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← How the US government spies on people who protest -- including you

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Showing Revision 6 created 08/31/2017 by Brian Greene.

  1. We are all activists now.

  2. (Applause)

  3. Thank you.

  4. I'll just stop here.

  5. (Laughter)

  6. From the families who are fighting
    to maintain funding for public schools,

  7. the tens of thousands of people
    who joined Occupy Wall Street
  8. or marched with Black Lives Matter
  9. to protest police brutality
    against African Americans,
  10. families that join rallies,
  11. pro-life and pro-choice,
  12. those of us who are afraid
  13. that our friends and neighbors
    are going to be deported
  14. or that they'll be added to lists
  15. because they are Muslim,
  16. people who advocate for gun rights
    and for gun control
  17. and the millions of people
    who joined the women's marches
  18. all across the country this last January.
  19. (Applause)

  20. We are all activists now,

  21. and that means that we all have something
    to worry about from surveillance.
  22. Surveillance means
    government collection and use
  23. of private and sensitive data about us.
  24. And surveillance is essential
  25. to law enforcement
    and to national security.
  26. But the history of surveillance
  27. is one that includes surveillance abuses
  28. where this sensitive information
    has been used against people
  29. because of their race,
  30. their national origin,
  31. their sexual orientation,
  32. and in particular,
    because of their activism,
  33. their political beliefs.
  34. About 53 years ago,

  35. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
    gave his "I have a dream" speech
  36. on the Mall in Washington.
  37. And today the ideas behind this speech
    of racial equality and tolerance
  38. are so noncontroversial
  39. that my daughters
    study the speech in third grade.
  40. But at the time,
  41. Dr. King was extremely controversial.
  42. The legendary and notorious
    FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover believed,
  43. or wanted to believe,
  44. that the Civil Rights Movement
    was a Soviet communist plot
  45. intended to destabilize
    the American government.
  46. And so Hoover had his agents
    put bugs in Dr. King's hotel rooms,
  47. and those bugs picked up conversations
    between civil rights leaders
  48. talking about the strategies and tactics
    of the Civil Rights Movement.
  49. They also picked up sounds of Dr. King
  50. having sex with women
    who were not his wife,
  51. and J. Edgar Hoover
    saw the opportunity here
  52. to discredit and undermine
    the Civil Rights Movement.
  53. The FBI sent a package of these recordings
  54. along with a handwritten note to Dr. King,
  55. and a draft of this note
    was found in FBI archives years later,
  56. and the letter said,
  57. "You are no clergyman and you know it.
  58. King, like all frauds,
    your end is approaching."
  59. The letter even seemed
    to encourage Dr. King to commit suicide,
  60. saying, "King, there is
    only one thing left for you to do.
  61. You know what it is.
  62. You better take it before
    your filthy, abnormal, fraudulent self
  63. is bared to the nation."
  64. But the important thing is,

