Tweeting Points

October 30, 2009

By: Harry Waisbren

Our latest suggested Patriot Act and FISA tweets:

RT @GetFISARight: Our next #patriotact & FISA organizing call is this Monday, come join:

RT @jdp23: Social network activism and the future of civil liberties (Please RT) #patriotact (via @getfisaright)

@RepHankJohnson @RepJacksonLee: thanks for sponsoring #PatriotAct and FISA reform! (Please RT)

@RepJaneHarman thanks for sponsoring #PatriotAct reform, please also sponsor H 3846! (Please RT)

Thanks for helping spread the word!

Social network activism and the future of civil liberties

October 30, 2009

I’ve got a post up on The Seminal and Pam’s House Blend, highlighting the opportunity to broaden and recharge the civil liberties community.   The thesis is that Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Care2, OFA and other social network sites:

  • provide a way to engage with Millennials and other diverse groups of people who care a lot about the Patriot Act — but are not currently involved with civil liberties activism.
  • make it easy for people to let their politicians know their feelings — and recruit their friends in the process.
  • allow civil liberties organizations to get beyond the media blackout and provide accurate information to everybody.
  • complement in-person local campaigns like People’s Campaign for the Constitution’s local ordinances and good ol’ fashioned letters-to-the-editor

The last section of the post has some suggested next steps.   There’s also some cool graphics too.   Please check it out.

As I say in a comment, thanks to the Get FISA Right members and our allies for the hard work.  We’ve been taking the lead on social network activism in the civil liberties area for over a year now, I honestly believe we’re making progress!



Key Takeaways From Our Latest Call

October 27, 2009

By: Harry Waisbren

Our latest organizing call was a smashing success, and we heartily thank Marcy, Mark, Derrick, Mandy, Soren, Jim, Jo,  Jon, Korkie, Amy and anyone else following along on the phone or online for attending!

We made a whole lot of ground discerning our shorter term direction while fortifying our longer term foundation. With much in the works, we decided on next Monday as a followup call and are circulating a poll to find which time—4, 5, or 6 PM PST—works best.

Mandy from the ACLU confirmed that this Wednesday will be the House Judiciary Committee markup of Patriot Act and FISA reform legislation. Get excited, because come Wednesday, we will be holding a live interactive chat in the Patriot Act Action Hub—-which we are also using to coordinate our actions and to roundup news items.

In the meantime, here are some other key takeaways:

  • Our priority in the house remains targeting HJC democrats to sign on as co-sponsors to both bills, in particular Rep. Jane Harman  given her influential status (not to mention her upcoming primary battle), but Reps. Schiff, Wasserman-Schultz, Berman, Baldwin, Quigley, and Wexler were emphasized as well. For more, see the targeting discussion call excerpts.
  • As we construct our narrative, Amy brought up a fantastic idea of more assertively focusing on the personal stories of individuals whose privacy has been violated.
  • Jim started a discussion about the need for increased outreach to libertarians and conservatives, and suggested the Campaign for Liberty as an organization we should particularly work to align with while Mark emphasized the NRA.
  • We decided to continue building momentum writing our open letter to President Obama despite remaining unsure of when we would release it, as it would not necessarily be a great tactic for our shorter term initiatives.

Remember that you can check the Patriot Act Action Hub for the latest campaigns and news items (or just to contribute in the chat room), and feel free to poise any questions you have in the comments section!

Update: chat log from the call available here.

Get FISA Right Offline: Write a Letter to the Editor

October 27, 2009

From its inception, Get FISA Right has been dedicated to building an online movement from within the context of the Obama for President campaign. But the passage of time and the turn of events have led to some subtle and not-so-subtle changes in Get FISA Right’s focus.

During 2008, Get FISA Right reacted with chagrin to Senator Barack Obama’s support for the FISA Amendments Act and pressured him to consider FISA reform as his inauguration approached; during 2009, we’ve watched as President Barack Obama has moved to definitively support and reinforce elements of George W. Bush’s surveillance agenda. The agenda of Get FISA Right has become more distant from the agenda of President Obama as the President’s agenda moves ever farther from the defense of American constitutional protections.

During 2008, Get FISA Right worked from within the Democratic Party base of supporters to rally support for a NO vote against the FISA Amendments Act; during 2009, we’ve watched as Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee joined Republicans to form a supermajority against civil liberty and for the reauthorization of Patriot Act. The reach of Get FISA Right has become less partisan, drawing from the expertise of libertarians such as Julian Sanchez of the CATO Institute and reaching toward Libertarian Party audiences in an effort to build more bridges.

During 2008, Get FISA Right was able to tap into the excitement of the presidential race and existing media coverage stemming from Senator Christopher Dodd’s filibuster threats to build a large online activist presence. This year, there are no presidential elections and only one one congressional elections. To my knowledge, newspapers’ coverage of the introduction of surveillance reform bills H.R. 3845 and H.R. 3846 has been limited to one Associated Press article and one Roll Call article. There’s no similar buzz this year over surveillance legislation, even though constitutional and practical problems with government surveillance remain unresolved by the Obama administration. And so as Get FISA Right continues its important work of building awareness online, there is a need to expand awareness of surveillance policy developments offline.

