What next? Patriot Act/FISA organizing call Tuesday, 2 p.m. Pacific/5 Eastern

If we’re going to have any significant impact on the Patriot Act and FISA debates in the rest of 2010, we’ll need to build on whatever momentum we’ve achieved so far, learn about what has and hasn’t worked, and continue to organize.  The goals for our next phone call include an update on the legislative situation, pooling knowledge about learnings from SJC battle and upcoming activism plans, and deciding on our next steps.   

Please join us!   More information at http://bit.ly/oct20call.

Between now and then, let’s continue the discussion that Sally, Gavin, and Harry have started in Questioning Obama and the Patriot Act.  Get FISA Right’s claim to fame is our dialog last summer with then-Senator Obama; now is the perfect time to continue it.

Please to use this thread to share any thoughts on lessons learned and next steps.  The first comment has some thoughts by Marcy Wheeler to kick things off.



9 Responses to What next? Patriot Act/FISA organizing call Tuesday, 2 p.m. Pacific/5 Eastern

  1. emptywheel says:

    1) We just got rolled and we need to get a better understanding of what happened. Obviously we have few friends in the Dem Party bc Obama is pushing for fewer protections. But to understand where to pressure, we need to understand what happened. In particular, we need to know who is pushing for fewer protections (remember, Kris testified to Congress he was happy with some particularized protections). Is it Brennan? Is it CIA? Who owns the secret 215 program?

    2) We need to do some sounding out to find out if we’ll have any more leverage in the House. It’s quite possible we will–Nadler’s almost as much a civil liberties hawk as Feingold–though he does represent NYC which changes things.

    3) Unless things change, we’re not going to get anywhere bc we can’t beat both the Republicans and most Democrats. So we’re going to have to find some way of making it embarrassingly clear what they’re hiding. I’m increasingly convinced that it is at least partly searches on purchase records. ANd if so, we’d be better off explaining why that’s a problem for Joe Six Pack.

    4) Without that, pressure on Obama isn’t going to work. But pressure on him for hiding behind Jeff Sessions might. Obama and Leahy et al went to some length to hide their acquiescence with the last minute package–we might do some good by embarrassing them about that.

  2. Bruce Eggum says:

    You are so right. I do not understand the political game so please continue to advise.

    Some recent events such as increasing terrorist [I hate that general definition] and assassination attempts may be confusing the issue.

    We need to clearly describe how a revised FISA can provide security for the people of the USA while maintaining privacy and accountability.

    Regards, Bruce

  3. Jim Babka says:

    Have Olbermann and Maddow expressed concern at this hiding behind Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III’s skirt? …at the undermining of Feingold?

  4. jonpincus says:

    Great question, Jim. I Twittered from the Get FISA Right account to Maddow and her producer:

    @maddow @producerguy1 will you be covering Obama hiding behind @SenatorSessions on #patriotact reform? see @emptywheel at http://is.gd/4rdMl

    Somebody want to get in touch with Olbermann?

  5. gina says:

    don’t know if it would help to have links to fb pages and twitter handles of supporting organizations…

  6. Jim says:

    emptywheel’s comments are a good place to start from. I think she’s right to start talking about the role of embarrassment.

    It’s clear after the Senate Judiciary Committee debacle that many who we thought might be “friends” (such as Whitehouse, Leahy, and again, sigh, Obama) found constitutional and civil liberties concerns to be more of an annoyance than a legitimate concern. Senators Durbin and Feingold, on the other hand, were amazingly awesome, but frankly would have done exactly what they did without the slightest of tweets or blog posts on our part. The last round was a bust for us.

    Social networking technologies are great for informing and mobilizing a large mass of people who are sympathetic but unaware. There is certainly a large mass of people who are unaware. But what if there isn’t a large mass of people who are sympathetic? Up to and during the election, partisan dissatisfaction with all things Bush helped to provoke sympathy on the FISA Amendments Act and Patriot Act issues. But Bush is gone, and so is the partisan source of sympathy.

    These days, we’re in a small minority. What should members of a small minority do? If you’re a lawyer with the EFF or ACLU or you have friends in high places, please keep on working through the channels you’ve established. But for the rest of us who don’t have powerful friends to cultivate or court cases to look after, let’s be blunt, let’s be honest, and yes, let’s EMBARRASS people.

