Free Speech Group Departure Attributed to NSA Spying | Courthouse News Service
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Free Speech Group Departure Attributed to NSA Spying

(CN) - Massive government spying stifles free speech within a nongovernmental organization that fights online censorship, the Electronic Frontier Foundation said, announcing its resignation from the Global Network Initiative.

EFF has been a member of the GNI since it was founded in 2008 to "advance freedom of expression and privacy in the global information and communication technologies sector."

It said Thursday that it can no longer sign its name on joint statements, however, knowing that some of GNI's corporate members have been blocked from sharing crucial information about how the U.S. government has "meddled" with their security practices through its spying programs like Prism and Bullrun.

Like the ACLU and other groups, the EFF has been fighting to learn the extent of the massive National Security Administration surveillance program revealed by whistle-blower Edward Snowden.

"We know that many within the industry do not like or approve of such government interference, and GNI has, in statements, made it clear that member companies want permission from the U.S. government to engage in greater transparency," EFF's International Director Danny O'Brien and Director for International Freedom of Expression Jillian York wrote in a letter to GNI leadership.

"However, until serious reforms of the US surveillance programs are in place, we no longer feel comfortable participating in the GNI process when we are not privy to the serious compromises GNI corporate members may be forced to make," the letter states. "Nor do we currently believe that audits of corporate practice, no matter how independent, will uncover the insecurities produced by the US government's - and potentially other governments' - behavior when operating clandestinely in the name of national security."

The secret court order that Snowden leaked to The Guardian and The Washington Post in May revealed that the NSA had forced Verizon to "turn over every day, metadata about the calls made by each of its subscribers over a three-month period ending on July 19, 2013."

In its June lawsuit, the ACLU slammed the surveillance as an unconstitutional "dragnet."

It claims the government collects information about every telephone call made by every American, including the time the call started and ended, and the length of each conversation.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has maintained that the program defends the country from terrorism.

"National security investigations often have remarkable breadth, spanning long periods of time and multiple geographic regions to identify terrorist groups, their members, intended targets and means of attack, many of which are often unknown to the intelligence community at the offset," the government wrote in its memorandum of law in support of motion to dismiss the complaint.

EFF says it still plans to "provide guidance" to the GNI, but will engage companies as an "external organization."

"If the United States government truly supports international 'Internet freedom,' it would recognize the damage its policies are doing to weaken such efforts and the world's confidence in American companies," York said.

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