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Thousands Rally in DC to Urge the NSA to "Stop Watching Us"

Outside of DC’s Union Station at noon on Saturday, about 2,000 people congregated to march through downtown and eventually protest in front of the Capitol to honor Edward Snowden and express disdain over government spying.
Κείμενο Andrew Blake

When intelligence-contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden fled the US this June to speak with the Guardian's Glenn Greenwald and filmmaker Laura Poitras in a Hong Kong hotel, Snowden admitted a lingering doubt, “The greatest fear that I have regarding the outcome for America, of these disclosures, is that nothing will change." Judging by the turnout at this Saturday’s Washington DC demonstration by anti-surveillance state activists, aptly titled the "Stop Watching Us Rally," Snowden’s revelations—while slow to affect governmental change—still inspires thousands of people from both sides of America’s political divide to express their displeasure at the vast regime of US snooping. Outside of DC’s Union Station at noon on Saturday, about 2,000 people congregated to march through downtown and eventually protest in front of the Capitol to honor Edward Snowden and express disdain over government spying. They came down in droves, many spent all morning on Greyhounds from the likes of New York and elsewhere in the northeast. These efforts weren’t going to reform the Patriot Act overnight, and last week's news that the US had been eavesdropping on foreign leaders like Germany’s prime minister Angela Merkel did little to suggest that reforming the NSA is even possible, but awareness of these issues and a voicing of dissent is the least of what Snowden said he wanted. In his discussions with Greenwald in June, Snowden elaborated on his fears. “People will see, in the media, all of these disclosures. They’ll know the lengths that the government is going to grant themselves powers, unilaterally, to create greater control over American society and global society,”. “But they won’t be willing to take the risks necessary to stand up and fight to change things, and force their representatives to actually take a stand in their interests.” Snowden, 30, has been in Russia since shortly after those remarks over four months ago, and the last person he likely wanted around is any ex-Central Intelligence Agency officer. But Ray McGovern—a retired CIA officer who now dabbles more in activism than eavesdropping--is equally as sure to be the exception. Along with National Security Agency whistleblower Thomas Drake and a few others, McGovern presented Snowden with the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence Award earlier this month in Moscow and spent several hours afterwards with one of the most wanted men in the world. “We said to him, ‘Are you aware that your major fear, that that you sacrificed everything and nothing would happen? Yeah, you don't have to worry about that anymore,'” he recalled to the crowd Saturday. McGovern, 74, said it brought a smile to Snowden, who reportedly smirked something back like, “Yeah, yeah. I’m aware of that.” Both sides of the aisle are helping his objectives too. Michigan Representative Justin Amash (Republican), former Congressmen Dennis Kucinich (Democrat), and 2012 Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson all blurred party lines to unite against the NSA on Saturday, and Drake—an ex-agency employee who was prosecuted after reporting fraud within his office—addressed the audience as well. “Due to the material evidence disclosed by Edward Snowden,” Drake said, “we now know that in great detail—and I’ll add with great more to come—that the NSA does not have an honorable track record of telling the truth while keeping track of us without our consent, hiding behind secret laws, secret opinions, and secret interpretations.” “The last thing a free and open society needs is a digital fence around us creating a virtual turnkey tyranny with barbed wire surveillance not only keeping track of our comings and goings, but now increasingly wanting to know what we think and feel: the very essence of who we are and share as human beings,” Drake said. “I fundamentally reject this dystopian premise.” Drake’s whistleblowing nearly cost him years of his life, and beating out Espionage Act charges is what allows him to attend events like Saturday’s rally instead languishing in jail like . Snowden is well aware, said McGovern, and added that the NSA employee-turned-exile said going through what Drake did “was not an option.” “So if he wanted to get the stuff out, he had to get out of dodge, right?” asked McGovern. It just so happened that that wild ride has since taken him practically the whole way around the world. Less than six months later, an international audience has acknowledged those leaks. On Saturday, event organizers presented Rep. Amash with half-a-million signatures of people wanting reform made to the programs disclosed by Snowden. Department of Justice whistleblower Jesselyn Radack read a statement on Snowden’s behalf, and as thousands watched either in-person or over the internet, it was clear that at least one of Snowden main objectives had been met. Andrew Blake is a producer at RT @apblake


More on NSA Spying:

Three Whistleblowers Talk About Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning

How the Espionage Act of 1917 Became a Law Against Whistleblowering