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ARL Joins 86 Orgs, Internet Companies Demanding Committee Investigation, End to Dragnet Spying

phone with sticker on it saying "this phone is tapped"
image © François Proulx

Yesterday, ARL joined with a broad, bipartisan coalition of 86 organizations and Internet companies—including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, reddit, Mozilla, and the American Civil Liberties Union—to send a letter to Congress demanding swift investigation and reform in light of the recent revelations about unchecked global surveillance.

The letter was accompanied by the launch of StopWatching.Us, a global petition demanding an inquiry into the scope and scale of spying activities.

Responding to recent leaked documents providing detailed evidence of the National Security Agency (NSA)’s collection of telephone records and online activity of innocent Americans and global Internet users, the groups called for a congressional investigatory committee similar to the Church Committee of the 1970s. The letter demands legal reforms to rein in spying and that public officials responsible for this unconstitutional surveillance be held accountable for their actions.

The letter denounced NSA’s spying program as illegal, noting:

This type of blanket data collection by the government strikes at bedrock American values of freedom and privacy. 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.

The groups called for a numbers of specific reforms in their open letter to Congress, including:

  • Reform to the controversial Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, the “business records” section which, through secret court orders, was misused to force Verizon to provide the NSA with detailed phone records of millions of customers
  • Reform to the FISA Amendment Act, the unconstitutional law that allows the government to conduct mass surveillance on American and international communications nearly without restriction
  • Amendment to the state secrets privilege, the legal tool that has expanded over the last 10 years to prevent the government from being held accountable for domestic surveillance
  • The formation of a Congressional investigatory committee to investigate, report, and reveal to the public the extent of domestic spying, and the creation of specific recommendations for legal and regulatory reform to end unconstitutional surveillance
  • Accountability for those public officials found to be responsible

The global petition site, StopWatching.Us, offers American citizens and residents the ability to directly contact their elected representatives to demand oversight and reform, echoing the concerns of the coalition letter. The petition will allow non-US persons to communicate their concerns directly to the White House.

Individuals who would like to speak out against NSA spying are encouraged to sign the petition at StopWatching.Us.

Read the full letter to Congress on the ARL Policy Notes blog.

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is a nonprofit organization of 125 research libraries in the US and Canada. Its mission is to influence the changing environment of scholarly communication and the public policies that affect research libraries and the diverse communities they serve. ARL pursues this mission by advancing the goals of its member research libraries, providing leadership in public and information policy to the scholarly and higher education communities, fostering the exchange of ideas and expertise, facilitating the emergence of new roles for research libraries, and shaping a future environment that leverages its interests with those of allied organizations. ARL is on the web at http://www.arl.org/.