Websites back protests of NSA spying

| Thursday, July 4, 2013, 8:48 p.m.

The online community rallied on Thursday in support of live protests against the government's surveillance of Internet activity, a practice recently exposed by a former contractor for the National Security Agency.

Websites such as Reddit and Mozilla supported a campaign in cities across the United States to “Restore the Fourth” — a reference to the Constitution's Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens against unlawful search and seizure.

The home page of the website Boing Boing, for example, displayed the following message to the NSA: “Happy 4th of July! Immediately stop your unconstitutional spying on the world's internet users — The People.”

“Our demands are very simple: We think these programs which violate the constitutional rights of Americans need to end,” said Ben Doernberg, an organizer of the New York City protest.

By early afternoon, crowds of more than 400 had gathered in New York City and Washington, the organizers said. They estimate the total turnout will be more than 10,000 nationwide.

In Philadelphia, more than 100 people gathered downtown to protest NSA surveillance, saying the recently publicized PRISM program violates their Fourth Amendment rights.

A 79-year-old rabbi and a 28-year-old graphic designer were among the local organizers of the new group, Restore the Fourth.

The group marched one mile — from Washington Square Park to the Municipal Services Building near City Hall — chanting, “NSA, go away.”

In San Francisco, protesters walked from City Hall to the Embarcadero with signs that read “Legalize the U.S. Constitution” and “I refuse to sacrifice my liberty for security.” Police estimated there were at least 250 people protesting, but they said the group was growing larger throughout the day.

The NSA, on its website, stated: “NSA does not object to any lawful, peaceful protest. NSA and its employees work diligently and lawfully every day, around the clock, to protect the nation and its people.”

Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden has been charged with espionage for allegedly disclosing the agency's surveillance programs. He has spent more than a week in a Moscow airport seeking a country that would grant him asylum.

The online protest was started by The Internet Defense League, a network of more than 30,000 websites and Internet users whose goal is to protest attempts to curtail the freedom of the Web.

Evan Greer, a spokesman for the IDL, said nearly 13,500 Twitter users had taken part in a thunderclap, in which they all tweeted the same or similar message at the same time to their more than 9 million followers.

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