Key Takeaways from May 4 Organizing Call

By: Harry Waisbren

We had an engaging and productive call yesterday as we built upon the discussions flourishing from our email lists recently about transpartisan outreach. You can read through the call notes in the chat log from the meeting page for the most detailed account, otherwise you can check below for the key takeaways:

  • Jon brought up engaging in the upcoming Computers Freedom and Privacy conference (which he co-chairs), and suggested an online hour long brainstorming session during it in order to reach out more broadly. Moreover, Shahid will be there as well, so hopefully it will represent an opportunity to brainstorm around coordinating on their model ordinances campaign as well.
  • Mark discussed the webcast on OFA David Plouffe and Mitch Stewart where they emphasized the importance of face to face discussions to get out the vote. We all found ourselves in agreement in this regards, and view the goal as merging the in person with the social networking to be “really cooking with gas” as Jon put it.
  • The discussion of OFA strategy, especially their targeting of first time voters amongst young people, African Americans, and Latinos, made way into our analysis of the Tea Party, which does largely fall outside this spectrum being largely older and white. However, Sally brought up how she is a policy person over a party person, and many on our call (and our constituency at large) seem to have a similar foundation in the issues at hand rather than the particular political vehicles to getting there.
  • Before we lay any groundwork for expanded engagement, however, we do need to discern what we are engaging around and who we are trying to engage with, along with a clear message of what we want people to do. This is a turn, as a focus on Democratic primaries would not jive with this aspect of a transpartisan strategy, but BORDC’s model ordinances campaign could be a sweet spot.
  • We further assessed the specifics of the ‘who’ for our engagement, reaching clear agreement that Ron Paul Libertarians seem to be natural allies for us. We debated a more expanded outreach amongst the Tea Party set, and Ben did report that he received a positive response when he took his ‘stop government spying’ sign to a Madison Tea Party rally.  However, the key comes down to who we can work with in good faith, and there was disagreement in regards to how deep Fox News’ and the GOP’s control of Tea Party is, and how mitigating it can be for coalitioning.
  • Jim mentioned that he had a contact who was amongst the original modern Tea Party members who dumped tea (at least for show) into the Boston Harbor in 2007 as part of the Ron Paul campaign, and he offered to reach out to them.
  • I broached the fact that there was fantastic conversation occurring all over the email list, and that many of those kinds of posts could easily be turned into blog posts. If anyone does want to have their words put in a more permanent location, I have an open invitation to send me material (or work with me however you wish) to get it out there with full attribution, especially since the public nature of a blog makes connecting with those outside the closed architecture of our email list that much easier. On top of that, there were suggestions of commenting in the blogs of organizations like Ron Paul’s Campaign for Liberty in our own names and identifiably as GFR members (providing that we do so level headedly), while also attempting to guest blog in such forums as well. Jim, Sally, and Mark have plans to follow up on a blog project that could combine these strategies.

Thanks to Sally, Mark, Jim, Ben, and Jon for joining the call!

We decided that we should have a call in another couple of weeks to get a head on the time sensitive Computers Freedom and Privacy aspects especially, but please continue the discussion through whichever channels you wish in the meantime…


4 Responses to Key Takeaways from May 4 Organizing Call

  1. Mark Dorlester says:

    Per an item in our call last night, I watched the entire (delayed) 1 1/4 hr webcast of House Judiciary Constitutional Subcommittee (Nadler (D-NY), Chair) hearings on revising the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) to provide “Digital Due Process.”

    There were 4 witnesses:
    Jim Dempsey, CDT
    Albert Gidari, Partner, Perkins Coie
    Orrin Kerr, GWU Professor
    Ann Marie Levins, Associate General Counsel, Microsoft

    At the outset, Dempsey/CDT stated that for these purposes, they were making no recommendations concerning FISA, the Patriot Act, or, specifically, NSLs. He later stated their central concern that the Founders constructed the 4th Amendment to apply to physical places, whereas today “papers and effects” clearly are located in non-physical form; exemplified especially, by the emergence of “cloud computing” exemplified by gMail. He later stated that the Committee should take it’s time, and do it (application of the 4th Amendment to modern communications) right. A summary of Dempsey’s prepared statement and downloadable PDF of his full opening statement are ->HERE.

