End-of-the-year Patriot Act strategy thinking … please discuss!

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Organizing call Tuesday! Please let us know when you can make it!

With health care still the focus and now Aghanistan and climate change, and Congress scheduled to recess on December 18, there are starting to be rumors of a “continuing resolution”: extending the sunsetting Patriot Act clauses without modification for a few months.  To be honest, though, we have no idea on what the legislative status is.  If anybody knows what the heck’s going on, please leave it in the comments.

The way it looks to me: the legislative path seems torturous — the bill the HJC reported out still has to go through Intelligence, where Reyes has a competing bill — so a a continuing resolution seems plausible.  On the other hand we should also be alert for an attempt to use the deadline to sneak things through without meaningful debate.  This was a favorite tactic of the Bush Administration and previous Congress, and as our open letter pointed out so far that’s been a disappointingly accurate guide to how the Obama Administration has approached things.

Speaking of which, please sign our open letter via BORDC, change.org, Care2, and/or Twitter.  Post it to Facebook and MySpace.  Tweet it.  Thank you.

So strategically, we have to be ready for short-term action while building and planning for the longer term.  We’ll have an organizing call/chat on Tuesday; check the Patriot Act Action Hub for details.  For now, let’s start the discussion.

Our best chance for impact in the short-term is probably to leverage a meeting one of our members has on Tuesday with Senator Specter’s people.  It’s a great opportunity … how best to capitalize on this?

There are several goals here.  To start with, we want to thank Specter and ask him to pass our appreciation on to other pro-civil-liberties allies on the Hill.  We want their perspectives on how we can help.  Hopefully they have some insights on the legislative status.  And we also want to indirectly pressure Representative Sestak, while reminding everybody that there are at least a handful of races in 2010 where the progressive/libertarian civil liberties vote could be the deciding factor.  Oh, and It’d be cool to get some media attention too.

It’s a lot to accomplish in a short meeting … suggestions welcome!

Longer-term thinking

Looking forward to next year, the battle will continue no matter what the short-term results are, so now’s a great time to be thinking about the strategy for the next year.  When I look back over this year’s strategy discussions [1, 2, 3, 4] I’m pleased by the progress we’ve made in working with a multipartisan coalition and at reaching out to and involving a more diverse audience.  On the other hand our communication is still challenging, and we didn’t make any progress on videos.

It really would be great to get a video to go viral (YouTube views were a leading indicator for poll movements in the 2008 primaries), and we did some work on this earlier in the year: the “other ideas” section here, the Innocent words, misinterpreted script.  We could reuse images from our three SaysMe.tv videos/cable TV ads.  The question that always comes up is how we’ll pay for it … I don’t know, but we’ve always found ways in the past.  We might be able to get some people to help us for free.   We might be able to raise the money for it via Kickstarter.  With a sufficiently good script and promotion plan we might be able to approach an organization and pitch it as a funded project.  It’s worth investigating.  Hopefully somebody will take the lead on this.

That’s just one idea of course … there are lots of other aspects worth considering.  The first step is to kick off some discussion — about strategy, and about tactics as well.  Let’s use this thread for now.  But first …

A word from our sponsor

Please sign our open letter via BORDC, change.org, Care2, and/or Twitter.  Post it to Facebook and MySpace.  Tweet it.  Email it to your friends.  Blog about it.  Thank you.

Okay, now back to the strategy and brainstorming.  What other things should we be doing?  Who should we be talking to?  How can we improve our communications?  What are our goals?  What have we learned?

Please discuss!



10 Responses to End-of-the-year Patriot Act strategy thinking … please discuss!

  1. Mark Dorlester says:

    Great post.
    In the very short-term – the next few days – I will do what I can Mon to pulse SJC staff to get the facts on any Patriot/FISA extension. Also, I think we should first grab the Specter-Sistak opportunity and see what kind of a Patriot/FISA reform dust-up we can create. Our aim should be to create enough attention that Specter wants a law extending all provisions of existing law for about 6 months. Specter has a vote and much influence on the SJC, and nudging him might well produce such results.

    That notwithstanding, Jon has floated the idea of seeing if/how we can tie-in our efforts with those of the broader civil rights/Con Law coalition, so that we’re all working synchronously. All I can say is AMEN to that! Furthermore, that works regardless of the details of the moment, and regardless of the time horizon.


