WASHINGTON, DC -
Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who has taken refuge from U.S. authorities in Russia, sent a message to a rally on Capitol Hill, Saturday.
Snowden's statement, which was read aloud, said in part, "Today, no telephone in America makes a call without leaving a record with the NSA. Today, no internet transaction enters or leaves America without passing through the NSA's hands. Our representatives in Congress tell us this is not surveillance. They're wrong."
Several hundred people marched from the main railroad station in Washington to the grounds of the U.S. Capitol to express displeasure at widespread government surveillance of internet and telephone communication.
Many of the speakers and protesters praised former NSA contractor Edward Snowden for disclosing details on how broad and how deep government surveillance runs. Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, who ran for the presidency in 2012 as the candidate of the Libertarian Party, told the crowd, "As a result of Edward Snowden's disclosures, I have learned that your cell phone -- turned off -- can be used as a listening device, an open microphone. Turned off!"
Jesselyn Radack, of the Government Accountability Project, read aloud Snowden's message: "We are witnessing an American moment, in which ordinary people -- from high schools to high office -- stand up to oppose a dangerous trend in government."
Eilis Cassidy, of Washington D.C., attended the anti-surveillance rally with her husband and two children. In an interview, she told us: "That kind of surveillance isn't something that I want my children to be dealing with when their my age. And that's the kind of thing that creeps. There's no way that [government surveillance] is going to stop."
Administration officials have defended federal surveillance efforts as effective anti-terrorism tools.
Organizers said a pile of boxes contained petitions with nearly 600,000 signatures -- petitions calling on Congress to reign-in the the broad surveillance. Prospects for passage of such a bill are fairly decent. In late July, similar legislation failed in the House, but it failed by only seven votes.
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