  65. Dr. King was not abnormal.
  66. Every one of us has something
    that we want to hide from somebody.
  67. And even more important,
  68. J. Edgar Hoover wasn't abnormal either.
  69. The history of surveillance abuses
  70. is not the history
    of one bad, megalomaniacal man.
  71. Throughout his decades at the FBI,
  72. J. Edgar Hoover enjoyed the support
    of the presidents that he served,
  73. Democratic and Republican alike.
  74. After all, it was John F. Kennedy
    and his brother Robert Kennedy
  75. who knew about and approved
    the surveillance of Dr. King.
  76. Hoover ran a program
    called COINTELPRO for 15 years
  77. which was designed
    to spy on and undermine civic groups
  78. that were devoted
    to things like civil rights,
  79. the Women's Rights Movement,
  80. and peace groups and anti-war movements.
  81. And the surveillance didn't stop there.
  82. Lyndon Baines Johnson,
  83. during the election campaign,
  84. had the campaign airplane
    of his rival Barry Goldwater bugged
  85. as part of his effort
    to win that election.
  86. And then, of course, there was Watergate.
  87. Burglars were caught
  88. breaking into the Democratic
    National Committee headquarters
  89. at the Watergate Hotel,
  90. the Nixon administration was involved
    in covering up the burglary,
  91. and eventually Nixon
    had to step down as president.
  92. COINTELPRO and Watergate
    were a wake-up call for Americans.
  93. Surveillance was out of control
  94. and it was being used
    to squelch political challengers.
  95. And so Americans rose to the occasion
  96. and what we did was
    we reformed surveillance law.
  97. And the primary tool we used
    to reform surveillance law
  98. was to require a search warrant
  99. for the government to be able to get
    access to our phone calls and our letters.
  100. Now, the reason why
    a search warrant is important
  101. is because it interposes a judge
  102. in the relationship
    between investigators and the citizens,
  103. and that judge's job is to make sure
  104. that there's good cause
    for the surveillance,
  105. that the surveillance
    is targeted at the right people,
  106. and that the information that's collected
  107. is going to be used
    for legitimate government purposes
  108. and not for discriminatory ones.
  109. This was our system,
  110. and what this means is
  111. that President Obama
    did not wiretap Trump Tower.
  112. The system is set up to prevent
    something like that from happening
  113. without a judge being involved.
  114. But what happens when we're not talking
    about phone calls or letters anymore?

  115. Today, we have technology
  116. that makes it cheap and easy
    for the government to collect information
  117. on ordinary everyday people.
  118. Your phone call records
  119. can reveal whether you have an addiction,
  120. what your religion is,
  121. what charities you donate to,
  122. what political candidate you support.
  123. And yet, our government
    collected, dragnet-style,
  124. Americans' calling records for years.
  125. In 2012, the Republican
    National Convention
  126. highlighted a new technology
    it was planning to use,
  127. facial recognition,
  128. to identify people
    who were going to be in the crowd
  129. who might be activists or troublemakers
  130. and to stop them ahead of time.
  131. Today, over 50 percent of American adults
  132. have their faceprint
    in a government database.
  133. The Bureau of Alcohol,
    Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
  134. concocted a plan
  135. to find out what Americans
    were going to gun shows
  136. by using license plate detectors
  137. to scan the license plates of cars
  138. that were in the parking lots
    of these events.
  139. Today, we believe that over 70 percent
    of police departments
  140. have automatic license plate
    detection technology
  141. that they're using to track people's cars
    as they drive through town.
  142. And all of this information,
  143. the license plates, the faceprints,
  144. the phone records,
  145. your address books, your buddy lists,
  146. the photos that you upload
    to Dropbox or Google Photos,
  147. and sometimes even
    your chats and your emails
  148. are not protected
    by a warrant requirement.
  149. So what that means is we have
    all of this information on regular people
  150. that's newly available
    at very low expense.
  151. It is the golden age for surveillance.
  152. Now, every parent is going
    to understand what this means.

  153. When you have a little baby
  154. and the baby's young,
  155. that child is not able
    to climb out of its crib.
  156. But eventually your little girl gets older
  157. and she's able to climb out of the crib,
  158. but you tell her,
    "Don't climb out of the crib. OK?"
  159. And every parent knows
    what's going to happen.
  160. Some of those babies
    are going to climb out of the crib.
  161. Right? That's the difference
    between ability and permission.
  162. Well, the same thing is true
    with the government today.
  163. It used to be that our government
    didn't have the ability
  164. to do widespread, massive surveillance
    on hundreds of millions of Americans
  165. and then abuse that information.
  166. But now our government has grown up,
  167. and we have that technology today.
  168. The government has the ability,
  169. and that means the law
    is more important than ever before.
  170. The law is supposed to say
  171. when the government
    has permission to do it,
  172. and it's supposed to ensure
    that there's some kind of ramification.
  173. We notice when those laws are broken
  174. and there's some of kind of
    ramification or punishment.
  175. The law is more important than ever
    because we are now living in a world
  176. where only rules
    are stopping the government
  177. from abusing this information.
  178. But the law has fallen down on the job.

