Two UNM student organizations set up in front of Zimmerman Library Wednesday afternoon to protest the National Security Agency.
“This is our ‘Exposing the NSA’ event,” said UNM Conservative Republicans President Amber West. “We’re trying to inform students about the privacy violations the NSA has been committing against the citizens of the United States.”
West said her organization had been discussing several issues that they wanted to talk about on campus, and this became one of them because of the leaks by Edward Snowden, a former contractor for the NSA.
“The NSA has been in the media a lot, but it seemed to us that students didn’t really know very much,” she said.
Snowden leaked information to several media outlets about the NSA’s surveillance scope and a vast amount of communication data that had been compiled before seeking asylum in Russia in June, according to “The New York Times.” Some of the communication data was collected from Americans, according to the article.
The UNM Conservative Republicans and the Young Americans for Liberty participated in the event.
Emily Larsen, a member of YAL, said she and another participant were dressed up as NSA officers who pretended to listen in on the conversations of surrounding students.
“I have a prop boom mike, we have cameras, we’re going up to people and holding it up above their heads,” she said.
Larsen said she and the demonstrators are using the performance to raise awareness about the NSA.
“People are saying ‘Why are you listening to our conversation, what’s going on?’” she said. “And we’re saying, well that’s exactly what the government is doing.”
Students had mixed reactions to the event, West said. She said some students were variously angry, concerned or compliant with the NSA actors.
“It’s been a very interesting experience, seeing the different responses from people,” she said.
Larsen said she believes the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court issues broad warrants that violate the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
“It’s blurred in a digital world what’s going on, but we think that’s unconstitutional,” she said.
FISA courts were established in 1978 to designate seven federal district court judges to review applications for warrants related to national security investigations, according to the Federal Judicial Center’s website.
Larsen said this is the first collaboration between YAL and the UNM Conservative Republicans. She said the two organizations don’t always agree, but they believe in collaboration on issues where they do find common ground.
“We don’t agree on 100 percent of the issues, but we think if we agree on 2 percent of issues, then we should work together, towards that 2 percent,” she said.