Next Steps & Open Questions

By: Harry Waisbren

Our latest Patriot Act/FISA organizing call exhibited the tidal wave of passion and growing momentum to act amongst civil libertarians of all stripes. A quick summary has already been posted and the complete chat log is available here, but now we must cauterize the flurry of fantastic ideas into action!

Our timing could not have been better, as mere hours beforehand Representatives Conyers, Nadler, and Scott introduced bills to reform the PATRIOT Act (HR 3845 and 3846). Marcy Wheeler has provided a detailed analysis of what is being proposed, and below you will find the next steps and open questions laying before us as we strive to make an impact on this integral issue.

First off, our short-term priority is to ask House Judiciary Committee members (and other Representatives) to sign on as co-sponsors for the bills. We will be complementing the ongoing efforts from other organizations through both our social media perspective in addition to more traditional forms of activism, and are already thanking the politicians courageous enough to stand up for civil liberties with the following tweet:

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

The first question before us is how we transition our theme away from the JUSTICE Act while learning from our prior experiences supporting it. One essential lesson is that we must push back against the closed door briefings being cited ominously as a rationale for why civil liberties infringement remains necessary, especially considering some of the members of those meetings (especially Senator Feingold) are directly contradicting that argument. We have to encourage such dissent while working to find ways to make it easier for them to speak out.

This is especially important considering the lingering and widely held notion that relinquishing liberty in order to “stay safe” is worthwhile instead of inherently un-American. Combating this meme is essential, as although it is constantly cited by our mainstream media, if it is explained in simplified and personalized terms Americans will recognize the antithetical nature of the argument to citizenship.

During the call, a consensus emerged during the call that targeting the media has become increasingly essential. We are beginning to discern our narrative as part of our pitch to these opinion makers of why they should cover this, and when we do we will conduct all sorts of new media and more traditional letters to the editor campaigns to try to break this ongoing silence.

Fortunately, the model we utilized last summer did just that, and we will be building upon past practices even more so moving forward. This will be most manifest in our decision to release another open letter to Obama, and we are hoping for as much input as possible as we collaboratively produce this document. However, the more general narrative of our previous campaign also is one we can replicate, as the “democrats vs. democrats” story was one that held a great amount of salience amongst mainstream media members who otherwise would not cover this issue. Unlike last summer though, we have a better understanding of who might become champions in this fight including Arlen Specter (particularly in light of how he has already been pushed to the left due to his primary battle with Rep. Joe Sestak), Rep. Alan Grayson, Rep. Ron Paul, etc.

Despite any congressional targeting though, as we push forward on our open letter we need to transition our sights to president Obama. He, more than anyone else, inspired our nation in large part by his calls for change, yet his capitulation on FISA last summer remains a point of dismay amongst even his most ardent supporters. This is why our fight is part and parcel of Mike Lux’s argument that Obama must fight for regular people, and we must continue our effort to show our president the way.

Americans are not frightened sheep willing to give up our citizenship and become subjects. Our most recent organizing call and this effort in general exemplify this truism, and it is precisely why our fight is about ensuring that the ideal of America will persevere.

There is much left to do, and we hope that you will join us both on our upcoming call next Tuesday (2pm PST/5 pm EST) and throughout the week as we develop new means to make our voices heard!


2 Responses to Next Steps & Open Questions

  1. Jim Burrows says:

    I think the following tweet is at the heart of the story we should be trying to push into the media:

    cavilling_elite: #patriotact Obama has lost most of my respect
    when it concerns changing these pushed through

    Jason, aka cavilling_elite, isn’t a particularly news-worthy individual in and of himself. He’s just one of many people whose respect the President has has lost by not standing up for the Civil Liberties that he said were important to him during the campaign. This part of the story is that as with the original “Get FISA Right” movement within Obama’s own netroots, people who were his supporters are beginning to stand up to tell him he’s wrong.

    The second part of the tweet that is important is the article he cites, a lengthy and fairly dense article by the Cato Institute’s Julian Sanchez in The Nation. There are two parts to this:

    1. Both Libertarians and Liberals are together on this.
    2. With all respect to Julian, this article isn’t a punchy, rile up support action piece, but it’s the sort of thing that people like Jason are citing as they voice there disenchantment. Think what a rabble-rousing firebrand could do with it.

    The minor back-story to the tweet is that it followed a few minutes after Jason’s retweet of us:

    cavilling_elite: RT @GetFISARight: Senate Judiciary Committee
    abandons hope of bringing any real change to
    the Patriot Act

    We could be the aforementioned firebrands who get get the netroots riled up.

    I’m not sure that I have any profound point here, but watching this tweet put me in mind of what I thought we could and should be focusing on. It made a little more concrete what we were talking about in the phone call.

  2. lois swartz says:

    A retired teacher, I worked for thirty years teaching in Philadelphia schools. I ran an orderly and free forum high school English class in which each opinion was valued if backed up with sincere and strong argument. My classes were models of democracy and law. Since I am a Jewish teacher and the majority of my students were Aftrican American reading August Wilson among other black authors raised many issues. The greatest issue for me was lack of money for books. I taxed all of my friends to buy books. So FISA: free speech, honest government,one person one work and a government respectful of indiviual rights. Since 9/11 an Orwellian pall has been cast on us. WE fight back with education and lobbying Congress and money.

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