WASHINGTON — Nearly a thousand protestors, sponsored by one hundred public advocacy groups, marched on the Capitol in Washington, D.C. to rally against the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance sweeps on Saturday.
“Why are we here?” former NSA executive and whistleblower Thomas Drake asked the gathered crowd. “We’re against mass surveillance!”
Drake, who was prosecuted by the Department of Justice under the Espionage Act for leaking unclassified information to a Baltimore Sun reporter, declared that the government “tried to bankrupt me, silence me and imprison me,” and that he was fortunate not to end up in prison.
“We cannot let this happen to future whistleblowers,” he said, adding that reform efforts must include whistleblower protection and not rely on an “NSA honor system” that was dependent on the agency admitting to rights violations.
“The NSA does not have an honorable track record of telling the truth when tracking us without our consent,” he said.
Jessselyn Radack, a former Department of Justice ethics advisor and director of the Government Accountability Project, read a statement from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
“The U.S. intelligence community built a pervasive system of surveillance,” Radack read, noting that every phone call and Internet transaction is recorded by the NSA.
“It’s about power, control and trust in government,” she continued, adding that elected officials were “public servants, not private investigators” to applause. “We declare that mass surveillance has no place in this country. It is time for reform — elections are coming, and we are watching you.”
No further leaks from Snowden, however, will be forthcoming, Radack told The Daily Caller.
“Edward Snowden is not in possession of any information anymore,” Radack said, “but I have no doubt that journalists will continue to make revelations over the coming months into the next year.”
Radack added that she doubted that Snowden would return to the U.S. after it declared him “an enemy of the state.”
“I don’t think he’s coming here anytime soon, unless the whole climate changes,” she said. “Right now in the United States, there’s a war on civil liberties, and people who tell the truth are being prosecuted under the Espionage Act — the most draconian law you can levy against an American, because you’re deeming them an enemy of the state.”
Michigan Republican Rep. Justin Amash also addressed the rally to push for legislative reform, recounting his narrowly-defeated amendment to defund the NSA’s phone metadata collection program.