Thousands Prepare to Protest Nationwide on July 4th for Fourth Amendment Rights

June 19, 2013

RestoreThe4thRestore the Fourth is a grassroots, non-partisan, non-violent movement that seeks to organize and assemble nationwide protests on July 4th, 2013. Protesters in over 100 cities across America will gather to demand that the government of the United States adhere to its constitutionally dictated limits and respect the Fourth Amendment. provides a detailed list of protest locations.

Restore the Fourth’s press release

Just like in 2008, there’s a lot of grassroots opposition to the NSA’s surveillance on social networks.  Restore the Fourth started on Reddit, and with their well-run daily IRC meetings has been making impressive progress.  They wrote their just-issued press release collaboratively, much as Get FISA Right did back in the day with our open letter to Obama and video scripts.Restore the 4th stands with EFF and (and Get FISA Right and the ACLU and BORDC and reddit and the other 100+ signers) on the call to Congress to reform the FISA Amendments Act and Section 215 of the Patriot Act, appoint a special committee to investigate, and hold public officials accountable.   The July 4th demonstrations seek to demand an end to the unconstitutional surveillance methods employed by the U.S. government and to ensure that all future government surveillance is constitutional, limited, and clearly defined.  So check out their site to see if any of the 77 protests currently in planning are near you … and get involved!

NSA Gathers Far More Than Phone Data (Julian Sanchez)

June 19, 2013

FISA expert Julian Sanchez of the Cato Institute discusses internet metadata and more.

Get FISA Right among 115 organizations demanding surveillance reform

June 19, 2013

Dear Members of Congress,

We write to express our concern about recent reports published in the Guardian and the Washington Post, and acknowledged by the Obama Administration, which reveal secret spying by the National Security Agency (NSA) on phone records and Internet activity of people in the United States.

The Washington Post and the Guardian recently published reports based on information provided by a intelligence contractor showing how the NSA and the FBI are gaining broad access to data collected by nine of the leading U.S. Internet companies and sharing this information with foreign governments. As reported, the U.S. government is extracting audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track a person’s movements and contacts over time. As a result, the contents of communications of people both abroad and in the U.S. can be swept in without any suspicion of crime or association with a terrorist organization.

Leaked reports also published by the Guardian and confirmed by the Administration reveal that the NSA is also abusing a controversial section of the PATRIOT Act to collect the call records of millions of Verizon customers. The data collected by the NSA includes every call made, the time of the call, the duration of the call, and other “identifying information” for millions of Verizon customers, including entirely domestic calls, regardless of whether those customers have ever been suspected of a crime. The Wall Street Journal has reported that other major carriers, including AT&T and Sprint, are subject to similar secret orders.

This type of blanket data collection by the government strikes at bedrock American values of freedom and privacy. This dragnet surveillance violates the First and Fourth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, which protect citizens’ right to speak and associate anonymously, guard against unreasonable searches and seizures, and protect their right to privacy.

We are calling on Congress to take immediate action to halt this surveillance and provide a full public accounting of the NSA’s and the FBI’s data collection programs. We call on Congress to immediately and publicly:

1. Enact reform this Congress to Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, the state secrets privilege, and the FISA Amendments Act to make clear that blanket surveillance of the Internet activity and phone records of any person residing in the U.S. is prohibited by law and that violations can be reviewed in adversarial proceedings before a public court;

2. Create a special committee to investigate, report, and reveal to the public the extent of this domestic spying. This committee should create specific recommendations for legal and regulatory reform to end unconstitutional surveillance;

3. Hold accountable those public officials who are found to be responsible for this unconstitutional surveillance.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.


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An invitation!

June 18, 2013
Get FISA Right on an Obamaesque circle

Get FISA Right’s 2008 logo.