One way to build awareness of Patriot Act reauthorization, and of the need for Patriot Act and FISA reform, is to use the newspapers’ voice in spite of most newspapers silence. In addition to your online twitter, facebook and blogging work, please consider writing a letter to the editor today. Your words may reach tens or even hundreds of thousands of readers, and if published will almost certainly gain the attention of your local paper’s editorial staff. Get FISA Right has added a wiki page with appropriate links to background information and the letter-writing engine at Add your submitted letters to the wiki page as an inspiration for others who would like to write their own original letters but may not know where to begin.

Upcoming open letter to Obama: what’s our ask?

October 26, 2009

Here’s the current draft-in-progress for our Fall 2009 open letter — a combination of excerpts from letters Nancy, Lois, and Sally wrote, along with a few points from our discusson on last Tuesday’s phone call and a quote from his previous letter to us.  There are several excellent comments on the wiki with various suggestions that we still need to incorporate — please check them out, and jump into the discussions, or leave your opinions here on the blog.

Dear President Obama,

With FISA reform once again in Congress, we’d like to take the opportunity to continue our dialog.

In July 2008, in your response to our previous open letter, you committed to have your Attorney General conduct a comprehensive review of all our surveillance programs, and to make further recommendations on any steps needed to preserve civil liberties and to prevent executive branch abuse in.  You also told us of your intent as President to run “a White House that takes the Constitution seriously, conducts the peoples’ business out in the open, welcomes and listens to dissenting views, and asks you to play your part in shaping our country’s destiny.”

We have a hard time seeing how your administration’s work behind the scenes with Senator Sessions to weaken privacy and civil liberties protections during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on Patriot Act reform manifest this commitment.   In the courts, too, your administration’s repeated backing of Bush Administration arguments for hiding information is troubling.

We urge you to live up to the stated goals of your campaign and avoid continuing the horrific practices of the previous administration. You have taken an oath to uphold the Constitution, and we had every reason to believe that as a professor of Constitutional law, you would honor that pledge.  Please, do not betray our trust.We ask you to …

Please, Senator Obama, reject the politics of fear on national security, and take the lead in restoring our Constitutional rights.


Hmm.  Just what do we want him to do?


PS: Other feedback welcome too, of course!

Building a More Democratic Discourse

October 25, 2009

By: Harry Waisbren

In my post, Questioning Obama on the Patriot Act, I described how Attorney General Holder’s discussion of the “conversation to be had” about modifications for civil liberties concerns could help dictate our response. In particular, I cited our open letter to Obama last summer as instigating a conversation of sorts with then Senator Obama by way of his follow up post directed to us, and asked whether or not it is time for a follow up–based on our own precedent–through writing another open letter.

As we take steps forward by working together on our collaborative effort to draft a new open letter, we must recognize the enormity of what we did last summer. Our organizing of Obama supporters in a group on his own social network,, was an example of a crowdsourced action that set an entirely new model for communicating with our government. Critical acclaim abounded, as we were cited as part of Fast Company magazine’s rationale from Ellen McGirt for ranking the Obama campaign as the “top startup company of the year” as well as an example of an innovative lesson the Obama administration learned and exhibited in Jeff Jarvis’s book What Would Google Do.

Our precedent, and the innovative model for citizen engagement it exhibited, was explained by Alan Rosenblatt in his post Will They Rise Up and was recently reemphasized during The Progressive Revolution Will be Tweeted edition of the Internet Advocacy Roundtable.

I found this aspect of his post to be particularly poignant:

“when citizens are included in the decision making process, at least in terms of seeing it transpire and having a clear opportunity to engage with government leaders in the process of the policy formation, they become more connected and more supportive……at the core, democracy is about compromise and working together to solve problems for the good of the whole society. When the whole of society feels they are part of the process for solving the problems of the day, they become shared stakeholders, rather than opponents.”

Personally, I know that Obama’s direct engagement with the Get FISA Right community and recognition that we were “shared stakeholders” made me a greater supporter of his, despite any of our ongoing disagreements. I privilege the discovery of new methods for citizens to engage their representatives extremely highly, especially in light of my wholesale agreement with Chris Bowers’ The Medium is the Movement concept. The Get FISA Right experience inspired me to engage with other efforts to communicate in this manner, including’s Ideas for Change and the collaborative Ask the President effort, and I view the relaunch of Get FISA Right to be an extension of this ongoing effort to improve the way our country engages in democratic discourse and makes decisions.

As we take steps to follow up on our open letter with a new one, we must recognize that we are not only pushing to reclaim our civil liberties. Rather, we must see this as another opportunity to, once again, lead the way in helping innovate new means for citizens to engage their elected officials through tools that our founding fathers only could have dreamed of!

Tweeting Points

October 25, 2009

By: Harry Waisbren

Check out our latest Tweeting points below:

@RepHankJohnson @RepJacksonLee: thanks for sponsoring #PatriotAct and FISA reform! (Please RT)

@RepJaneHarman thanks for sponsoring #PatriotAct reform, please also sponsor H 3846! (Please RT)

I’m not a terrorist–stop spying on Americans! Fix the #patriotact. Pls RT

Thanks to Reps Conyers, Nadler, and Scott for Patriot Act and FISA reform bills #patriotact