"In a surveillance state, democracy is dead," actor John Cusack argues in a new video produced by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). The video features other celebrities including Wil Wheaton and Maggie Gyllenhaal as well as public figures including Pentagon Papers whistle blower Daniel Ellsberg, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), and legal scholar Lawrence Lessig.
The video is timed to match up with the Stop Watching Us rally against NSA surveillance in Washington, D.C. on Saturday -- incidentally, also the 12th anniversary of the passing of the Patriot Act. Stop Watching Us is a coalition of over 100 advocacy groups and companies who came together earlier in the summer for a petition drive demanding Congress investigate NSA surveillance programs. The Freedom of the Press Foundation, of which Cusack is a board member, is part of the coalition.
Tech companies who participated in NSA programs aren't treated gently in the video: "We have also learned of the large-scale collaboration with telecom giants, Internet companies and service providers," says Wheaton. Many of the technology companies participating in the PRISM program say they were legally compelled to comply. And at least one company, Yahoo, reportedly pushed back against requests in the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Court on Fourth Amendment grounds but was denied.
The Washington Post denied NSA requests to censor the names of the nine companies participating in the PRISM, with reporter Barton Gellman saying that including the names was important to the type of accountability investigative reporting is aimed at encouraging.