A rally protesting the National Security Agency's spy programs at home and abroad drew hundreds of protesters to the nation's capital Saturday, reported CNN.
Organized by Stop Watching Us, a coalition of various activist groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Occupy Wall Street NYC and the Libertarian Party, the rally featured several speakers and a march through downtown Washington, D.C., ending in front of the U.S. Capitol.
Among the protesters' demands were a congressional investigation into the spying allegations, and new laws limiting the NSA's reach. An amendment to reduce the NSA's powers was introduced by Rep. Justin Amash, R-Michigan, but was defeated by seven votes in July.
“This isn't a partisan issue. This is for Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, conservatives and liberals, everyone in between,” said Amash, who spoke at the rally.
The protest was made all the more relevant amid new allegations that the NSA tapped German chancellor Angela Merkel's personal cellphone. Leaders of U.S. allies France, Italy and Brazil have also raised complaints about U.S. surveillance, according to a USA Today report.
Germany is planning to send intelligence officials to Washington for discussion of the phone-tapping, while an AFP report from Friday says Spanish Prime Minster Mariano Rajoy will ask the U.S. ambassador to come to Madrid to explain reports of American spying in Spain.
Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, whose revelations of the NSA's surveillance activities touched off the controversy, provided a statement to the ACLU that was read at the rally.
“We've learned that the U.S. intelligence community secretly built a system of pervasive surveillance. 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.”
Snowden leaked thousands of classified documents detailing the depth and extent of the NSA spy program in May. He then fled to Hong Kong, then Russia to escape extradition to the U.S. after the leak, and was granted temporary asylum in Russia in August.