WASHINGTON — Former Gov. Gary Johnson railed against the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance sweeps in a heated speech on Saturday, calling for a repeal of the PATRIOT Act and slamming the sweeps as a “slap in the face” to U.S. forces.
“Let us not forget that one of the chief complaints against the British government that led us to the Revolutionary War was the fact that the British used general warrant and search for anything and everything,” Johnson said at the “Stop Watching Us” rally held near the Capitol Reflecting Pool.
“To me, it sounds a lot like the [USA] PATRIOT Act. The NSA is certainly reading it that way. There are members of Congress who wrote the PATRIOT Act and are vowing to fix it. Well, there’s only one way to fix the PATRIOT Act ad that’s to repeal the PATRIOT Act,” Johnson continued as the crowd cheered. “The NSA has made a mockery of privacy values. There is a record of every cell phone call and every internet transaction in the U.S. today. This is an absolute slap in the face to every serviceman and every servicewoman who has fought for this country, and who have given their lives for this country under the guise of protecting freedom and liberty.”
Johnson also warned the crowd that their cell phones could be hijacked as listening and tracking devices, even when switched off, but the public did not appear to worry about constant government surveillance.
“The greatest fear I have is that nothing will change. There is a general apathy for what is happening because it’s not about me,” he said.
Johnson again alluded to times of historical upheaval, quoting the anti-Nazi, prominent Protestant priest Martin Niemöller’s famous postwar exhortations:
“I’m reminded of the statement on the wall of the Holocaust museum: ‘First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak put because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.’ Who is looking at all of this personal information? How will it be used? How will it be abused? Stand up, America. We’re mad as hell, and we want you to stop spying on us now!” he shouted.
But Johnson fears that the American public at large will never balk at mass surveillance — voters have failed to rally around a critical example of abuse to which they all object.
“It doesn’t look like there’s any hope at all. This is going to take outrage by the American people, and that does not appear to be the case,” Johnson told The Daily Caller. “It should be, but it’s sure not transpiring. I think it’s because you can’t point to one thing that everybody can relate to as being egregious. Maybe it’s the cell phone. But when you tell people about the cell phone, even turned off, here’s how it might be used, the reaction is, ‘So what? So what do they have to listen to?’”
The future to Johnson looks bleak, with the NSA silently amassing power as voters ignore its growth.
“How can it get worse than what it is? And yet that’s exactly what’s going to happen. It’s going to get worse. And until somehow this creates or we have evidence of a spark — I’m hopeful that this is the spark,” he continued, indicating the crowd behind him, “but it hasn’t been. What is something that everyone can relate to that they say no?”
Jake Harris contributed to this report.