CODEPINK Women for Peace and the Maryland Light Brigade held light panels at the White House Thursday night, spelling out #STOPSPYING while hundreds of tourists watched. They were demonstrating against NSA spying on U.S. citizens and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funded fusion centers across the country.
Edward Snowden exposed NSA gathering of cellphone meta data in a program code named PRISM. Peace groups have protested NSA spying since the Guardian published revelations in the documents Snowden released.
“The message we want to send the president [is] to see that we’re very upset about the NSA spying,” said Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CODEPINK. “We don’t think the reforms the President is promising are good enough and we want our privacy back,” she said as she stood holding an illuminated letter.
In response to growing opposition from citizens over NSA spying, President Obama promised to reform the NSA meta data collection program.
Peace groups were also demonstrating against fusion centers, which work as nodes for crime data collection. They were created and funded by Department of Homeland Security (DHS) after the 9-11 attacks, to search for potential terrorist activity. DHS spent billions developing fusion centers as integrated tools for state and municipal law enforcement to quickly share and access national crime databases. But after years of surveilling certain communities for potential terrorists, and with little or no proof terrorist activity was stopped, there is growing concern the centers are being used to watch peaceful political groups.
The Boston fusion center spied on Veterans For Peace in 2012, although the group committed no crime. Another fusion center in North Texas targeted Muslim communities.
“These fusion centers are disgusting. We should turn them into making solar panels or doing something useful for society, not turning us into a big brother state that monitors our every move,” Benjamin said. “If that technology were available during the time of Hitler they would have really been excited about having that level of control.”
A report by the Brennan Center of Justice at NYU School of Law stated Fusion Centers are wasteful and “whittled away civil liberties.” In some cases “police used aggressive information-gathering tactics to target American-Muslim communities without any suspicion of wrongdoing,” the report said.
Government surveillance of its own citizens “doesn’t fit with a democratic society,” said Benjamin.