NSA Washington march: Anti-secrecy activists marched in front of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., Saturday, protesting NSA spying. US citizens and world leaders are rattled at reports of vast surveillance of phone and Internet communications.
At a rally in Washington Saturday, self-exiled whistleblower Edward Snowden described “a system of pervasive surveillance” operating against American citizens, and he urged technology and free rights activists to spread awareness of the spying violations in the name of reform.
Mr. Snowden, the former contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA) who provided leaks about agency phone and Internet interceptions, is a key figure in the current controversy involving the agency. His message to the rally came as a statement sent from Russia, where he now lives under temporary asylum to avoid prosecution in the United States.
Just last week, leaks linked to Snowden revealed that the NSA had allegedly eavesdropped on cell phone calls by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. This follows protests by other world leaders from Brazil, France, Spain, Italy, and as many 30 other countries – most of them US allies – who say NSA spying is a violation and could seriously impair their relationship with the US.
“Today, no telephone in America makes a call without leaving a record with the NSA. Today, no Internet transaction enters or leaves America without passing through the NSA's hands. Our representatives in Congress tell us this is not surveillance. They’re wrong,” Snowden said. “Now it’s time for the government to learn from us.”
Although the US officially denies the monitoring, tensions continue to mount.
Last week, President Obama called French President Francois Hollande regarding a report in Le Monde that the NSA accessed more than 70 million phone records of French citizens in a single month in 2012. Also in Europe, Der Spiegel reported that NSA surveillance was tracked in the offices of senior officials of the European Union.
Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert said the German Chancellor told Obama “she unmistakably disapproves of and views as completely unacceptable such practices.”
“If the indications are authenticated, this would be a serious breach of confidence,” Mr. Seibert said. “Such practices have to be halted immediately.”