It’s not just Americans who are concerned about the U.S. government’s secret spying programs. An international coalition of nonprofit organizations focused on civil liberties abuses sent a letter to Congress Tuesday urging lawmakers to protect the privacy of U.S. citizens, as well as those of people everywhere.
The coalition also expressed concern over information-sharing between U.S. authorities and the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Canada, Belgium and New Zealand.
Chiding the Federal government for failing to uphold the principals and documents upon which America was founded, the letter points out the hypocrisy in championing human rights on the world stage and simultaneously spying on its own citizens and non-citizens at home and abroad:
The contradiction between the persistent affirmation of human rights online by the US government and the recent allegations of what appears to be mass surveillance of US and non-US citizens by that same government is very disturbing and carries negative repercussions on the global stage. A blatant and systematic disregard for the human rights articulated in Articles 17 and 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which the United States is signatory, as well as Articles 12 and 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is suggested. Bearing in mind that the US must engage in a long overdue discussion about how to update and modernize its policy to align with its own founding documents and principles, what happens next in legislative and Executive Branch oversight in the US will have huge and irreversible consequences for the promotion and protection of the human rights of people around the world.
The group concludes that the only way for the U.S. government to reconcile the contradiction on the global scale is dismantling its surveillance initiatives involving widespread Internet and telecommunications data collection, protecting whistle-blowers at home and creating a watchdog group to ensure a healthy balance between privacy and protection:
We therefore urge the Obama administration and the United States Congress to take immediate action to dismantle existing, and prevent the creation of future, global Internet and telecommunications based surveillance systems. We additionally urge the US Administration, the FBI and the Attorney General to allow involved or affected companies to publish statistics of past and future Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requests they have received or may receive. We further call on the US Congress to establish protections for government whistleblowers in order to better ensure that the public is adequately informed about abuses of power that violate the fundamental human rights of the citizens of all countries, US and other. We also join Humans Rights Watch in urging the creation of an independent panel with subpoena power and all necessary security clearances to examine current practices and to make recommendations to ensure appropriate protections for the rights to privacy, free expression, and association. The results of this panel should be broadly published.
Among the 50 organizations involved in sending the letter are: the Electronic Frontier Foundation, European Digital Rights, Association For Progressive Communications, Access Now, WebWeWant Foundation, Center for Technology and Society and Thai Netizen Network.