New York University Students & Faculty Protest Mass Surveillance

April 2014

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We came to New York University with the hope that we could learn with confidence, without fear that what we are studying or investigating could potentially be used against us. Given what we now know from Edward Snowden’s leaks, we no longer have that assurance. In an environment of mass surveillance, speech and academic freedom are chilled. People are afraid to speak freely. This is not a healthy environment for learning.

We, as members of the NYU community, protest. Together, we are taking a stand against mass surveillance on our campus.

If you're using the Internet, you can bet the NSA is watching. They keep a record of what you’ve visited and whom you’ve been talking to. The NSA has the ability to build a complete picture of your day-to-day activities.

Why is the NSA doing this? If it’s to prevent terrorism or keep the public safe, it’s not working. On December 12, 2013, the President’s Review Group found that this data collection was “not essential to preventing attacks”. [1]

The NSA’s mass surveillance programs are ineffective and present a huge potential for abuse.

Their grounds for surveillance are loosely based on association: currently, everyone who is “three hops” away from anyone deemed suspicious by the NSA falls victim to government surveillance. [2] That means if you have called a Pizza Hut, and a known drug dealer has called that Pizza Hut, then the NSA is currently keeping records of your actions -- and the actions of everyone you’ve spoken to. But it’s even broader than that: we know from the leaked Verizon order that “...every call in, to, or from the United States“ is collected by the NSA. [3] That’s every call, regardless of due process or whether or not you’re suspected of doing anything wrong.

The NSA can analyze your texts and Facebook chats, read your emails to friends and family, and monitor your bank transactions and web browsing activity (even if you’re using Incognito or Private Browsing mode). [4]

What are the effects on our university population?

What’s more, our Muslim and Arab peers are being targeted. In February 2012, the AP reported that the NYPD was monitoring Muslim student organizations at NYU, Columbia, and Yale. [5] We now know that the NSA tracked the pornography viewing habits of Muslim clerics to uncover material it could use to ruin the clerics’ reputations. [6] In a democracy, people should be free to practice whatever religion they choose without fear of being profiled and tracked like criminals.

Mass surveillance has created a panopticon: even if we aren’t all being individually observed, we are compelled to act as if we are. We have a right to free spaces such as universities where we can explore ideas and experiment without fear of retribution. We have a right to live in a society free of the need to self-censor. The First Amendment protects not only the right to speak and associate freely, it provides the right to do so without fear. Sadly, what we know about the NSA shows us that the US government is not valuing its own rule of law and democratic principles. The NSA has set up the infrastructure for a surveillance state. Must we wait until it falls into the hands of the next J. Edgar Hoover or Joseph McCarthy before we feel concerned?

As members of the New York University community, we sign this letter in protest. We protest the U.S. surveillance state and the chilling effects it has on our campus life. We call on the U.S. government to bring the NSA back within the bounds of the constitution. We want to learn and explore according to our curiosity and we want to do so without fear of being treated as criminals.

With hope,
Tommy Collison
Luc Lewitanski
Hannah Weverka

Students Against Surveillance is a project of Student Net Alliance. We are fighting to keep the Internet open and democratic, and oppose monopolies that remove choice and agency from the Internet. We believe we are better off when we hear everyone, not just people who can buy our attention. We are advocating for the promise of the Internet.

Statement from John Sexton, President of New York University.

"Increasingly, our great universities are modern sanctuaries, the sacred spaces sustaining and enhancing scholarship, creativity and learning. I use the word sanctuary here not to signal detachment from the world, for our universities increasingly are in and of their surroundings; rather I use the term to signal both the specialness of what our great universities do, and the fragility of the environment in which it is done. What makes these sanctuaries special is the core commitment to free, unbridled and ideologically unconstrained discourse in which claims of knowledge are examined, confirmed, deepened or replaced. In this regard, I emphasize the importance of acting aggressively and with every means at our disposal to secure and protect every element essential to the general enterprise of free inquiry, the centrality of standards and the reciprocal commitments attendant to citizenship within the sanctuary."


