(WASHINGTON) -- Thousands gathered on the National Mall on Saturday to protest the National Security Agency's surveillance program.
The rally, organized by the StopWatching.Us coalition, was backed with a letter of support from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The group is comprised of 100 organizations, companies and public figures, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
In his statement, Snowden says, "Today, no telephone in American makes a call without leaving a record with the NSA...Our representatives in Congress tell us this is not surveillance. They're wrong. Now, it's time for the government to learn from us."
Saturday marked the 12th anniversary of the signing of the Patriot Act into law. The protest comes ahead of bipartisan legislation being introduced in the coming week that would overhaul U.S. surveillance laws, said ACLU Legislative Counsel Michelle Richardson.
The bill will be led by Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis. and Sen. Pat Leahy, D-Vt. in an effort to curb surveillance. Other members have been lobbying for legislation to address the issue.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. co-sponsored additional laws against spying and shared similar concerns with Saturday's protesters.
"What we need is less secrecy, more oversight and scrutiny and more accountability so that we have a more open system that the American people can respect and trust," Blumenthal said.
The senator also addressed the "international outcry," from "excessive use of surveillance" which comes after recent revelations that the U.S. monitored the cellphone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Similar claims have surfaced in countries like Spain and France.
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