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Restore the Fourth: the Amendment and the Spirit of Independence Day

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Message Nozomi Hayase

On this 4th of July, while many Americans were celebrating the country's Independence Day, rallies were held nationwide to protest the National Security Agency's (NSA's) massive violations of privacy and Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.

The campaign "Restore the Fourth," spearheaded by a grassroots, non-partisan group of Internet activists, emerged about a month ago, following revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden of the agency's mass surveillance activities. The campaign launched protests in over 100 cities across America, and Reddit, Mozilla and other Internet services staged the largest online protest since the censorial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) was introduced in Congress in 2012.

Restore the Fourth
Restore the Fourth
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Citing the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution, the Restore the Fourth campaign demands that the United States government respect the law and shut down its egregious spying. One clause of that amendment declares that "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated" "

Since Edward Snowden's initial revelations, documents from his NSA files have disclosed the broad scale of active US spying around the globe. The German magazine Der Spiegel reported that not only were European citizens spied on, but politicians and diplomats were also primary targets of the NSA's mass surveillance. NSA files revealed that, among the EU's 27 member states, the agency's spying was most active in Germany, and that, overall, it systematically monitors and stores half a billion telephone and Internet collection data each day.

America's Imperial Role in the World

The NSA files reveal that the US has become a worldwide spy. They also reveal what many suspected, yet perhaps couldn't quite call out: that behind the thin faà ade of "international diplomacy" lies the real face of an imperial US government. Our nation is now rapidly taking on a black reputation as the world's self-appointed policeman, acting like a rogue empire and making its own laws as it goes along. The US reacted indignantly when China and Russia demurely declined to send the NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden back to the States when the US demanded it.

At this point, Snowden is believed to still be holed up in the transit area of Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport. He has so far applied for asylum in 21 countries. One of those countries, Ecuador, initially came under severe pressure from Washington for its apparent willingness to take Snowden in. Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa later reported, however, that, after he had traded threats with the US over the issue of trade preferences, US vice president Joe Biden asked him in a cordial telephone conversation on June 29th not to grant Snowden asylum.

Once it came to light that Ecuador was playing a key role in Snowden's fate, the country seemed to become an overt target of US aggression. Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino reported on June 14 that officials had found a secret recording device inside Ecuador's London embassy, where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is staying under asylum protection. Shortly after that, both Ecuador's primary email server for its second-biggest stock exchange, and the country's official website for tourists, were taken down with "denial of service" attacks. Self-described "patriot hacktivist" The Jester claimed these actions were part of his protest against Ecuador's willingness to consider asylum for Snowden.

The US, for its own part, seems willing to retaliate against any country that might show support for the former NSA worker who revealed his own nation's egregious violations of basic human rights and international trust. During a flight home from a Moscow conference, the presidential jet of Bolivian president Evo Morales was prevented from flying over France and Portugal, diverted to Vienna, and then searched, based on suspicions that Snowden was aboard. Although US officials refuse to comment on Bolivian claims that the flight was illegally boarded in an attempt to capture Snowden, the US made it clear that the administration was in contact with various countries trying to prevent him from evading capture.

The European Union's seeming deference to the will of the US when push comes to shove brought it to eventually fall in line in support of the US global manhunt. Its acquiescence in this case was particularly spineless, however, considering that an international arrest warrant had not even been issued against the whistle-blower.

Sean Bonner (@seanbonner) tweeted: "Do other countries have to put a little US logo on their money/docs now? Like when a start up is acquired and has 'transitional branding'."

Co-founder of Electric Frontier Foundation John Barlow remarked: "If #Snowden can't find asylum, it will be depressingly clear that the US not only eavesdrops on the world but runs it."

Can We Challenge the Crimes of Empire?

237 years ago, when the US Declaration of Independence was signed, the founding fathers declared independence from the monarchic power of King George. The Declaration begins:

"WHEN in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another... WE hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. -- That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, -- THAT whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles...."

This seminal document then lists the indictments against King George's imperialism. Perhaps, we are now reaching a climate where the crimes of empire are once again being exposed and recognized by people around the world. The Malaysian High Court has found eight members of the Bush-Cheney administration guilty of Torture and War Crimes, including Yoo, Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bush. Former Malaysian Premier, Mahathir Mohamed, attended the hearings and commented, "These are basically murderers and they kill on a large scale."

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Nozomi Hayase is a contributing writer to Culture Unplugged. She brings out deeper dimensions of socio-cultural events at the intersection between politics and psychology to share insight on future social (more...)
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