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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

To Stop NSA Spying, Look for Solutions Outside of Washington DC

When it comes to political activism in America, it almost all focuses within the 202 area code. But over the last few years, it’s become clear we cannot count on Washington D.C. to rein in its own surveillance programs. 

We need a different approach that engages activists and concerned Americans outside of the Beltway.

Jaw-dropping, outrageous instances of rights-violating NSA behavior coming to come to light almost every day creates a sense of urgency. We want it stopped and we want it stopped now. We’ve seen privacy and civil libertarians mobilize, but the focus have been almost exclusively on Congress and federal courts.

It’s not working on its own.

We need additional strategies.

We can’t expect to stop its operation in a day. We must strategize for the long haul. Defeating the NSA is no small task. But by expanding out activism outside of the 202 area code, we can put more pressure on the feds and perhaps speed the process.

Computer security expert and freedom activist Jacob Appelbaum said we are in for a ‘100 year war‘ against the NSA and its proponents. The agency has already amassed a staggering amount of power. What it has the capability to do right now would probably astound even some of the preeminent science-fiction authors of our time. After grasping this troublesome information, we must come to terms with the monumental task that lies ahead of us.

In our first year, OffNow got the NSA reform movement off to a good start. We received national press coverage from a diverse range of outlets, cutting through the partisan political barrier. Our legislation was introduced in over a dozen states across the country. We also exposed many of the powerful interests in bed with the NSA during year one.

In Arizona, where our 4th Amendment Protection Act passed successfully through two senate committees, multinational corporations AT&T and Cox Communications lobbied heavily to stop our progress. Elsewhere, it was the usual suspects working against us: sheriff’s organizations and police unions. We showed that it is not just the NSA at war with our Constitutional rights, but also an entourage of corporations, trade organizations and lobbyist groups chomping at the bit to make a buck from the on-going destruction of the Bill of Rights.

By pushing our plan to stop states from providing support for warrantless spying out into the mainstream, we forced the NSA’s collaborates to show themselves. This makes them more vulnerable to consumer backlash that can work as another front in the fight against illegal spying. Our legislation draws a line in the sand. Interests on the correct side of the line favor human rights, the rule of law, privacy and decency for all. Interests on the wrong side stand only for their own power and profit, even if it comes at the expense of the greater good.

However, public support can nullify the onerous influence of these unscrupulous entities. When politicians feel enough heat, they will cave because self-preservation is their most important priority. This is how we overcome the NSA and its powerful cronies. But to make it happen, Americans need to get active at the local and state levels.

This is not a simple task. The public has been conditioned to think that the only way they can effectively challenge their government is by showing up intermittently and voting for the two major parties in federal elections. State and local government agencies have been marginalized almost to the point of irrelevance. But it doesn’t have to be that way. A dedicated, passionate handful of people can achieve success at the local and state levels. The federal government depends on state and local support. This fact means we can begin to rein in the NSA and other agencies involved in the surveillance-state.

We won’t have to fight a 100 year war against the NSA if we can mobilize enough people to focus on their backyard, rather than Washington D.C. We can defeat the NSA – perhaps not today or tomorrow – but it is possible. We just have to be smart and refuse to play on their terms. By focusing primarily on state legislatures, we create a whole new ball game. There is no do-nothing Congress, no corrupt courts, no bought-off federal prosecutors to rely on to achieve justice. It is just We the People dealing with officials at the lower levels of government who are less difficult to influence than their federal counterparts.

So what are you waiting for? Stand on the right side of history, and help create a freer world for future generations by joining our campaign.


Shane Trejo

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October 8, 2014By Shane TrejoStrategy Surveillance

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Shane Trejo