Mass surveillance of our telephone & electronic communications must end
Last week, the British Guardian newspaper and the Washington Post revealed the massive scale of government surveillance of telephonic and online communications by the National Security Agency. The government claims that the programs in question will not be used to monitor the people communicating with each other within the United States, and that at any rate, there are adequate accountability mechanisms built into the programs, including court and congressional oversight. National Intelligence Director James R. Clapper has angrily denounced the media for publishing the leaked material, and the government says it is going to launch an investigation as to how this happened.
The Communist Party USA has long experience with government spying. We ourselves have been subjected to decades of this sort of thing, whose purpose was not to “protect” the country and its people but to silence working people’s voices. Now, in an age when working people’s struggles for social justice increasingly transcend national boundaries, the programs revealed in the Guardian and Washington Post are fraught with danger to our rights and that under this and future administrations, abuses are inevitable. Indeed, when this topic first arose during the administration of George W. Bush, it was widely denounced not only by civil libertarians but also by many Democratic Party (and a few Republican) politicians as an assault on our civil liberties. The program now in the news is basically the one initiated under Bush, but the vast scale of operations under Obama has shocked many
The fact that the program operates under authorization of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court does not satisfy us. This is a secret court whose members are chosen by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. It only accepts cases brought by the government, its deliberations are not open to the public, and it almost never publishes its decisions.
Nor are we satisfied by the so called “congressional oversight”. The heads of the House and Senate committees on intelligence are secretly briefed on the program, but are not allowed to reveal what is said in these briefings or discuss them with their constituents. And for quite a while, two Democratic members of the Senate Committee, Ron Wyden and Mark Udall, have been warning about this situation without being able to go into detail because of the legal restrictions they are under.
The claim by the government that only communications between people in the United States and people in foreign countries are being monitored does not satisfy us either. In an increasingly globalized world, there are many urgent reasons for U.S. persons to be communicating with people in other countries without the fear that police officers are looking over our shoulders. To give just one example, the government is currently negotiating new international trade treaties that are a source of worry to labor unions in all the countries involved. Can we now assume that any communications between U.S. unions and those in other countries, on the topic of international labor solidarity, will now be “legally” spied on? And what about those of us who participate in online “listserves” which are not confined only to U.S. citizens and residents?
Finally, we strongly feel that this is no way to fight terrorism. Real terrorists can easily evade these monitoring mechanisms. For example, the Boston Marathon bombings were not stopped by all of this massively expensive and intrusive electronic wizardry.
The CPUSA therefore demands:
- That the full truth of the eavesdropping programs be revealed to the U.S. public, so that there can be an open discussion and real PUBLIC accountability.
- That the programs revealed by the Guardian and Washington Post be abandoned.
- That the repressive laws which make these things possible, starting with the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001, be repealed.
- That the United States work for a peaceful world in which the conflict situations from which terrorist threats arise are eliminated.
- That the United States agree to an international conference, proposed by Cuba and others, to create new mechanisms to stop terrorism.
- That the United States crack down on terrorists living and scheming on our own territory, such as the extremist Cuban exiles in South Florida.