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My Restore the Fourth Rally Speech

July 8th, 2013 · 14 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


       

 

14 responses so far ↓

  • 1 K. Chen // Jul 8, 2013 at 2:12 pm

    26/30 on speaker points – what are you doing with your hands man? The video version of your speech has a better cadence to it, a direct transcript would serve you better. I still don’t understand the segue into Amendment IV.

  • 2 Julian Sanchez // Jul 8, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    Oof, harsh grader! I was hoping for at least a 27. (If you mean the fidgeting with my forehead—it was hot! I was sweating!) And it was a “Restore the Fourth” rally, so I figured I should link my remarks to the broad value embedded in the Fourth Amendment—there’s no specific legal argument intended, though I think there’s a general consensus that much of the electronic surveillance conducted in the 60s & early 70s did, in fact, violate the Fourth Amendment.

  • 3 K. Chen // Jul 8, 2013 at 2:40 pm

    I once tried to give a kid a zero (tournament directors agreed with my reasons, but told me it’d be bumped to a 15 automatically) so consider yourself lucky. And honestly, it looked like you just needed like, 15 minutes more to prepare, leave your notebook behind and sew your pockets shut.

    Moving onto substantive issues for a moment, and maybe this is the fault of the legal education ruining my ability to comprehend normal people, why can’t we have this discussion as a policy argument: these invasive government practices are bad things rather than at the altar of a legal document that reads: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

    I think the strongest argument against the NSA wiretap-et-al is actually similar to the one against the death penalty. We can argue about first principles all day long, or we can point out that the state, like any entity not possessing the combined wisdom and individual discretion of Solomon, simply cannot make this decision competently on a consistent enough basis. We can make legal arguments until we’re blue in the face, or first principles on the balance of privacy and security, but I think your line here is really the best point:

    “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.”

  • 4 Hundreds join DC rally to #RestoreThe4th on July 4th (videos, photos) | Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition // Jul 8, 2013 at 2:46 pm

    [...] Julian Sanchez, Cato Institute (video, text) [...]

  • 5 Thomas Nephew // Jul 8, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    Great speech, Julian; thanks. I was surprised — don’t know why, just was — and moved by your Mario Savio quote at the end. I’ve been recommending it at the FB pages I frequent.

  • 6 Julian Sanchez // Jul 8, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    Thanks Thomas! And the surprise is reasonable enough—I doubt Mario Savio is quoted by Cato scholars with any great frequency.

    K. Chen— I think there’s actually a pretty strong argument that both §702 and the metadata program violate the Fourth Amendment properly understood, though in the latter case certainly the Supreme Court’s current jurisprudence would seem to permit it (which is, to my mind, a pretty good reductio of Smith & its progeny). Still, I agree it’s unwise on policy grounds notwithstanding the law. Again, I think the thing to bear in mind vis a vis a general audience is that the Fourth Amendment (like the First) stands for a set of broad background values, not just a specific set of cases and procedural requirements.

  • 7 Anon // Jul 9, 2013 at 10:21 am

    Savio, not Savia as in your written speech. I concur with Thomas Nephew about that particular sentence in Savio’s speech – it was and still is very moving.

    You get 98% from me for the passionate and electric live delivery.

  • 8 Julian Sanchez // Jul 9, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    Whoops, typo! Fixed.

  • 9 Elizabeth Ames // Jul 11, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    Great speech, Julian!

  • 10 Anon // Jul 13, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    Julian, I’ve been reading your analysis of the PATRIOT act etc. for a long time, but hadn’t seen you on video before.

    You’re a good speaker. Keep up the good work, write more, and please write about the things you do outside of the blog. It is really interesting.

  • 11 Ron Watts // Aug 5, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    Entirely approve of your efforts and comments until you recommend tossing bodies on the machinery. Intelligent discussion must prevail. Nobody is any good if they are dead!

  • 12 Julian Sanchez // Aug 5, 2013 at 7:46 pm

    I had hoped it would be obvious that was a figure of speech—I don’t think NSA servers have any gears to throw bodies upon even assuming one could get into Fort Meade. I just meant people need to continue coming out into the streets to protest, and otherwise throw themselves into political action. Mario Savio wasn’t literally telling people to maim themselves either—it’s just a particularly evocative metaphor for uncompromising dedication.

  • 13 rasierertest // Oct 3, 2013 at 5:38 am

    You are a good speaker. Have the talent. go for it man!

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