Appelbaum: Surveillance antithetical to democracy

Seattle Privacy co-founder Jacob Appelbaum explains in this Democracy Now clip what happens to a democracy that is placed under total surveillance. Like David Miranda, who on Sunday was held and interrogated for nine hours under a terrorism law at London’s Heathrow airport, Jacob has been harassed for years when crossing international borders. Why? David is the partner of journalist Glenn Greenwald, who has written about the NSA documents leaked by Edward Snowden; Jacob, for his part, has been a supporter of Wikileaks. Their experience shows how our governments will slap the label “terrorist” on anybody who dissents or conducts investigative journalism — not because they suspect actual terror plots, but to intimidate and silence.

Perhaps the most thought-provoking line:

“It’s not merely a matter of whether we have something to hide, because it is not us who will decide whether we have something to hide.”

Watch the entire interview.

Who’s paranoid now?

Surveillance, NSA, Big Brother, leakers, intrigue, lies — the public’s awareness of how government watches us has spread way beyond privacy advocates worried about security cameras. Official snooping in and around Seattle remains the primary business of Seattle Privacy, but we think it’s sensible to add a section on the site to address the bigger issues. “About that NSA leak…” begins today with a link to an FAQ about the National Security Agency’s surveillance activities (as they are now publicly understood). We’ll add other links from time to time while trying not to go overboard with a news story that just won’t stop.

We can’t keep up with the feds

Yesterday, the Guardian revealed that the US government has been collecting months of phone “metadata” on millions of Verizon customers. Today, the Washington Post and the Guardian informed us that both the National Security Agency and the FBI have been pulling Americans’ data from major web companies like Facebook and Google.

Here’s a useful archive from ProPublica of articles on federal surveillance programs.

And for a fascinating look into what was happening at the NSA after 9/11, and some insight into how we got here, visit “The Secret Sharer,” a brilliant New Yorker article Jane Mayer wrote about Thomas Drake, a former National Security Agency official who was charged in 2010 with violating the Espionage Act. The government alleged that Drake had illegally retained and shared top-secret documents related to Trailblazer, a program designed to help the N.S.A. track cell phones and e-mail. The New Yorker has unlocked the piece in light of recent developments so its available to all.

Frankly, we just can’t hold down our jobs and write about it all. Besides, we want to keep our site as focused as possible on engaging with local government, because that’s where we think that we can make the most difference. But we had to at least MENTION the whole #PRISM thing, if only for our own sanity.

Visit our Contact page to sign up to receive calls for action. We’re in coalition-building mode and we need many voices to convince the City Council that the public cares about this stuff. We’re planning an email and phone call campaign in the future. Please join us.