Current signatories

Emma Draper. Student. Liberal Studies.
Jessy Yates. Student. Tisch School of the Arts.
Justine Morris. Student. College of Arts and Science.
Melissa Paris. Student. Liberal Studies.
Robert Gardner. Student. College of Arts and Sciences.
Abhi Agarwal. Student. Gallatin School of Individualized Study.
Ethan Resnick. Student. Gallatin School of Individualized Study.
Ari Pollack. Student. Tisch School of the Arts.
Vivek Patel. Alumnus. Stern School of Business.
Gregory Fauerbach. Student. College of Arts and Science.
Hunter Kurepa-Peers. Student. Gallatin School of Individualized Study.
Alec Foster. Student. Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.
Kristina Mayman. Student. College of Arts and Science.
Yookyoung Kim. Student. College of Arts and Science.
Chloe Morgan. Student. College of Arts and Science.
Freia Lobo. Student. College of Arts and Science.
Jhishan Khan. Student. Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences.
Gerardo Hernández. Student, Tisch School of the Arts.
Kaitlin Gu. Student. Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.
Cassandra Saroza. Student. Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.
Carolyn LaHorgue. Student. Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.
Simon Seroussi. Student. Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.
Zach Ship. Student. Leonard N. Stern School of Business.
Kevin Lee. Student. Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.
Joseph Geogha. Student. Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.
Ana Carolina Bolsoni. Student. Polytechnic School of Engineering.
Michael Jay. Student. Tisch School of the Arts.
Mats Thyssen. Student. College of Arts and Science.
Robert Simmons. Student. College of Arts and Science.
LVS. Student. Leonard N. Stern School of Business.
Rachel Kustera. Student. Liberal Studies.
Taylor Fairfield. Student. Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.
Arnav Luthra. Student. College of Arts and Science.
Kayla Matteo. Student. College of Arts and Science.
Lindsey Hannah Moran. Student. Tisch School of the Arts.
Emma Fitzgerald. Student. Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.
Tiffany Davis. Student. Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.
Tristan Oliveira. Student. Gallatin School of Individual Study.
Harry Fink. Student. Gallatin School of Individual Study.
Katherine Gabay. Student. Liberal Studies.
Siera Otero. Student. College of Arts and Science.
Evan Bishton. Student. Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.
Shruti Pujara. Student. School of Continuing and Professional Studies.
Corey Farrow. Student. Tisch School of the Arts.
Mahwish Waseem. Student. College of Arts and Science.
Samantha Williams. Student. College of Arts and Science.
James Fan. Student. Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.
Jess Lee. Student. Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.
Xena Becker. Student. College of Arts and Science.
Anna Lee. Student. Polytechnic School of Engineering.
Mohamed Eraiqat. Student. Leonard N. Stern School of Business.
Qudrat Kunder. Student. Liberal Studies.
Megan Chung.Student. Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.
Daniels Mekšs. Student. Gallatin School of Individual Study.
Tamara Sarita. Student. Polytechnic School of Engineering.
Amy DeBellis. Student. College of Arts and Science.
Anmol Puri. Student. Polytechnic School of Engineering.
Tyla Leach. Student. College of Arts and Science.
Jessica Paulsen. Student. Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.
Jongho Lee. Student. Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.
Chantal Atkinson. Student. Leonard N. Stern School of Business.
Jeremy Muhia. Student. College of Arts and Science.
Judith Moy. Student. Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.
Laurence Hong. Student. College of Arts and Science.
Alexandra Holden. Student. Gallatin School of Individual Study.
Erin Line. Student. Leonard N. Stern School of Business.
Alla Deli. Student. Liberal Studies.
Ke Xuan Wang. Student. College of Arts and Science.
Paige Goodwin. Student. Polytechnic School of Engineering.
Tomer Hadassi. Student. Leonard N. Stern School of Business.
Anais Gomez. Student. College of Arts and Science.
Hyejo Ahn. Student. College of Arts and Science.
Liam Cummings. Student. Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.
Kristen Ma. Student. Polytechnic School of Engineering.
Curtis Litow. Student. Liberal Studies.
Eleanor Ballard. Student. Liberal Studies.
Muhammad Joyo. Student. College of Arts and Science.
Ioannis Katsifas. Student. Tisch School of the Arts.
Anita Batuure. Student. College of Arts and Science.
William Searfus. Student. Polytechnic School of Engineering.
Rudgerry Robert. Student. Polytechnic School of Engineering.
Imani Greaves. Student. Polytechnic School of Engineering.
Peyton Bias. Student. Silver School of Social Work.
Jake McCallum. Student. Liberal Studies.
Tuhfa Begum. Student. College of Arts and Science.
Munkhtsogt Battsogt. Student. Liberal Studies.
Rod Paulsen. Student. College of Arts and Science.
Katarina Cirillo. Student. Liberal Studies.
Kevin Li. Student. College of Arts and Science.
Nick Garcia. Student. Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.
Zhou YiLin. Student. Leonard N. Stern School of Business.
Finn Brunton. Faculty. Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.
Gabriella Mayer. Student. Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.
Elizabeth G. Lozada. Student. Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.
Lydia Back. Student. Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.
Nick Montalbano. Student. Tisch School of the Arts.
Lindsay Gillen. Student. Gallatin School of Individual Study.
Jelena Karanovic. Faculty. Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.
Ana Carolina Bolsoni. Student. Polytechnic School of Engineering.
Jessa Brighton. Student. Tisch School of the Arts.
William Christopher Goedel. Student. College of Arts and Science.
Nelson W Deas. Student. College of Arts and Science.
Kate Colcord. Student. College of Arts and Science.
Fernando Bomfim. Student. College of Arts and Science.
Fernando Rivera. Student. School of Continuing and Professional Studies.
Mihir Pathare. Student. Polytechnic School of Engineering.
Katherine Eiler. Student. Tisch School of the Arts.
Braden Bjella. Student. Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.
Jadayah Spencer. Student. College of Arts and Science.
Deergha Gakkhar. Student. Polytechnic School of Engineering.


References


[1] “Our review suggests that the information contributed to terrorist investigations by the use of section 215 telephony meta-data was not essential to preventing attacks and could readily have been obtained in a timely manner using conventional section 215 orders.” http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/2013-12-12_rg_final_report.pdf.

[2] http://www.theguardian.com/world/interactive/2013/oct/28/nsa-files-decoded-hops.

[3] http://www.theguardian.com/world/interactive/2013/jun/06/verizon-telephone-data-court-order.

[4] http://www.wnyc.org/story/running-list-what-we-know-nsa-can-do-so-far/.

[5] http://hosted.ap.org/specials/interactives/documents/nypd-msa-report.pdf.

[6] “Radicalizers appear to be particularly vulnerable in the area of authority when their private and public behaviors are not consistent. Some of the vulnerabilities, if exposed, would likely call into question a radicalizer’s devotion to the jihadist cause, leading to the degradation or loss of his authority. Examples of some of these vulnerabilities include: Viewing sexually explicit material online or using sexually explicit persuasive language when communicating with inexperienced young girls.” https://www.eff.org/files/2013/11/27/20131126-huffpo-radicalizers_pornography.pdf.