Celeb John Cusack endorses anti-secrecy rallies on 4th of July

07/02/13 Janelle Irwin
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More than 90 protests against NSA spying are scheduled across the country Thursday. During a phone conference Tuesday, Hollywood Celebrity John Cusack jumped on the fight by supporting the Take Back the Fourth national day of protest demanding Congress protect citizens’ Fourth Amendment rights.

“We have prosecution of whistleblowers at an all time high, we have kill lists, we have drone assassination programs, we have people jailed without trail, the destruction of habeas corpus, we have secret courts that have been used and abused since the … tragedy of 9/11 and now these revelations of spying of every citizen and perhaps every human being on the planet – the end of constitutional rights of American privacy.”

Cusack, who is also a board member for the group Freedom of the Press, has endorsed a campaign called Stop Watching Us. More than a half million people have signed their petition demanding NSA accountability. The movement cropped up after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked documents uncovering massive government spying operations. Snowden has been accused of treason by several Washington lawmakers. Cusack said it shouldn’t be criminal to report an abuse of power.

“What we hear about from the press is the alleged character defects of the whistleblowers. Now, that’s the oldest bait and switch in the book and we have to say that we’re not morons.”

The rallies on the Fourth of July are expected to be largest in New York City and Washington D.C. But events are scheduled in other cities, including Tampa. The group Stop Watching Us is asking Congress to reform a section of the PATRIOT Act that allows blanket surveillance of internet activity and phone records. Anna Wilmesher is a spokesperson for the 23-day-old group Restore the Fourth.

“In order to enact change, we must focus on specific legislation and we must push our state’s representatives to do what they are sworn to do … uphold the constitution of the United States.”

More than 100 groups, including Mozilla, have voiced their support of the anti-spying efforts. Harvey Anderson is the senior vice president of business and legal affairs for the company that created the Firefox web browser. He said, so far, they haven’t been ordered to turn over data about users.

“We would be forbidden from disclosing that fact under many circumstances. It’s this lack of transparency that also undermines the openness of the internet that we’d like to see.”

The information leaked by Edward Snowden about NSA’s data collection sparked a debate about whether privacy should be sacrificed for security. Cusack argues Americans are entitled to both.

“I was taught by my parents and in my civics classes that it’s the government’s obligation to keep us safe while protecting our constitution. To suggest it’s one or the other is simply wrong and I think if someone from the government does suggest that, they need to get out of the government.”

The Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald and Snowden have been scrutinized by lawmakers and the media for making public what the government considers sensitive information. Craig Aaron is the president and CEO of Free Press.

“The efforts to smear, slander and silence these reporters must be challenged and the ability for these reporters and all reporters to do their jobs must be safeguarded.”

Aaron said public outrage over NSA spying shouldn’t be downplayed by government officials.

“I don’t think we should believe those who suggest that the American people don’t care about this scandal. Those pushing that line are just hoping that people won’t find out what’s really going on and as we learn about the unchecked surveillance and corporate collusion, the outcry is only going to grow louder and louder.”

Another group supporting the Restore the Fourth effort is ColorofChange.org. The civil rights group’s campaign manager, Kim Lehmkuhl, said this debate is reminiscent of COINTELPRO where the FBI used spying tactics to weed out communism.

“And then that rapidly shifted into rooting out, sort of, whom ever the FBI decided was disruptive to the social order at the time and you have intensive targeting of the Black Panther Party, the NAACP, Congress of Racial Equality, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. You have FBI bugging and blackmailing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and even urging him to kill himself.”

Protesters will rally in downtown Tampa at Gaslight Square at 12:30 p.m. Thursday. Information about protests in other cities is on the website, restore the fourth dot net.

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