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  • We are all activists now.

  • (Applause)

  • Thank you.

  • I'll just stop here.

  • (Laughter)

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

  • the tens of thousands of people who joined Occupy Wall Street

  • or marched with Black Lives Matter

  • to protest police brutality against African Americans,

  • families that join rallies,

  • pro-life and pro-choice,

  • those of us who are afraid

  • that our friends and neighbors are going to be deported

  • or that they'll be added to lists

  • because they are Muslim,

  • people who advocate for gun rights and for gun control

  • and the millions of people who joined the women's marches

  • all across the country this last January.

  • (Applause)

  • We are all activists now,

  • and that means that we all have something to worry about from surveillance.

  • Surveillance means government collection and use

  • of private and sensitive data about us.

  • And surveillance is essential

  • to law enforcement and to national security.

  • But the history of surveillance

  • is one that includes surveillance abuses

  • where this sensitive information has been used against people

  • because of their race,

  • their national origin,

  • their sexual orientation,

  • and in particular, because of their activism,

  • their political beliefs.

  • About 53 years ago,

  • Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his "I have a dream" speech

  • on the Mall in Washington.

  • And today the ideas behind this speech of racial equality and tolerance

  • are so noncontroversial

  • that my daughters study the speech in third grade.

  • But at the time,

  • Dr. King was extremely controversial.

  • The legendary and notorious FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover believed,

  • or wanted to believe,

  • that the Civil Rights Movement was a Soviet communist plot

  • intended to destabilize the American government.

  • And so Hoover had his agents put bugs in Dr. King's hotel rooms,

  • and those bugs picked up conversations between civil rights leaders

  • talking about the strategies and tactics of the Civil Rights Movement.

  • They also picked up sounds of Dr. King

  • having sex with women who were not his wife,

  • and J. Edgar Hoover saw the opportunity here

  • to discredit and undermine the Civil Rights Movement.

  • The FBI sent a package of these recordings

  • along with a handwritten note to Dr. King,

  • and a draft of this note was found in FBI archives years later,

  • and the letter said,

  • "You are no clergyman and you know it.

  • King, like all frauds, your end is approaching."

  • The letter even seemed to encourage Dr. King to commit suicide,

  • saying, "King, there is only one thing left for you to do.

  • You know what it is.

  • You better take it before your filthy, abnormal, fraudulent self

  • is bared to the nation."

  • But the important thing is,

  • Dr. King was not abnormal.

  • Every one of us has something that we want to hide from somebody.

  • And even more important,

  • J. Edgar Hoover wasn't abnormal either.

  • The history of surveillance abuses

  • is not the history of one bad, megalomaniacal man.

  • Throughout his decades at the FBI,

  • J. Edgar Hoover enjoyed the support of the presidents that he served,

  • Democratic and Republican alike.

  • After all, it was John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert Kennedy

  • who knew about and approved the surveillance of Dr. King.

  • Hoover ran a program called COINTELPRO for 15 years

  • which was designed to spy on and undermine civic groups

  • that were devoted to things like civil rights,

  • the Women's Rights Movement,

  • and peace groups and anti-war movements.

  • And the surveillance didn't stop there.

  • Lyndon Baines Johnson,

  • during the election campaign,

  • had the campaign airplane of his rival Barry Goldwater bugged

  • as part of his effort to win that election.

  • And then, of course, there was Watergate.

  • Burglars were caught

  • breaking into the Democratic National Committee headquarters

  • at the Watergate Hotel,

  • the Nixon administration was involved in covering up the burglary,

  • and eventually Nixon had to step down as president.

  • COINTELPRO and Watergate were a wake-up call for Americans.

  • Surveillance was out of control

  • and it was being used to squelch political challengers.

  • And so Americans rose to the occasion

  • and what we did was we reformed surveillance law.

  • And the primary tool we used to reform surveillance law

  • was to require a search warrant

  • for the government to be able to get access to our phone calls and our letters.

  • Now, the reason why a search warrant is important

  • is because it interposes a judge

  • in the relationship between investigators and the citizens,

  • and that judge's job is to make sure

  • that there's good cause for the surveillance,

  • that the surveillance is targeted at the right people,

  • and that the information that's collected

  • is going to be used for legitimate government purposes

  • and not for discriminatory ones.

  • This was our system,

  • and what this means is

  • that President Obama did not wiretap Trump Tower.

  • The system is set up to prevent something like that from happening

  • without a judge being involved.

  • But what happens when we're not talking about phone calls or letters anymore?

  • Today, we have technology

  • that makes it cheap and easy for the government to collect information

  • on ordinary everyday people.

  • Your phone call records

  • can reveal whether you have an addiction,

  • what your religion is,

  • what charities you donate to,

  • what political candidate you support.

  • And yet, our government collected, dragnet-style,

  • Americans' calling records for years.

