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Surveillance state

There were elements of irony as President Obama paid tribune to Martin Luther King on the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington.

While Obama stressed the need for economic progress in his speech, he honored the memory of a staunch proponent of peace while himself planning a military assault on Syria.  And he honored one of the most prominent victims of illegal surveillance in the nation’s history, at a time when he’s defending a surveillance program of unprecedented scope.

Some of these issues will be explored Thursday night in a program on “the rise of the total surveillance state and the war on a free press,” sponsored by Chicago Area Peace Action at North Park University, 5137 N. Spaulding (August 29, 7:30 p.m.).

Speakers include Free Press co-founders John Nichols, Washington correspondent for the Nation, and Robert McChesney, professor of communications at the University of Illinois in Urbana.

The Free Press has called on Congress to “stop the blanket surveillance of millions of innocent people,” and demanded that the U.S. and United Kingdom to end harrassment and intimidation of journalists covering national security issues.

A major concern is the Obama administration’s crackdown on whistleblowers, including its use of the Espionage Act to seek heavy sentences, said Roxane Assaf of CAPA.  Most recently, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist James Risen of the New York Times has said he will go to prison rather than reveal sources, under legal pressure from the Justice Department.

Also speaking Thursday is Heidi Boghosian, executive director of the National Lawyers Guild and author of a new book, Spying on Democracy, which documents threats to privacy, civil liberties and democratic participation from widescale surveillance of ordinary citizens by government and private corporations.

“People need to understand that we are in the process of dismantling the First and Fourth Amendments to the Constitution, if they care about the values on which our nation was founded,” Asaf said.

 

For more:

ACLU challenges NSA data collection

Pro Publica:  What you need to know about NSA’s surveillance programs

Pro Publica: Charting Obama’s crackdown on national security leaks

Government Accountability Project: Whistleblowers and the national security state

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Category: civil liberties

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