BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – Members of the Restore the Fourth movement are demanding answers about what they call government eavesdropping on Americans. The fourth amendment protects American’s from unreasonable searches and seizures.
Linn Park in Birmingham was one of many sites around the nation that held a Restore the Fourth protest on the 4th of July.
Local organizer Christy Johnson says about 50 people took part from all sorts of political backgrounds.
“But we want to put pressure on them and let them know that this is of utmost importance for us right now and we want something done about it,” said Johnson.
It’s a discussion that flamed up after Edward Snowden released information about secret government surveillance programs involving secret court orders and massive prolonged data gathering campaigns connected to the NSA.
It’s been more than a decade since the Patriot Act became law and gave the government sweeping new surveillance powers. Since then other controversial surveillance laws have also been approved by Congress.
The security versus privacy debate is long overdue if you ask local protest organizer Christy Johnson.
“The big picture that we’re getting is that there was no debate and there was no discussion. Obviously the American people weren’t aware of it and still wouldn’t be had it not been for the leaks,” said Johnson.
Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Rep. Mike Rogers of Michigan, has been defending the programs outlined
“If you can see the just the number of cases where we’ve actually stopped a plot, I think Americans will come to a different conclusion then all the misleading rhetoric I’ve heard over the last few weeks,” Rep. Mike Rogers, (R) – Michigan.
Keeping the details of these programs off limits to the American public and then repeating that it’s in Americans’ best interest not to know about them for the sake of security, doesn’t sit well with Johnson.
“And they said it’s for your safety. Well as Americans we get to choose. We get to choose what is for our safety. And we need to be able to weigh those options instead of being dictated to which is essentially what’s happening here. And it’s a violation of the 4th amendment,” said Johnson.
Professor Woodrow Hartzog with Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law says the level of information collection and sharing that’s happens between different government agencies and the private sector is truly staggering.
“There seems to be this chorus that you don’t want to have these walls between these agencies and you don’t want to make it hard for the NSA to surveil lots of people or for these agencies to collect and share information because that would thwart their security efforts, but of course making it hard and making these security agencies justify why they want to surveil someone is precisely the point,” said Hartzog.
“That’s the scary thing is that it was done in secret and now that we know thanks to the leaks. A lot of people are like what’s the big deal? What’s the problem? We didn’t want to let you know about it because that would compromise security. Well many of us are not willing to give up our civil liberties in the name of security and we didn’t get a chance to put in our opinions on that because we weren’t even aware of it and we still wouldn’t be aware of it if it weren’t for the leaks that were happening,” said Johnson.
She says about 50 people took part in the July 4th protest at Linn Park. The Restore the Fourth movement will move on from there.
“And what more patriotic thing can you do than be a part of a protest on Independence Day? But discussions start tomorrow about what this very new organization will begin to look like and what our moves will be in the future there’s talks of a march on Washington in the fall, but we’re certainly not going away. We’re not going away until we get our privacy back,” said Johnson.