  • In 2012, the Republican National Convention

  • highlighted a new technology it was planning to use,

  • facial recognition,

  • to identify people who were going to be in the crowd

  • who might be activists or troublemakers

  • and to stop them ahead of time.

  • Today, over 50 percent of American adults

  • have their faceprint in a government database.

  • The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

  • concocted a plan

  • to find out what Americans were going to gun shows

  • by using license plate detectors

  • to scan the license plates of cars

  • that were in the parking lots of these events.

  • Today, we believe that over 70 percent of police departments

  • have automatic license plate detection technology

  • that they're using to track people's cars as they drive through town.

  • And all of this information,

  • the license plates, the faceprints,

  • the phone records,

  • your address books, your buddy lists,

  • the photos that you upload to Dropbox or Google Photos,

  • and sometimes even your chats and your emails

  • are not protected by a warrant requirement.

  • So what that means is we have all of this information on regular people

  • that's newly available at very low expense.

  • It is the golden age for surveillance.

  • Now, every parent is going to understand what this means.

  • When you have a little baby

  • and the baby's young,

  • that child is not able to climb out of its crib.

  • But eventually your little girl gets older

  • and she's able to climb out of the crib,

  • but you tell her, "Don't climb out of the crib. OK?"

  • And every parent knows what's going to happen.

  • Some of those babies are going to climb out of the crib.

  • Right? That's the difference between ability and permission.

  • Well, the same thing is true with the government today.

  • It used to be that our government didn't have the ability

  • to do widespread, massive surveillance on hundreds of millions of Americans

  • and then abuse that information.

  • But now our government has grown up,

  • and we have that technology today.

  • The government has the ability,

  • and that means the law is more important than ever before.

  • The law is supposed to say

  • when the government has permission to do it,

  • and it's supposed to ensure that there's some kind of ramification.

  • We notice when those laws are broken

  • and there's some of kind of ramification or punishment.

  • The law is more important than ever because we are now living in a world

  • where only rules are stopping the government

  • from abusing this information.

  • But the law has fallen down on the job.

  • Particularly since September 11 the law has fallen down on the job,

  • and we do not have the rules in place that we need.

  • And we are seeing the ramifications of that.

  • So fusion centers are these joint task forces

  • between local, state and federal government

  • that are meant to ferret out domestic terrorism.

  • And what we've seen is fusion center reports

  • that say that you might be dangerous

  • if you voted for a third-party candidate,

  • or you own a "Don't Tread On Me" flag,

  • or you watched movies that are anti-tax.

  • These same fusion centers have spied on Muslim community groups' reading lists

  • and on Quakers who are resisting military recruiting in high schools.

  • The Internal Revenue Service has disproportionately audited

  • groups that have "Tea Party" or "Patriot" in their name.

  • And now customs and border patrol

  • is stopping people as they come into the country

  • and demanding our social networking passwords

  • which will allow them to see who our friends are,

  • what we say

  • and even to impersonate us online.

  • Now, civil libertarians like myself

  • have been trying to draw people's attention to these things

  • and fighting against them for years.

  • This was a huge problem during the Obama administration,

  • but now the problem is worse.

  • When the New York Police Department

  • spies on Muslims

  • or a police department uses license plate detectors

  • to find out where the officers' spouses are

  • or those sorts of things,

  • that is extremely dangerous.

  • But when a president repurposes the power

  • of federal surveillance and the federal government

  • to retaliate against political opposition,

  • that is a tyranny.

  • And so we are all activists now,

  • and we all have something to fear from surveillance.

  • But just like in the time of Dr. Martin Luther King,

  • we can reform the way things are.

  • First of all, use encryption.

  • Encryption protects your information

  • from being inexpensively and opportunistically collected.

  • It rolls back the golden age for surveillance.

  • Second, support surveillance reform.

  • Did you know that if you have a friend

  • who works for the French or German governments

  • or for an international human rights group

  • or for a global oil company

  • that your friend is a valid foreign intelligence target?

  • And what that means is that when you have conversations with that friend,

  • the US government may be collecting that information.

  • And when that information is collected,

  • even though it's conversations with Americans,

  • it can then be funneled to the FBI

  • where the FBI is allowed to search through it

  • without getting a warrant,

  • without probable cause,

  • looking for information about Americans

  • and whatever crimes we may have committed

  • with no need to document any kind of suspicion.

  • The law that allows some of this to happen

  • is called Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act,

  • and we have a great opportunity this year,

  • because Section 702 is going to expire at the end of 2017,

  • which means that Congress's inertia is on our side

  • if we want reform.

  • And we can pressure our representatives

  • to actually implement important reforms to this law

  • and protect our data from this redirection and misuse.

  • And finally, one of the reasons why things have gotten so out of control

  • is because so much of what happens with surveillance --

  • the technology, the enabling rules and the policies

  • that are either there or not there to protect us --

  • are secret or classified.

  • We need transparency,