With NDAA looming, MCCRC activists pay the Obama campaign a visit [CROSSPOST]

December 22, 2011

Hi, “Get FISA Right” friends — it’s been a while! I’ve been active with a local civil rights/civil liberties group I helped start, the Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition. While we usually concentrate on local civil liberties issues — Metro transit system bag searches, county youth curfew and loitering/prowling proposals — we did something new last night and went to an Obama campaign HQ to protest and educate about the NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act). I’m crossposting my post about the visit to this blog to let you know about it, since it kind of fits the Get FISA Right “engage Obama” style.  — Thomas Nephew

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President Obama announced last week that he was not planning to veto the National Defense Authorization Act — a bill with provisions upending the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and arguably common law dating back to the Magna Carta: the right to a trial and to not be imprisoned without review.

MCCRC activists were determined to weigh in on a decision that will have terrible consequences for the rule of law in this country. We decided to select Obama’s Montgomery County, Maryland “Organizing for America” headquarters in Kensington, on Wednesday during evening phonebanking hours. Our goals: (1) to serve notice that we’re willing to protest President Obama’s plans or decisions when necessary, “even” in an election season, (2) to engage Obama volunteers about the NDAA bill, (3) to persuade some of them to call the White House — (202) 456-1414 — and urge Obama to veto the bill, and (4) to discuss with them the general “security at the price of liberty” policies that have accelerated since 9/11 — and that have been continued or even expanded under the Obama administration.

We talk with the campaign's evening office manager

We talk with the campaign's evening office manager. Click the image for a slideshow of the protest.

Obama volunteers — whether inside the office or at the building entrance — were surprised to see us, and many told us they hadn’t heard about the NDAA bill before we had spoken with them.

For his part, the evening office volunteer manager was willing to hear from us, and listened with interest as we explained our problems with the NDAA. He said he would share the news and reasons of our visit with higher-ups in the Obama campaign organization.

He also agreed to distribute about a dozen copies of our one page, two-sided informational flyer to the evening’s volunteers. The flyer featured the New York Times editorial “Politics over Principle” on one side and excerpts from Glenn Greenwald’s “Three myths about the detention bill” on the other. As these articles explain, the bill…

  • strips civilian law enforcement and courts of the power to prosecute terrorists, giving that to the military
  • codifies indefinite detention of those charged, without trial
  • does not preclude that American citizens might suffer the same fate, despite the Bill of Rights
  • expands the scope of the “war on terror” beyond those responsible for 9/11 or harboring them, to anyone who “substantially supports” such groups and/or “associated forces”

While too much of the above has already been occurring, it’s a legally meaningful and bad thing for such practices to be expressly codified by Congress and signed by the President. It’s additionally disappointing — and ominous for democracy — that a president who campaigned on the “Hope” for “Change” so many of us shared, and who specifically opposed many of these measures on the campaign trail, might now choose to make them the law of the land.

Many of us believe it’s important to take a stand against these encroachments of our rights and liberties — wherever we are, and no matter who is responsible. By next Wednesday, we sadly anticipate that President Obama will have signed the NDAA into law.

So we’re asking everyone in our area to join us that next Wednesday, December 28, at 4:30pm at 3750 University Blvd. West, Kensington MD (map)* to protest the NDAA’s passage at Obama for Maryland headquarters. And we hope Americans elsewhere will do the same at the Obama campaign headquarters nearest to them.

UPDATE: video

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Well, here we are.

May 26, 2011

Down to the wire.  I am as guilty, or guiltier, than anyone reading this.  Yes, I have been active on some issues.  Yes, others have fallen through the cracks.  When the final vote is taken, if it is not over as I write this, it will in part be my fault.  If there is still time,   CALL! WRITE! E-MAIL!  I will be doing so later tonight.

We had three months.  It is virtually gone.  Support Russ FEiongold for senator or governor, should there be a recall election, support Al Franken on virtually everything he does, and even thank Rand Paul for being a holdout on this.  There are some things that Libertarians have absolutely right.

PATRIOT Act Update: After a successful call-in day, the focus shifts to Congress

April 11, 2011

Thousands of patriots fought their way through jammed White House phone lines on April 5 to call on President Obama to keep his campaign promises by vetoing any PATRIOT Act extension unless it includes substantial new protections. The timing was perfect, just a day after he launched his re-election campaign. Now, the focus shifts to the House and the Senate.

EFF logo“All day long, we received reports of phone lines being flooded with calls, so that people couldn’t even get through,” says EFF’s activism director Rainey Reitman, “In the coming weeks, we’ll look to harness this energy into future actions in the fight against overbroad government surveillance.”

The two-week Congressional recess from April 18-May 1 is a great opportunity for “in-district” meetings with Representatives. Several clauses of the PATRIOT Act will sunset unless Congress extends them by May 27.  Most Democrats support reform, and more and more Republicans are coming out against overbroad legislation, so it’s a great opportunity — but on the other hand, there’s also the risk of a permanent extension. So now’s the time for action.