    Dempsey occupied most of the Q & A. Other witnesses emphasized that clarity of the law was of paramount importance – that judicial protection of individual privacy rights varies greatly and from circuit to circuit. (Mr. Gidari at one point stated that “lawyers will find ambiguity in a No Smoking sign until the end of time.”)

    Further hearings will be held (none yet scheduled).

    My comments: This is a specific area of Constitutional Law as to which both J. Ginsberg and J. Scalia have agreed both publicly and in decisions that is ripe for updating by the legislature. To me, it raises the general issue of related areas of Constitutional Law broadly involving privacy rights – and reaching to Patriot/FISA issues. As a practical matter, I would strongly recommend (1) that we support this initiative and (2) that we urge Mr. Nadler/Conyers and Mr. Feingold/Leahy to get moving now, while we still have the votes. I was unable to reach CDT after the hearings (lines rather busy); I will try again later this week.


  2. Mark Dorlester says:

    Today on the OFA GFR listserv, member Indra Karan ( made an important conceptual observation. With her permission, her OFA post is repeated below, followed by my reply:
    It is a conceptual error in stating that technology related activities like cloud computing are not considered physical spaces.

    The constituents of all physical spaces is “matter” in its subatomic particles as identified in the specifics of their divisible entities, which we have demarcated as this and that .On the other hand there no need for broadening of the fundamental constructs and definitions as established by the founding fathers in the constitution and there is no difference in understanding or any possibility of confusion or error in the understanding as the entities of technology and even cloud computing constitute physical spaces in their atomic entities and identities.

    All technology and the related activities of communication does not happen in empty spaces, since the carrier of communication even in space that is vacuum is a physical entity, which can be identified as such.


    Indra karan.
    Long island shelter.Boston.

    My Reply:

    Indra et al –

    What you say is true in fact, but not in law. Indeed, getting the law (in this case, the 1986 ECPA) to conform more closely with your constructs is a primary objective of yesterday’s hearings and generally our own efforts.

    The law specifically provides that a document, email, computer file, etc., that originates on your computer and remains there, or is printed out and taken home or put in an office filing cabinet, is fully covered by the Constitution’s 4th Amendment. Ergo, it takes probable cause and a judicially-approved warrant for the government to inspect or seize it – with certain Patriot Act/FISA exceptions such as National Security Letters (which exceptions we seek to eliminate).

    But once that document is sent over the internet and is handled by your Internet Service Provider, or “cloud computing” storage process, current law says that you have voluntarily placed your document in the hands of a “third party” (other than yourself or the ultimate recipient) – and thereby voluntarily waived your 4th Amendment protections.

    Further, yesterday all 4 witnesses at the Judiciary Subcommittee hearing pleaded with lawmakers to clarify the various shades of gray as to the rules for ISPs. For example, one current rule says that if an ISP holds your document for 180 days on its servers (as in a backup file), your privacy rights in your document are protected – but on the 181st day, that protection evaporates. There was much discussion of this and many related absurdities.

    Both Justice Ginsberg and Justice Scalia have commented that “papers and effects” of a physical (non-electronic) nature in your home are clearly protected – but what about a device that can look inside your home, such as from an overhead helicopter using advanced infra-red scanners?

    You are absolutely correct about the physics of electronic transmission and storage. You are absolutely with us that if the good folks at the Constitutional Convention in 1787 were to look at our privacy rights – and the government’s abuse thereof – today, they would scream. They would, in our view, demand massive changes to all laws abusing the clearly intended government restrictions they so carefully crafted in that (technologically) ancient era.

    Please help us make it so.


  3. lois Swartz says:

    I believe that telephone privacy, no listening in without a warrant is supported by the Founders. They would certainly recognize that technology had not changed the right to privacy can certainly be extended to electronic transmission.

  4. […] be building off our last call, and pushing forward on determining how we can best coordinate with the BORDC on their local […]

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