Get FISA Right in “Ask the President” — bloggers wanted!

March 23, 2009

Ari Melber’s The People’s Press Conference in The Nation introduces Ask the President, a project where people can suggest and vote on questions that will potentially be asked at a White House press conference.   Other sponsors include The Nation, The Washington Times, Personal Democracy Forum,, (Bob Fertik, whose question continues to lead), and Jack and Jill Politics.

President Obama’s next press conference is at Tuesday, 8 PM Eastern (Facebook event here).

Wouldn’t it be great if somebody asked about FISA and the Patriot Act?

Please vote for our question

Before you were elected, you committed to having your attorney general review domestic surveillance policy. What are your plans and timeframe to get FISA right?


Also, Bob Fertik of has a question as well, asking President Obama to appoint a special prosecutor.   During the Ideas for Change competition, we overwhelmingly voted to endorse Bob’s special prosecutor proposal, so please consider voting for his question as well.

Bob’s currently in #2 overall at a net of +254 votes.  We’re currently at a net of +31.  Our approval rating is over 90%.  Very cool!

The wiki page has various suggestions for promotion via email, Twitter, etc.    One thing we could really use is for people to  blog about this and include the handy embed widget like Bob has.  If you do, please leave a link in a comment here so that everybody can see it.

The best way to follow updates is here, via the @GetFISARight Twitter account.  If anybody wants to provide updates on the blog here, please let us know in a comment.



What to ask President Obama?

March 17, 2009

Ari: let's build it!Ask the President is launching this Thursday.  Details aren’t public yet, but from the Twitter discussions so far, it seems like the basic idea is to provide a followon to’s short-lived Open for Questions series [1, 2]: a way for people to submit potential questions and vote on what they think the best ones are.


This is the kind of stuff that Get FISA Right has done well in the past, for example finishing #5 in‘s Ideas for Change in America.  As well as resuming our dialog with President Obama, if we can get somebody to ask a FISA-related question at a White House press conference it’ll also be a great chance for publicity.   FISA and the PATRIOT Act are starting to be in the news a little, and this is a different angle for reporters to cover; we got so much attention last summer that plenty of media folks know who we are. The story practically writes itself: “Following on their previous success on MyBO, the social network-savvy activists at Get FISA RIght have done it again …”

So even though we don’t know a lot about the format yet, let’s start thinking now about what kind of question we’d like to ask.  Maybe something like:

What are President Obama’s plans to get FISA right?

In then-Senator Obama’s note on FISA last summer, he stated his opposition to telecom immunity, and talked of his intent to have the new attorney general review all domestic surveillance programs and “to make further recommendations on any steps needed to preserve civil liberties and to prevent executive branch abuse in the future.”  Since you taking office, though, the Obama DOJ has followed the Bush Administration line on immunity and in the in the Al-Haramain case.  When and how does President Obama intend to follow up on his campaign promises on FISA?

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House conservatives introduce bill to extend PATRIOT Act

March 13, 2009

Jared Allen reports in The Hill:

More than a dozen of the GOP’s most conservative members on Thursday introduced a bill to reauthorize controversial Patriot Act provisions set to expire later this year.

The group of House Republicans – who include Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-Ind.) and Judiciary Ranking Member Lamar Smith (R-Texas) – want to extend for an additional 10 years the ability of national security agencies to conduct “roving” wiretaps, have access to library patron information and greatly expand the reach of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Those provisions of the Patriot Act were set to expire this year.

Earlier in the year than we had expected …

Feingold to give the Obama administration “a few more weeks” to introduce FISA reform legislation

March 5, 2009

In a comment on What does it mean to “get FISA right”?, Ben Masel wrote:

I caught up with Senator Feingold last Sunday, at his Birthday Party/Re-election fundraiser.

He’s going to give the Administration “a few more weeks” to come up with a bill to roll back the FISA amendments, introduce his own bill if they don’t.

One more reason why Get FISA Right ♡ Senator Feingold!

So now’s a very good time to think about activism related to whatever legislation gets introduced: a “50-state strategy” of feedback to all the Senators and Representatives from their consituents — including in-person meetings and cable TV advertising — as well as pressure on President Obama and his administration.  Continuing the discussions on What does it mean to “get FISA right”? is a key part of it; it’s a chance for us to take the initiative.  So please check out that thread and contribute your opinions.

More details as we get them.  Other thoughts on how we should proceed?

Bloggers wanted, part deux

March 4, 2009

First of all, apologies to everybody for being so quiet — I was sick for the last couple of weeks.  I’m feeling better now but am overwhelmed by other stuff so don’t expect to hear a lot from me.

Which is a pretty natural transition to the topic of this post.  Now’s a great time to transition the blog from being Jon-centric to being a group effort.  So we’re looking for bloggers — you, hopefully.  In particular:

  • volunteers to do the “dailyish updates”.  it’s pretty straightforward: check the blog for recent posts, look at the Google group and discussion board on the wiki to see if there are any hot topics, and check the news.
  • a weekly legal roundup, summarizing what’s happening and linking out to other analyses.  You don’t need to be a lawyer to help here, but you have to be comfortable with the level of detail that’s typically discussed by emptywheel, Threat Level, or Glenn Greenwald.
  • guest posts in the “what does it mean to get FISA right series”.  See Jim Burrows’ first post and my comment for more.

Other topics are welcome too…

If you’d like to help out, please reply in a comment!



PS: Experienced bloggers are welcome, of course, but if you’re new to blogging, this is a great chance to learn.

What does it mean to “get FISA right”?

March 4, 2009

Thanks to Jim Burrows for taking the lead and kicking off a series of posts on this difficult subject.  With the Obama DOJ currently mirroring the Bush Administration’s stance, we see it as increasingly likely that the issue of FISA is going to come up in Congress relatively soon.  So now’s a great time to start framing the issue positively and proactively: what outcome do we want?  We’ll update this post with links to future posts in the series … more details soon! — Jon Pincus

As a member of “Get FISA Right”, I find myself asking, “What does ‘get it right’ mean?” I don’t have a definitive answer, but let me give a few thoughts as a basis for a discussion of the topic.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was originally passed in 1978 order to balance the legitimate need to spy on the nation’s foreign enemies, with the Constitutional rights of her citizens, and especially to curb existing abuse. Technology has changed dramatically since it was written, and our enemies are different. Also, there has been a new round of abuse. All of these must be addressed.

To “get it right”, let me suggest that we need:
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