With the recent disclosures about NSA surveillance, the issues we talked about during Get FISA Right’s birth in 2008 are back in the spotlight.   There are some big differences, though.  The FISA Amendment Act passed.  We now know a lot more about what the NSA has actually been doing, enough to see that the concerns we voiced about the lack of meaningful oversight and the potential for very broad orders allowing bulk collection of huge amounts of data were on target.   The political situation has changed, so civil liberties are a much more bipartisan issue in Congress.   The successful battle against SOPA and CISPA show the potential for online civil liberties activism.  The list goes on …

So as part of the revived discussions of FISA, the Patriot Act, and government surveillance, Get FISA Right would like to invite our members from 2008 to share their thoughts today. For example:

  • what the same and what’s changed: how the landscape is and isn’t different from 2008
  • told you so!”: how what people said during the 2008 FISA Amendment Act battle and the subsequent Patriot Act and FISA reauthorizations have been borne out by events since
  • “wow, even I didn’t suspect that…” : things about recent revelations (including the Verizon court order, PRISM, and BOUNDLESS INFORMANT) that have surprised or shocked even you
  • what we can learn: even though our efforts haven’t yet led to significant changes, there’s a lot to build on.  What’s worked well?  What should we be doing differently?

If we can get enough momentum to get media attention, it’s a great opportunity to reinforce the great organizing that so many others are doing by highlighting the July 4 protests Restore the Fourth is organizing and‘ email and calling campaign.

We welcome contributions in various ways:

  • Leave a comment here on the blog, in our Facebook group, or our Google+ community — or if it’s really short, just tweet it to us at @GetFISARight.
  • If you’ve got more to say, write a blog post and share the link with us.
  • Make a short video, and we’ll add it to our Youtube channel and share it with our community

We’d like to get things started around the middle of next week — stay tuned for details on the exact time.

Please join us and get involved!

Who Are We?

June 18, 2013

As we regroup after 5 years, we think of our original description—a proud group of Obama supporters. Yes, we were!
We were because, at the end of President G. W. Bush‘s 2 terms, we had Hope; we wanted Change. The candidate expressed concern with, and a goal of ending, the ever-more-imperial presidency.  We congratulated the president on his election—with a television ad that we ran in the Washington, D.C. area, saying in effect, “We continued to support you; please make good on your promises and fix the FISA Act.” Five years later,we mostly feel that the current administration has proved unworthy of our early support; we were too optimistic and trusting.
I wonder how many of us were comfortable enough with his record to support Mr. Obama in 2012? By March 2010, the group had changed enough to rewrite our mission statement; the new version described us as a proud group of informally affiliated individuals who supported President Obama during his candidacy in large part because of his call for hope and a new kind of politics. I suspect that in the last presidential election, many of us were looking to Jill Stein, Rocky Anderson, or another third-party candidate for real change. However, there was still some work being done to bring the Democrats back on board; in December 2011, some of us took to the Organizing for America offices to discuss the NDAA renewal with campaign volunteers (for instance, see
Now, just 10 months later, the graphic image atop this blog is a disturbing map of metadata collection for analysis, by country, leaked to the world from the NSA’s Bountiful Informant program by whistleblower Edward Snowden.
So we ask, Who are we today? We had a poll here (for the record, 2 unafilliated, 1 each Libertarian, Occupier, and Other—who says we are not diverse?  or unconventional?), but the poll’s wording really made it appear as though we were suggesting that we are our political-party identity.  Not true, not even close to true—for all the polarization of late, for all the “Red Team/Blue Team” name-calling that goes on, we hearken back to the days when alliances were formed along lines of position on issues, not necessarily nor automatically in alignment with an individual’s party.  We feel that that was a better way—and we call on our fellow citizens to demand it of those in and running for office.

Why The FISA Court Is Not What It Used To Be

June 18, 2013

Why The FISA Court Is Not What It Used To Be

Few if any experts in the Bush or Obama administrations believe that the FISA court has the enforcement teeth it once had. Many of those teeth were pulled out by the 2001 Patriot Act and the 2008 amendments to the foreign intelligence surveillance law. For good or ill, as one expert put it, the court has been defanged, at least until and unless Congress decides to restore some of its powers.

Good article by Nina Totenberg of NPR.

Tuesday morning: NSA Director Keith Alexander to Testify at Open House Intelligence Committee Hearing

June 18, 2013

Tuesday morning: NSA Director Keith Alexander to Testify at Open House Intelligence Committee Hearing

National Security Agency (NSA) Director Keith Alexander will testify Tuesday in an open hearing before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI).  The hearing is part of the continuing oversight the HPSCI conducts of the NSA, and an opportunity to discuss how the disclosed NSA programs protect Americans from terror attacks on US soil, and why the disclosure of that classified information aids our adversaries.

