US citizens rally against mass surveillance

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US citizens rally against mass surveillance

Growing outrage over surveillance of European allies.

Thousands of people took part in a rally in the United States capital Washington this weekend to protest against the country's spy bureau and its clandestine mass surveillance of citizens.

Participants of the Stop Watching Us rally handed over a petition with half a million signatures, calling for an end to the National Security Agency (NSA)'s indiscriminate monitoring of communications networks, as revealed by the agency's former employee Edward Snowden this year.

Speaking at the rally, former NSA executive and whistleblower Thomas Drake called the mass surveillance "far worse than Watergate", referring to the wiretapping of opposition Democrat Party headquarters by former US president Richard Nixon in the 1970s.

Drake said any new legislation resulting from Snowden's leaks must include protection for whistleblowers, as otherwise government employees are likely to turn a blind eye to abuses of power.

The rally was organised by over a hundred public advocacy organisations across the political spectrum such as the American Civil Liberties Union, Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Knowledge, with the backing of celebrities such as world wide web creator Tim Berners-Lee, whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, artist and activist Ai Weiwei and technology entrepreneur Anil Dash.

Video from the protest rally in Washington, DC

Meanwhile, the US government is facing criticism over revelations it has been tapping the communications networks of close allies, and eavesdropping on their phones.

German Sunday paper Bild am Sonntag reported [German language] this weekend it had received information showing US president Barack Obama was told by the NSA head Keith Alexander that there was a covert operation against German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

According to Bild, the US president decided to authorise the continuation of the eavesdropping operation against Merkel, to build a comprehensive dossier on her. 

Obama had earlier apologised to Chancellor Merkel over the phone tapping by the NSA's Special Collection Service and said that he would have stopped it had he known about it.

Chancellor Merkel's phone may have been bugged by the US for around a decade, since 2002, with text message and voice calls being intercepted.

In response to the "Handygate" scandal the German government summoned the US ambassador to the country as outrage grows over the spying. Handy is German slang for mobile phone.

Last week, the French government also summoned the US ambassdor in Paris, demanding an explanation over information leaked by Edward Snowden suggesting that the NSA is engaged in mass phone and internet surveillance of the country's citizens.

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