Greenpeace Takes to Skies to Protest NSAs Illegal Internet Spying

by David Pomerantz

June 27, 2014

Heres a riddle: why would Greenpeace use its airship, which weve flown in the past to speak out against burning coal or overfishing, for a high-flying protest of the NSAs illegal internet spying program? Answer: It turns out the NSAs illegal spying is a problem for the environment, too, just like coal or overfishing. Heres why: Greenpeace works with millions of people around the world every day who are trying to protect the environment, and to do that, they have to organize. In the US and in any country that aspires to respect human rights, our ability to organize is protected by basic freedoms: things like our freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom from unreasonable searches. In the 21st century, we exercise most of those freedoms on the internet. Government surveillance like the NSAs illegal spying program stifles our ability to do that, and will make it harder for people around the world to organize for the environment. Thats why today, Greenpeace joined with the digital rights watchdog Electronic Frontier Foundation and the conservative Tenth Amendment Center to fly our airship over the NSAs data center in Utah to protest the governments illegal mass surveillance program. The data center there is one of the locations that the NSA uses to store data obtained via its internet surveillance program. Our 135-foot-long airship carried a banner with the message, NSA Illegal Spying Below along with a link steering people to a new web site,, which a separate, diverse coalition of over 20 grassroots advocacy groups and Internet companies also launched today. The site grades members of Congress on what they have done, or often not done, to rein in the NSA. Utah Airship Flight As an organization that has been the target of government surveillance in the past, Greenpeace knows the chilling effect that programs like the NSAs can have on our democracy. Thats why in addition to todays protest, we also are suing the NSA for violating our First Amendment right of association by illegally collecting call records. This isnt a partisan issue. Its not often that Greenpeace partners with conservative groups, but were happy to join coalitions with groups from across the political spectrum that are willing to fight for the basic rights that are integral for a healthy democracy. And if Greenpeace and a conservative group can agree that NSA internet spying is a problem, shouldnt that tell Congress something? You dont need your own airship to tell the government to respect your rights to privacy and assembly, and keep its hands off your internet. Go to and enter your zip code to look up your congressional members scores and find out whether theyre doing enough to rein in the NSA. They use the site to tweet directly at your members of Congress, thanking them for defending privacy or asking them to do more in the fight against mass spying. You can also sign an open letter to President Obama urging him to end the mass surveillance programs immediately, without waiting for Congress to act.
David Pomerantz

By David Pomerantz

David Pomerantz is a former Senior Climate and Energy Campaigner for Greenpeace USA, based in San Francisco. He helps lead Greenpeace's campaign for an economy powered by 100% renewable energy.

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