The battle lines are drawn. What will Get FISA Right do?

Shortly after the Obama Administration announced its general support for renewing three sections of the USA PATRIOT Act, U.S. Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and six others today introduced the Judicious Use of Surveillance Tools In Counterterrorism Efforts (JUSTICE) Act.

It’s aimed to “reform the USA PATRIOT Act, the FISA Amendments Act and other surveillance authorities to protect Americans’ constitutional rights, while preserving the powers of our government to fight terrorism,” according to Feingold’s office.

— Norman Oder, Library Journal

Julian Sanchez at Cato@Liberty and Kevin Bankston at EFF have more.

I’ve already been contacted by a reporter asking what Get FISA Right will do.


It seems to me that this is an ideal time for a broad blog/social media coalition.  During the New Strategies for Fighting FISA brainstorming session at the Computers, Freedom, and Privacy conference, some of the allies we listed include the military and veterans community, students, migrant rights groups, the NRA and other gun rights advocates, faith networks, the AARP, libertarians.  On the progressive side, TweetProgress/#p2 and the progressive blogosphere can provide critical mass if they work together with Get FISA Right effectively.

As to just what this coalition should do … when we talked about this at Computers, Freedom, and Privacy, Marcy Wheeler suggested targeting a few key congressional Democrats: Harry Reid, Dianne Feinstein, Nancy Pelosi, Jane Harman.   That makes sense to me.  There was also a suggestion of getting celebrities involved; and we should also try to find ways we can align our work with whatever 501(c)3 groups like EFF, EPIC, Cato Institute, CDT, the ACLU, and others are doing.

It won’t happen on its own.  Just as happened in June and July 2008, people will need to step forward.  All year long, people have asked me whether Get FISA Right is dead, or just latent.  I guess we’ll find out.

Other thoughts?


PS: My time is very constrained for the next few months so please don’t expect quick responses from me.  About a dozen people have passwords to the blog, and about 30 people have admin rights on the MyBO group.  If you need to track somebody down, probably your best bet is to send an email to the GetFISARight-discussion Google Group or to contact one of the admins of the Facebook group.


12 Responses to The battle lines are drawn. What will Get FISA Right do?

  1. Dawn Teo says:

    Is everyone else as ready to go on this as I am? I am feeling like this health care thing needs to just get passed already so that we can move on to issues like this.

    A lot of folks have asked whether this group is dead or dormant. I believe it is dormant. We organized 21,000 people in just days last year when this issue came up, and we can (and will) do it again.

    Fired up!

  2. Patrick Bruckart says:

    I would like to help in the effort to get this bill passed. As the EFF’s Kevin Bankston notes in the above link, “The JUSTICE Act would renew two of the three expiring PATRIOT provisions . . . but would also add strong new checks and balances to those provisions and to the PATRIOT Act in general . . .. Although not ideal, this legislation sounds like it might just be politically viable, provided enough senators are willing to support it.

  3. I think there is a whole lot of potential for Get Fisa Right to be a major player in this sort of effort. We made history last summer, and now we have the difficult task of taking the next steps based off the very precedent we set.

  4. I personally think that some kind of critique the Executive Branch per se is necessary. Such a critique might frankly acknowledge that Obama is not (at all) immune to the distortive powers of that branch — and by now I think it’s not material whether he’s been ‘captured’ by others or is showing his own true colors.

    But count me in, however we decide to support Feingold’s legislation and/or oppose the ‘patriot’ Act.

  5. Chip Pitts says:

    Yes! (still) ready to go!

    Impressive though Obama may be, it is beyond clear that popular pressure on these issues is absolutely required in order to make any sort of progress (due to reelection concerns, the desire not to appear soft on terror, and the widely felt but erroneous assumption that the government must surveil or be able at will to surveil everyone in order to try to stop a few terrorists).

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  6. Jim Burrows says:

    Is anyone else bothered by the fact that the “JUSTICE Act”

    1. ensures the FBI can obtain basic information without a court order using NSLs,
    2. preserves the gag orders associated with NSLs
    3. retains the Patriot Act’s authorization of “sneak and peek” criminal searches
    4. reauthorizes the use of Section 215 business records orders under FISA
    5. retains the Patriot Act’s expansion of the FISA and criminal pen/trap authorities

    and just tries to ensure that they only apply to people who have “some connection” to terrorism or espionage?

    My father-in-law is on the no fly list because he has the second most common name in the US–Robert Brown–and someone with that name is deemed to have some connection to terrorism or espionage. The late Senator Kennedy had a name similar to that of an IRA member. That was enough “connection” to put him on the list. Giving money to a charity which supports a number of organizations one of which is related to a group suspected of having some connection with terrorism has been enough to claim that you are supporting terrorism.

    Is the allegation that it is not unreasonable for the government to believe that you might be connected some way to Kevin Bacon, I mean terrorism, enough to justify NSLs, sneak and peek, warrantless wire tapping, and access to business records involving you?

    The actual text of this act isn’t available, but this summary suggests that it concedes a lot of ground as being a reasonable trade-off between liberty and temporary security or the appearance of security.

    Senator Feingold has one of the best Civil Liberties records and positions in the Senate. I do not argue that, and my hat is generally off to him, but the wording of all of this seems to concede a lot of ground. National Security Letters are damnably close to Letters of Marque and Bills of Attainder, and are massively open to abuse. All of these provisions run afoul of the requirements for real warrants and probable cause. If even Feingold is supporting renewing, retaining and reauthorizing these procedures does that mean we as a People just roll over and allow the continued expansion of executive power?

  7. lois swartz says:

    Concerns about erosion of civil liberties and civil society with the continuation of FISA. Support Feingold’s legislation and prevent of civilians as an excuse fo national security.

  8. Adam (clammyc) says:

    This is so very important – Feingold has been right on this from day 1, and with everything else that is being focused on, this can’t fall through the cracks.

    Looking forward to helping out however I can.

  9. […] (CFP) 2010 Conference, joins us to talk these essential, nuts-and-bolts issues: Will Congress reauthorize certain parts of the Patriot Act before the end of the year? Will activism on Twitter and Facebook, like […]

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  11. […] (CFP) 2010 Conference, joins us to talk these essential, nuts-and-bolts issues: Will Congress reauthorize certain parts of the Patriot Act before the end of the year? Will activism on Twitter and Facebook, like Pincus's […]

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