  179. Particularly since September 11
    the law has fallen down on the job,
  180. and we do not have
    the rules in place that we need.
  181. And we are seeing
    the ramifications of that.
  182. So fusion centers
    are these joint task forces
  183. between local, state
    and federal government
  184. that are meant to ferret out
    domestic terrorism.
  185. And what we've seen
    is fusion center reports
  186. that say that you might be dangerous
  187. if you voted for a third-party candidate,
  188. or you own a "Don't Tread On Me" flag,
  189. or you watched movies that are anti-tax.
  190. These same fusion centers have spied
    on Muslim community groups' reading lists
  191. and on Quakers who are resisting
    military recruiting in high schools.
  192. The Internal Revenue Service
    has disproportionately audited
  193. groups that have "Tea Party"
    or "Patriot" in their name.
  194. And now customs and border patrol
  195. is stopping people
    as they come into the country
  196. and demanding our social
    networking passwords
  197. which will allow them
    to see who our friends are,
  198. what we say
  199. and even to impersonate us online.
  200. Now, civil libertarians like myself

  201. have been trying to draw
    people's attention to these things
  202. and fighting against them for years.
  203. This was a huge problem
    during the Obama administration,
  204. but now the problem is worse.
  205. When the New York Police Department
  206. spies on Muslims
  207. or a police department
    uses license plate detectors
  208. to find out where
    the officers' spouses are
  209. or those sorts of things,
  210. that is extremely dangerous.
  211. But when a president repurposes the power
  212. of federal surveillance
    and the federal government
  213. to retaliate against political opposition,
  214. that is a tyranny.
  215. And so we are all activists now,
  216. and we all have something
    to fear from surveillance.
  217. But just like in the time
    of Dr. Martin Luther King,
  218. we can reform the way things are.
  219. First of all, use encryption.

  220. Encryption protects your information
  221. from being inexpensively
    and opportunistically collected.
  222. It rolls back the golden age
    for surveillance.
  223. Second, support surveillance reform.

  224. Did you know that if you have a friend
  225. who works for the French
    or German governments
  226. or for an international human rights group
  227. or for a global oil company
  228. that your friend is a valid
    foreign intelligence target?
  229. And what that means is that when
    you have conversations with that friend,
  230. the US government
    may be collecting that information.
  231. And when that information is collected,
  232. even though it's
    conversations with Americans,
  233. it can then be funneled to the FBI
  234. where the FBI is allowed
    to search through it
  235. without getting a warrant,
  236. without probable cause,
  237. looking for information about Americans
  238. and whatever crimes we may have committed
  239. with no need to document
    any kind of suspicion.
  240. The law that allows some of this to happen
  241. is called Section 702
    of the FISA Amendments Act,
  242. and we have a great opportunity this year,
  243. because Section 702
    is going to expire at the end of 2017,
  244. which means that
    Congress's inertia is on our side
  245. if we want reform.
  246. And we can pressure our representatives
  247. to actually implement
    important reforms to this law
  248. and protect our data
    from this redirection and misuse.
  249. And finally, one of the reasons
    why things have gotten so out of control

  250. is because so much
    of what happens with surveillance --
  251. the technology, the enabling rules
    and the policies
  252. that are either there
    or not there to protect us --
  253. are secret or classified.
  254. We need transparency,
    and we need to know as Americans
  255. what the government is doing in our name
  256. so that the surveillance that takes place
    and the use of that information
  257. is democratically accounted for.
  258. We are all activists now,

  259. which means that we all have something
    to worry about from surveillance.
  260. But like in the time
    of Dr. Martin Luther King,
  261. there is stuff that we can do about it.
  262. So please join me, and let's get to work.
  263. Thank you.

  264. (Applause)