Posted at: 07/04/2013 7:03 AM
Updated at: 07/05/2013 7:55 AM
By: Jennie Olson
Thousands of people across the nation and more than 100 here in the Twin Cities marked Independence Day with rallies to protest the sweeping NSA surveillance of phone, email, and internet data on millions of people that was revealed last month.
"Restore the Fourth" events were scheduled to take place in more than 100 cities on the Fourth of July to call for a restoration of Fourth Amendment rights, which protect against unreasonable search and seizure, that some privacy advocates believe have been eroded.
On Thursday evening, activists gathered at the Hennepin County Government Center plaza with signs and armbands to call attention to the national security programs. The demonstrators alternated between chants such as "Hey ho, hey ho, the NSA has got to go!" and "Hey, hey, NSA, how many phones did you tape today?"
"We've lost a ton of rights," declared Chris Klavetter, 32, of Burnsville. The 10-year Army veteran who has served in Iraq said he swore an oath when he joined the military and he intends to uphold that oath to defend the country "against all enemies, foreign and domestic."
"The enemy can be anywhere," Klavetter said, "and right now, the biggest enemy is in DC - it's in the federal government."
The activists object to recent revelations of NSA surveillance of phone, email, and internet data, programs President Barack Obama has been quick to defend.
"If you're a US person," the president explained in an address last month, "then NSA is not listening to your phone calls and it's not targeting your e-mails unless it's getting an individualized court order."
Since the leaks that exposed the programs, the president and his administration have said the surveillance has kept America safe and that gathered information is limited to the metadata of calls and emails, not the contents.
"I sit before you, today, humbly, to say these tools have helped us," said FBI deputy director Sean Joyce in testimony before Congress June 18.
St. Paul resident Evelynne Simonson, who attended Thursday's Minneapolis rally, wondered, "If they're used to keep us safe, then why would they be used against us? We're not terrorists."