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My Restore the Fourth Rally Speech

July 8th, 2013 · 111 Comments

The good folks at the Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition captured video of my speech at the Fourth of July “Restore the Fourth Amendment” rally in DC’s McPherson Square:

Here’s the text I scribbled in a notebook before I got up. The gist is the same, but this is a somewhat more polished version:

At the dawn of the Cold War, America’s intelligence agencies began constructing a vast surveillance machine. It was a machine with many parts, and a codename for each program it ran.

It was a machine made of copper wire twisted around switchboard terminals, and microphones installed covertly in homes and offices. It was made from COINTELPRO‘s human informants, and from manila envelopes marked JUNE MAIL bound for J. Edgar Hoover’s “Personal & Confidential” file.

It was made of the magnetic tapes carrying millions of international telegrams, couriered daily to the NSA under Project SHAMROCK. And it was made of the computer punchcards, holding the names of American citizens on Project MINARET watchlists, so their communications could be filtered from those telegrams.

Its operating system was written in secret memos and directives that distorted the law and ignored Supreme Court decisions.

The machine was built to fight communism—but it was reprogrammed to fight democracy.

The machine was turned on labor unions and anti-war activists, on journalists and public officials, civil rights leaders and Supreme Court justices.

It was turned on Malcom X and Muhammad Ali, on Stokley Carmichael and H. Rap Brown, on Jane Fonda and I.F. Stone. It was turned above all on Martin Luther King, as the FBI waged a six year campaign to discredit and destroy him, so he could be replaced by what they called “the right kind of negro leader”—meaning one controlled by the FBI and the American intelligence community.

Democracy ultimately proved stronger than that machine—and in the late 1970s, we took steps to dismantle it. We imposed oversight, safeguards, and strict limitations designed to enforce the guarantees of our Constitution and restore the Fourth Amendment.

Decades later, time and fear had dulled those memories, and we began building a new and far more powerful machine—a machine as far beyond Hoover’s as an iPhone is past an abacus.

This machine is built from the fiber-optic cables leading into secret rooms in telecom offices, where sophisticated “semantic analyzers” filter all our Internet traffic.  It’s built from the multi-billion terabyte servers at the massive storage facility the NSA is constructing in Utah.

The new machine runs programs with names like BLARNEY and STELLAR WIND, PINWALE and PRISM—and the source code is still secret.

The old machine was large but limited. It could spy on the government’s “enemies”—but it couldn’t spy on everyone.

The new machine can. It is wired into the cell phones in our pockets, and the switches that route every Web site we read, and every e-mail we write.

And when this machine is reprogrammed in secret—when it is turned against us, whether out of panic or malice, by the next officials who can’t distinguish a national security threat from a threat to the status quo—there may not be anywhere left for us to hide.

One of the targets of the old machine was the Berkeley Free Speech movement. And one one of their student leaders, Mario Savio, gave a famous speech in 1964, where he said:

There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart that you can’t take part! You can’t even passively take part! And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus — and you’ve got to make it stop!

Well, it is that time again. It is time for us to put our bodies on the gears and make this machine stop. It is time to restore the Fourth Amendment.

Tags: Privacy and Surveillance


       

 

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