End of an era at Get FISA Right


Kevin Drum, observing the sad Senate vote to reauthorize the FISA Amendment Act:

The worst part of all this is that nobody cares. None of our three major daily newspapers made this front-page news. Virtually none of the blogs I read highlighted it. Even my Twitter feed only mentioned it sporadically.

And of course, that includes me. I didn’t write about it either. Glenn thinks that liberals have largely given up criticizing this stuff because we now have a Democratic president in the White House rather than George W. Bush, and I suppose that’s part of it. But a bigger part, I think, is simply that it’s all become so institutionalized. Back in 2004 and 2006, we were outraged because this was all so new. Today, after fighting and losing, it’s just part of our brave new world, along with 3-ounce bottles on airplanes, unreviewable no-fly lists, and cops who demand to know what you’re up to if you start taking pictures in public places.

As a country, we’re now divided into two parts: those who aggressively support things like warrantless wiretapping because they’re consumed with fear, and those who don’t but have given up trying to fight about it. There’s hardly anyone left still willing to tilt at this particular windmill. It’s sad as hell.

The complete silence here bears Drum out in much of what he writes.  That silence included me, it included Jon Pincus, Harry Waisbren, and the many others who were once consumed with the effort to make opposition to Bush-era surveillance state carry over to the Obama administration.  Last week, Marcy Wheeler reminded readers that Obama said this, once upon a time:

Given the choice between voting for an improved yet imperfect bill, and losing important surveillance tools, I’ve chosen to support the current compromise. I do so with the firm intention — once I’m sworn in as President — to have my Attorney General conduct a comprehensive review of all our surveillance programs, and to make further recommendations on any steps needed to preserve civil liberties and to prevent executive branch abuse in the future. [snip]

I do promise to listen to your concerns, take them seriously, and seek to earn your ongoing support to change the country. That is why we have built the largest grassroots campaign in the history of presidential politics, and that is the kind of White House that I intend to run as President of the United States — a White House that takes the Constitution seriously,conducts the peoples’ business out in the open, welcomes and listens to dissenting views, and asks you to play your part in shaping our country’s destiny.

Glenn Greenwald, referencing Wheeler’s post, adds, “Needless to say, none of that ever happened. Now, the warrantless eavesdropping bill that Obama insisted was plagued by numerous imperfections is one that he is demanding be renewed without a single change.

We need to face it: Obama was full of shit then, he’s full of shit now, and he’s been full of shit all along.

But additionally mortifying, for us, is that this site and its advocates have played a role in letting him get away with that.  How?  By functioning as an ineffective diversion — a playground where the misguided could pretend we were effective opponents of the FISA Amendment Act and Patriot Act when we weren’t.   The approach taken — an allegedly “proud group of Obama supporters” asking him “to get FISA right” — has been conclusively shown to be without merit.  It made a little sense in 2008; it makes no sense whatsoever now: we can’t possibly be a proud group after letting this debate go unremarked and unopposed; many of us are no longer Obama supporters; and there is no chance that Obama will get FISA right.  Our current charade must end, one way or the other.

Accordingly, I’m unilaterally pulling down the Get FISA Right logo and replacing it with “What’s Wrong Baby” for the time being.  (The logo and slogan are a reference to the John Carpenter movie “They Live”; yes, it’s over the top, but at least it recognizes who our political foes include.  Think of it as a declaration of independence.)

It might well be a better, simpler alternative to delete this site altogether — “Strike another match, go start anew.” That won’t bother me too much, but we did some worthwhile things along the line here that maybe deserve to be preserved — fundraising for Feingold, the ads at the 2008 conventions and later, attempts to inform ourselves and others about the politics and policy of surveillance and civil liberties.

One way or another, we have to step back and realize that to “Get FISA Right,” we will first need to get “Get FISA Right” right. That starts with ditching a painfully embarrassing logo,  revising our “About” statement, consigning the old one to the archives,  and going from there.

The floor is yours.

(Originally posted as “This site sucks; that’s over, one way or the other”)
Old “blavatar”:



Old header:


3 Responses to End of an era at Get FISA Right

  1. (The changes to the header and “blavatar” for this blog are reversible; the images used until now for those items remain available to blog authors and admins as .jpg files in “media”.)

  2. Bob Jacobson says:

    Well put, Thomas. I ceased working for the cause when it became apparent that we were basically talking to ourselves, that the 1984 (as in Orwell) scenario was more in keeping with the reality of America in the 21st Century than Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. The President has been in on this scam from the time he first voted for the FISA Amendment in 2008 contrary to every political campaign statement he made in its regard. Of course, this isn’t the only instance in which Obama has gone back on his word or simply invented new words, but it is grievous and will plague America and the American people for the foreseeable duration of the Republic.

    It a small act of resistance, but an act nonetheless when no one else is acting, to take down the headers so that there is no excuse that this was a fair fight of contending ideas. No, it was and remains an example of tyranny imposing its own sense of right and wrong on the people, like it or not, not once but over and over again. At least we are alert to the challenge if incapable immediately of answering it.

  3. sallijane says:

    Thanks for your changes, Thomas, and your comment, Bob. Things have certainly been disappointing since we started this site with so much rage and hope! I have been Occupying, at least sporadically, the last—well, not quite the full 18 months since “S17, 2011”, when Zuccotti Park became Liberty Square, but much of the time. Worked (-ing) on Keystone XL, single-payer health care, various other issues. I have been making people aware of Bradley Manning’s situation, WikiLeaks/Julian Assange, et al., but silent here.

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