyndon B. Johnson presidential eras. Recent years, with the passing of measures, such the REAL ID Act of 2005, and the recent wars, he said, have only added fuel to the “big government” fire.

Locally, Curtin said infringement is evident in recent attempts at a new Johnson County Justice Center, traffic-camera proposals, and local law enforcement cracking down on underage drinking.

His answer to the police presence?

“We are going to hold the police accountable because they work for us,” he said to the group of local taxpayers. “I love my country, but I fear my government.”

For Jackie Lorenz, a five-year activist, and Mike Libbe, a 10-year member, the matter is rather simple.

“We’re losing our privacy … they shouldn’t have all of our information before they need to use it,” Lorenz said.

“When there’s a clear majority of [U.S.] senators in Congress against this, we have the right to rally,” Libbe said.

Local chapter organizer Aleksey Gurtovoy, a cofounder of Stop Big Brother, a group fighting government overreach, said Thursday’s event was a testament to the grass-roots momentum.

“The leaks and the information recently have shaken up a lot of people,” he said. “It’s starting to go mainstream.”

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