A Great Day for Civil Liberties

By: Harry Waisbren

Today has been a great one for the fight for civil liberties! The House Judiciary Committee met to finish their markup of the USA Patriot Amendments Act of 2009, and low and behold, we receive a big win as the HJC voted 16-10 to send the bill to the floor with most of the major reforms left intact.

The hearing had began inauspiciously as an amendment by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) to preserve the “lone wolf” provision was narrowly defeated 15-15. However, apprehension gave way to appreciation as we saw civil liberties champions emerge as Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) introduced a House version of the JUSTICE Act (which would fix the Patriot Act while also repealing telecom immunity) and Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) proposed and passed an amendment that requires the declassification and periodic review of FISA and NSL programs.

With these victories in hand, we need to ensure that momentum does not wane as we gear up for the fight ahead. We are already planning for our next organizing call for this upcoming Tuesday, so please let us know what times you can make it.

In the meantime, our suggested tweets provide a variety of options to send, but we are focusing on the following tweets in a carrot and stick approach to these legislators in particular:

@RepTammyBaldwin congratulations on your amendment passing. Thanks for supporting the constitution! http://act.ly/Rh0 #patriotact

RT @eff: thx to Rep. Holt for intro’ing House version of JUSTICE Act to fix #PATRIOTact & repeal telco immunity! http://eff.org/r.5b2

@LamarSmithTX21 is willing to give up liberty for temporary security. How un-American! http://act.ly/Res Pls RT #patriotact

Furthermore, we are pushing forward on our Open Letter to President Obama in a big way, and are striving for as much input as we can get for this crowdsourced effort. We have been making some major progress, but definitely want as much help as we can attain for this 21st century grassroots effort.

Lastly, the two days largely spent tweetchatting away in the Patriot Act Action Hub have been an enormous success. The conversation contained important opinions from experts and lay people alike, and the swift actions and information sharing fostered through the hub are clear examples of the very best qualities that the medium has to offer.

Rounding thank yous to Amy, Kevin, Julian, Jim, Brandon, Rebecca, Jon, Korkie, Jeff, and Brishen for chiming in the chat log, to the myriad of tweeters whose tweets were aggregated in the feed, and to anyone else who followed along. The democratic discourse we engaged in over the past few days is a sort of which our founding fathers only could have dreamed!

Update: even more great news–the HJC referred the State Secrets reform bill to the House floor.

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