    When Senator Amy Klobuchar doesn’t even know what amendment she’s voting on before she casts her vote, let’s call her on it, vocally, by name.

    When Senator Al Franken surfs into office on a wave of Air America broadcasts berating Bush surveillance and the Patriot Act, then votes against Patriot Act reform, let’s call him on it, vocally, by name.

    When Senator Patrick Leahy plays lets-make-a-deal with Dianne Feinstein and tries to shut off debate, let’s call him on it, vocally, by name.

    When Senator Chuck Schumer can’t even be bothered to show up for his committee meetings and votes as he’s told to by proxy, let’s call him on it, vocally, by name.

    I just came back from the National Equality March. I saw tens of thousands of people marching in the street for equal rights. I saw ONE man, Randall Terry, standing all alone, straddling a sandwich board with an image of an aborted fetus and shouting into a megaphone. The news cameras and the photographers had their backs to the well-behaved ten thousand. They were taking pictures of Randall Terry. He got disproportionate coverage that day. I don’t agree with his message, but his tactics were very smart.

    Confronting and embarrassing people in power isn’t nice. But our politicians are not being nice, and unless we live in DC and are part of the dinner party circuit they are not and will not be our friends.

    If Get FISA Right and the EFF and the ACLU need to continue to be nice to follow their strategies, then I think there need to be some other groups out there which are freed from the constraint of being nice.

  7. […] But if you aren’t an endowed lawyer, you don’t have friends in high places, and you don’t have a majority of the population who agrees with you, recognize your powerlessness and your freedom. You’re not going to win a court case, so you don’t have to be courtly. You’re not going to have a beer with the President and work it all out, so you don’t have to worry that he won’t be your friend. And you aren’t going to have a crowd of a hundred thousand at your back, so you don’t have to do anything big and coordinated. We little people have the freedom to be blunt, let’s be honest, and yes, as emptywheel proposes, to EMBARRASS people. […]

  8. […] The most recent skirmish on the Patriot Act reauthorization battle ended badly for civil liberties. Despite passionate speeches all around in the Senate Judiciary Committee public hearings and classified briefings, in the end, only Senators Feingold, Durbin, and Specter stood up for the Constitution. As Marcy Wheeler says, we got rolled. […]

  9. steveOhum says:

    Thanks for this excellent discussion, I’m mostly in accord with everything said here, my only concern is in the use of ’embarassment’ of our officials as a goal, and this has to do with a basic philosophical/spiritual perspective that many folks on the left may not share. I would prefer to keep our hands joined even if that’s the case, since I’m devoted in spirit to the aim of these efforts – restoratin of our civil liberties. The problem with wanting to embarass those in power is that it immediately sets us against them in our energies, and it is this energy or disposition of opposition and conflict that keeps minds and ears closed, and ultimately perpetuates the same old experience of conflict that has been looping for many years. My preference would be to frame this effort in terms of holding our leaders accountable, simply enough, and let their emotional state be what it is. In other words, this would be in the spirit of nonviolence that Gandhi promoted, where we don’t see policymakers’ betrayal of the public interest as enemies, but simply as mistaken and not seeing clearly, and by calmly standing in the truth and speaking this truth, they are invited to join us in promoting what we stand for, human rights and dignity, without making them wrong. Internally it’s a way of including them, not excluding them, or blaming them. Though it may be a small point, the difference between holding someone accountable and trying to embarass them, it is an ocean of difference in attitude, and I think it makes an ocean of difference in what is or isn’t effective action. Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandella and Gandhi’s freedom movements were powerful for the very reason that they took this position, philosophically and spiritually, and it is no accident that they were all successful movements. In short, in my view, the way to change is not through finger pointing, division and warring, but by gradually growing the ranks of people seeking civil liberties, dignity, freedom and justice to include, not reject, our so-called enemies and adversaries. We know we have the truth on our side, our complaints are against those acting out of fear or greed. I know that may sound like bleeding heart fluff, but historically, it’s the only thing that has ever sustainably worked to bring about change at the least cost. What do y’all think of that?

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