Anti-NSA Web protest comes to Congress

An Internet-based protest against the National Security Agency came to Capitol Hill on Tuesday.

At a press conference steps from the Capitol, in front of banners calling to “Close the NSA” and “Save America,” Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) pledged support for an online action in which more than 6,000 websites are participating. 

“This protest is very much the American way, where the public has again and again stood up for public rights,” he said.

“Our ancestors rejected the colonial-era surveillance state,” he added. “It’s time for us to reject that now.”

Websites, advocacy groups and tech companies on Tuesday posted banners on their sites to urge people to contact Congress in favor of the USA Freedom Act, which would end or limit many of the NSA’s controversial data collection practices. Mozilla, Reddit, the ACLU and a coalition of companies including Facebook and Google have joined the effort, which is being called The Day We Fight Back.

More than 50,000 calls had been made to Congress on the issue, and more than 100,000 emails had been sent, as of Tuesday afternoon.

Activists from the Defending Dissent Foundation, Code Pink and other groups spoke alongside Holt.

“We’re going to let Congress know that we mean business,” said Nathan White, a spokesman for Restore the Fourth, a group that has opposed the NSA's surveillance programs.

Holt last year introduced his own reform bill, the Surveillance State Repeal Act, which would go further than the USA Freedom Act by repealing both the Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act, the two laws that authorized many of the current surveillance efforts.

Holt’s bill would also grant whistle-blower protections for people who report accusations against national security programs.

“I think mine would be the most dramatic to fix these problems,” he said.