In one simple step, you can turn every e-mail you send into a warning and protest against the National Security Agency's (NSA) mass surveillance programs. My organization, the Government Accountability Project, is distributing and encouraging use of a Privacy Statement for all Internet users to adopt as part of their signature line in their online communications:
This communication may be unlawfully collected and stored by the National Security Agency (NSA) in secret. The parties to this email do not consent to the retrieving or storing of this communication and any related metadata, as well as printing, copying, re-transmitting, disseminating, or otherwise using it. If you believe you have received this communication in error, please delete it immediately.The NSA is making no effort to filter out communications that the government knows fall within the ambit of legally-recognized confidentiality, such as the doctor-patient, attorney-client, or priest-penitent privileges. Consider all of the privileged and confidential information communicated electronically: an e-mail to your therapist about an upcoming appointment, an e-mail to your doctor to refill a prescription, or to your attorney about an upcoming divorce.
These violations of privacy are not speculation. The Nation reported earlier this week that many attorney-client communications are not subject to NSA's minimization procedures:
Such calls are normally sacrosanct under the principle of attorney-client privilege, the ability to speak confidentially with your lawyer. But a leak to The Guardian last summer of National Security Agency (NSA) procedures that are supposed to protect privileged calls showed that some attorney-client privileged calls are not subject to internal rules that detail the instances when a wiretap should be turned off.Just as Department of Justice Deputy Attorney General James Cole told the House Judiciary Committee that the phone records of members of Congress were not filtered out of the NSA's bulk telephony metadata collection program, there is no indication - even from surveillance state proponents - that NSA weeds out the privileged communications of hundreds of millions of innocent Americans.
The e-mail signature message serves a warning and a protest against mass surveillance. In addition to the e-mail action, next Tuesday, February 11, 2014, has been dubbed "The Day We Fight Back" against mass surveillance:
Participants including Access, Demand Progress, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Fight for the Future, Free Press, BoingBoing, Reddit, Mozilla, ThoughtWorks, and more to come, will join potentially millions of Internet users to pressure lawmakers to end mass surveillance -- of both Americans and the citizens of the whole world.Americans can take a stand against mass surveillance, by participating in Tuesday's "Day We Fight Back," by making every e-mail they send a protest against mass surveillance, and by calling on Congresspeople to support real reform (like the USA FREEDOM Act) and to oppose fake reforms that further empower the national security surveillance apparatus (like Sen. Dianne Feinstein's FISA Improvements Act).
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden sacrificed his career and his life as he knew it to give Americans the knowledge and opportunity to reign in the surveillance state. When Snowden answered questions from the public in January, he expressed a remarkable faith in American democracy:
Do you think it is possible for our democracy to recover from the damage NSA spying has done to our liberties? #AskSnowden(emphasis added)
Yes. What makes our country strong is our system of values, not a snapshot of the structure of our agencies or the framework of our laws. We can correct the laws, restrain the overreach of agencies, and hold the senior officials responsible for abusive programs to account.
If Snowden can maintain his patriotism and faith in democracy amid the near-constant retaliatory threats and smears from high-level US government officials, Americans can seize the chance to prove that American democracy can roll back an out-of-control and powerful surveillance apparatus. You can begin with two clicks of your mouse, copy and paste the message to your e-mail signature line:
This communication may be unlawfully collected and stored by the National Security Agency (NSA) in secret. The parties to this email do not consent to the retrieving or storing of this communication and any related metadata, as well as printing, copying, re-transmitting, disseminating, or otherwise using it. If you believe you have received this communication in error, please delete it immediately.