  2. Amy Ringenbach says:

    Follow-up: Jim Burroughs and

    This morning, the Sunlight Foundation hosted a live tweet chat about its joint Open Government Initiative here:
    liveblogging/tweeting Open Government Directive launch here: http://bit.ly/4D4jKk #ogd #opengov

    @Noah Kunin:
    Here is the full text of the Open Government Directive in PDF format:

    Within 60 days #opengov dashboard to be created and featured here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/open

    Julian Sanchez/CATO, Jon Pincus and Jim Burroughs have been discussing this Sunlight Foundation initiative on Twitter and how GFR might engage them in our efforts as well?

    More later during our organizing call at 3:30PM PST/6:30PM EST here on the Hub.


  3. Amy Ringenbach says:

    12.8.09 5:45PM

    Hello again everyone!
    Because I am a Pennsylvania resident, I contacted both Senator Arlen Specter’s office and Congressman Joe Sestak’s office. Some of us may know that Congressman Sestak is also running for the US Senate, seeking Specter’s seat.

    Via phone yesterday, I spoke with Senator Specter’s Chief Counsel for the SJC/Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs to determine current action on the pending FISA/Patriot Act legislation. We in GFR had been hearing whispers that the current laws might be continued as-is (bad.) I asked Specter’s Counsel about this: whether there was a continuing resolution afoot or some other news to share. He said there is a re-authorization underway! This means the key points of ‘Lone Wolf,’ NLSs and Section 215s are under discussion, are in fact subject to revision past the 12/31/09 ‘sunset’ deadline and will not simply be rubber-stamped. So this is GREAT news for us civil libertarians!

    I am still awaiting word from Congressman Sestak’s team on this.

    Others in our groups also reached out to more key legislators in both the House and Senate yesterday as well. Each of these legislators and their aides spoke to us on background (without attribution,) however, we learned that YES, the discussion will continue beyond the end of the year.

    Huffington Post reporter Mark Dorlester wrote about this news last night. Please see:


    This re-authorization and its on-going discussion in Congress gives us the oh-so-welcome opportunity to continue to call/write/phone our own legislators and to urge them to carefully consider and redress the most egregious aspects of the FISA/Patriot Act laws, and Get FISA Right.

    Whoever reads this post, we in GFR do hope you have already read, signed and shared our Open Letter to President Obama, in which we urge the President and our Attorney General as well as the House and Senate to raise this debate and to correct these laws, passed in the post 9/11 panic.
    Go here, to the BORDC landing page: http://bit.ly/GFRBORDC
    or here, http://bit.ly/gfrchange to the Change.org petition;
    or here, http://act.ly/1fp to the Act.ly site, and re-tweet ‘Ask @BarackObama to support #patriotact reform! http://act.ly/1fp Please RT’
    or here, the Care2 Petition site: http://bit.ly/GFRCare2Petition

    Looking forward to our organizing call this afternoon: 3:30PM PST/ 6:30PM EST here on the GFR hub

    Amy Ringenbach /aka BleuZ00m on Twitter/YouTube elsewhere

  4. Mark Dorlester says:

    A series of calls with HJC and SJC staff, and one brief chat with my senator (Ben Cardin) confirms that everyone is convinced there will be an extension of Patriot/FISA into early next year so that work can continue on reforms.

    But NO ONE was willing to go on record. I presented an affirmative para from my Dec 7 HuffPost article, and everyone, while not confirming, said they thought the story was accurate.

    So I think we should plan to restart planning under the assumption that we have 2-3 months. If it turns out that they do rush a final bill through next week, we couldn’t influence that anyway.

    Amy Ringenbach’s foray toward a Specter-Sestak story is the way to go. If we had a few more of those, followed up by full social networking, we’d be in good shape, imo.

  5. Sally G says:

    Sorry I missed the phone call on Tuesday—I was in physical therapy for a broken finger. Just read the transcript, and it seems things are going well. I can kick in a few bucks (not enough to make a dent, but still, I hope every little bit helps) toward our next video effort. Definitely like the thought of tying in efforts with other groups, rather than each re-creating the wheel. Assuming that there is an extension, do we know when this might be revisited?
    Best wishes to all for a gentle solstice—enjoy the holiday season!

  6. Sally G says:

    We have from now until Feb. 25 to move into third place on change.org—please, everyone, grab the widget and get it out there. I just forwarded Jon and Harry an E-mail from change.org on strategy suggestions; I note that if all our change.org supporters had voted, we’d have at 140 votes. Does anyone know how to send an invitation to vote to our supporters? (I get action invitations from a couple of people to whom I can reach out, but don’t know how to communicate directly with the signers of our open letter—I’ll try to find out this afternoon unless anyone already knows.)

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