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86 tech rights groups demand an end to NSA surveillance

By Michael Mayday , Jun 12, 2013 07:39 PM EDT
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A bipartisan group of 86 civil liberty organizations and tech firms signed a petition on Monday, demanding Congress promptly act against prolonged cybersurveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

To further organize opposition to secret surveillance programs, the petitioners have collectively launched StopWatching.us, a coalition demanding the halt of government surveillance programs.

The American Civil Liberties Union, The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Reddit, Mozilla, FreedomWorks and many more have signed the petition, which has been designed after the massive SOPA/PIPA protests in 2012. Those protests organized Internet activists against perceived anti-piracy legislation. Protesters argued the laws were built to be abused by copyright holders, and could change the fundamental structure of the Internet.

The petition is the result of last week's revelations that the NSA and the FBI have, for years, used a variety of programs to collected data on foreign communications, and, at times, the communications of U.S. citizens.

"This type of blanket data collection by the government strikes at bedrock American values of freedom and privacy," the letter reads. "This dragnet surveillance violates the First and Fourth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, which protect citizens' right to speak and associate anonymously and guard against unreasonable searches and seizures that protect their right to privacy."

According to The Verge, Stopwatching.us is planning for a call-in day where protesters call their respective Congressmen throughout the day demanding change. Rainey Reitman, activism director with the EFF told The Verge that no date has been set yet.

The intelligence community, however, has repeatedly denied it actively collects data on U.S. citizens, with NSA director James Clapper stating before Congress the NSA doesn't do so "wittingly." But the leaks of NSA and FBI programs by former NSA and CIA agent Edward Snowden seem to prove otherwise.

Those programs suggests government agencies actively collects metadata over cell phone networks and have apparent direct access to servers owned by nine major Internet companies - from Microsoft to Yahoo and Google - through a program called PRISM.

Politicians on Capitol Hill have been very active in defending the program, with leaders saying that Congress has held both classified and unclassified meetings on these programs, according to The New York Times.

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