Date:               June 18, 2013  (Tuesday)
Topic:              How Disclosed NSA Programs Protect Americans, and Why Disclosure Aids Our Adversaries
Time:               10:00am – 12:00pm ET

GFR June 16 phone conference: NSA link roundup

June 17, 2013

Here are a few links from Sunday evening’s Get FISA Right (GFR) phone conference, compiled from collaborative notes available here.

 News roundups
Activist links

GFR June 12 phone conference minutes

June 17, 2013

Thomas Nephew, John Bachir, Jon Pincus, Harry Waisbren, politisal, and Shahid Buttar joined a phone conference earlier this evening to discuss the NSA/Snowden revelations, what to do about them, and how “Get FISA Right” might fit in to revitalized efforts to end warrantless electronic surveillance of all kinds. Here’s a summary of the conversation, informed by the excellent online notes taken by several of us as the conversation proceeded.  Please use comments below to contribute to this conversation!

After we’d caught up a bit with each other, Jon summed up the new surveillance-related news: (1) the Verizon court order revealing Section 215 (PATRIOT Act) phone metadata trawls, (2) PRISM possibly a data mining or at least organizing system, (3) evidence of perjury to Congress via the “Boundless Informant” revelation showing US data collection (contradicting testimony by DNI James Clapper).

There’ve been a variety of reactions and repercussions. The story is followed closely overseas. Tech businesses are concerned this will damage US “cloud computing” companies because of NSA’s apparent ease of access. Closer to home, a demonstration is planned in Washington DC on Friday, in front of one of the Senate office buildings. Legal responses include a lawsuit by the ACLU and bills by Senators Merkley, Lee, and Paul, who also is discussing somehow bringing a case to the Supreme Court. A grassroots umbrella group called “Restore the 4th” is using Reddit to organize local demonstrations about the issue on Independence Day.

What does Get FISA Right bring to the table?
The discussion then turned to how Get FISA Right (GFR) could best contribute to the uprising around surveillance issues.

Politisal’s response: “history.”  John noted that GFR grew out of what was the biggest Obama group by far – a group that was coming to terms with the fact that he is not on our side on this.  (Some of this history, including a famous open letter to Obama, was detailed in an October 2010 retrospective by Harry.)  Obama’s response to the open letter was to say “judge me by my actions.”  Thomas noted, “we will” — but that while we need to acknowledge a reckoning with Obama, his observation is that people can turn off quickly if it becomes about Obama. “Moderates are giving me the time of day on this issue who usually don’t, but if it’s about Obama, then it becomes about sides and deteriorates.”  Jon acknowledged that was a tightrope, but said we have a history and a brand, and were among the pioneers of activism in a social network setting.  Harry considered it a case study in effective targeting of a political organization; he noted that is currently doing something similar: targeting OFA volunteers to inquire up the OFA chain about Keystone XL pipeline.  (This is apparently resulting in many of those volunteers quitting.)

So that’s what we’ve done and perhaps inspired — but what unique traits do we bring to the table now?  Some possible answers:

  • loose organization: we could do things 501c3s couldn’t do, though organizations like EFF are more aggressive now.(Jon)
  • good at getting press:, and anything that brings more press and reinvigorates the story when needed is useful.(Thomas)
  • email lists: from the Obama campaign days and the next few years(Jon) narrow,
  • focus: on telecom immunity or (Thomas) wider issue of warrantless surveillance; i.e., a little bit wonky

Some ideas:

  • let the GFR blog become a forum for activists to tell what they’re doing — radically open up the blog to encourage posts, discussion, learning
  • encourage 99% “Occupy” photo and/or video responses to stock questions: what have you got to hide? what my privacy means to me, etc.  Harry is currently doing something like this with his “” organization:
  • set up online teach-ins, e.g., Google hangouts, on topics of NSA, surveillance, PATRIOT and FISA Amendment Acts, etc; here’s an Occupy example.
  • collaborate with “Restore the Fourth” organizing around this issue
  • …and more.

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Live Q&A with Edward Snowden today at 11 AM Eastern

June 17, 2013

Live Q&A with Edward Snowden today at 11 AM Eastern

Post your question at the Guardian. As he makes his way through the thread, they’ll embed his replies as posts in the live blog. You can also follow along on Twitter using the hashtag #AskSnowden.