Executive Director Shahid Buttar of Bill of Rights Defense Committee explains, “With the Obama White House pushing a Bush administration policy, the next step is for Congress to check & balance documented executive abuses under the PATRIOT Act — and for We the People to press our congressional representatives to do their jobs.”

BORDC has some great suggestions about how to set up and prepare for a meeting — including “you don’t have to go it alone”, “outline your interests”, and “follow up”. They’ve also got a couple of optional preparation phone calls scheduled for next week. sign up on their web site if you’d like to be notified. ACLU’s Congressional testimony hearing has some great talking points, and so do Downsize DC, EFF, and BORDC.

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Take Action! On April 5, call the White House to demand PATRIOT Act reform!

March 30, 2011

EFF logo

On April 5, 1792, President George Washington vetoed a bill — the first time in U.S. history that the presidential veto was exercised. On the anniversary of this day, we’re calling on Barack Obama to exercise his presidential powers to veto any PATRIOT Act renewal bill that does not include powerful reforms to safeguard civil liberties.

EFF’s action alert

As a candidate, Obama repeatedly promised to reform the PATRIOT Act.  He also promised Get FISA Right, in his response to our open letter, that he’d ask for “recommendations on any steps needed to preserve civil liberties and to prevent executive branch abuse in the future.”  With the battle in Congress over key clauses of the PATRIOT Act heating up again, now’s a great time to ask him to live up to his campaign promises.

The legislative situation is very fluid.  Legislation in the House is likely to drop soon.  In the Senate, Leahy’s S. 193 will be the basis for a floor debate, with amendments likely to be proposed by both sides.  The Obama Administration supports S.193, but many privacy and civil liberties organizations support the JUSTICE Act’s much stronger protections, including better oversight of the use of national security letters (NSLs) as repeatedly recommended by the Department of Justice’s Inspector General, more effective checks on “sneak and peek” searches , and roving wiretaps, and revising the “material support” standard to require that prosecutors prove that defendants knowingly intended their support to further violent extremism.

By taking a strong stand for civil liberties, Obama could help shape the upcoming Congressional debate.

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3 months to organize

February 17, 2011

The House just passed a 3-month PATRIOT Act extension 279-143. Here’s the ACLU’s statement.

Julian Sanchez’ post from yesterday discusses why this is (relatively) good news . And as EFF tweeted, we have three months to organize.

Here’s a Doodle poll for our next organizing call. Please let us know when you can make it!

The grassroots anger against the PATRIOT Act is real across the political spectrum. So is the fear. And I agree with the politicians on both sides who said there’s a lot of misinformation out there. So over the next three months we need to do a lot of education, and get our message out in a way that’ll be heard.

And we need to make sure politicians get an earful from their constituents over next three months. The PATRIOT Act is an emblem of the kind of government intrusion the Tea Party and Libertarians loathes. So the Tea Party caucus — and every politician facing a likely Tea Party or Libertarian challenger in the 2012 primaries or general election — will be thinking very carefully about their votes. And ditto for progressives (and politicians facing progressive challengers).

There are a range of options and amendements on the table: permanent extension, a multi-year extension as requested by the Obama Administration, new safeguards, a reintroduced JUSTICE Act. And a lot of the people I heard calling in on CSPAN supported an outright repeal.*

For almost ten years, the PATRIOT Act has been an embarrassment to our country and even most of the politicians who have voted for it. One way or another, it’s time to do something about it.

Stay tuned for more.


* speaking of which, for those of you on Facebook, here’s info about a March 12 protest in DC to repeal the PATRIOT Act.

House debate happening NOW, SJC meeting at 10 a.m.

February 17, 2011

The House debate is on CSPAN.

We’re hanging out in the chat room at on http://bit.ly/feb17chat … please join us!


February 16 PATRIOT Act news update

February 16, 2011

The Senate passed a three month extension.  The vote was 86-12.  Sens. Baucus, Begich, Brown, Harkin, Lautenberg, Lee, Merkley, Murray, Paul, Sanders, Tester, Udall voted “Nay”.

Today’s House Floor Schedule includes possible consideration of the Senate’s amended version of H.R. 514 .  The Hill reports that the rule for considering the Senate bill is likely to be passed today, with the vote either today or tomorrow.

The Senate Judiciary will consider Sen. Leahy’s S. 193 (The USA Patriot Act Sunset Extension Act of 2011) on Thursday  (Feb. 17th) at 10:00am.   Watch for details on our blog, our Facebook group, and Twitter!  Here’s Senator Leahy’s statement on the 3-month extension that passed the Senate:

The bill I introduced on January 26, and that the Judiciary Committee is scheduled to consider this week, is based on the bill the Judiciary Committee considered and passed with a bipartisan majority last Congress.  It includes additional adjustments made at Senator Kyl’s suggestion after the Committee reported the bill in 2009.  I will urge the Judiciary Committee to report that legislation again, and I will urge the Senate to consider and pass the improvements to the USA PATRIOT Act that we have proposed, during this short, additional three-month extension.

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