What’s up with that, anyway?

August 3, 2013

This month has been a busy one from a government-surveillance perspective.

From the NSA spying on U.S. citizens, allied governments, as well as the usual “suspects”—foreign nationals unprotected by the United States constitution (What’s up with that, anyway? Don’t we expect our government to behave respectfully toward all—as long as there is no cause for suspicion? Guess not),

to Edward Snowden taking temporary asylum in Russia (What’s up with that, anyway? Isn’t the United States the country that respects human rights, freedom of the press; the place where political dissidents go to avoid persecution? Guess not),

to the end of Bradley Manning’s trial (What’s up with that, anyway? Aren’t judges supposed to protect from 11th—no, 13th-hour change in charges? Guess not),

We are finding that our country is no longer what those of us of a certain age remember.  Some of us are wondering how long we have been sold a bill of goods, even rethinking Watergate—yes, that president resigned in disgrace, despite his allegation that “if the president does it, it’s legal” (which a generation rose up to decry).  Yes, we put in an entire system of laws, including the FISA court, to prevent such actions from recurring.  But no, it seems that, rather than being an isolated incident by a rogue president, it was instead—as we might have learned from the Pentagon Papers, which Daniel Ellsberg courageously released to the public through The Washington Post and The New York Times (the Internet not yet being even a glimmer in some DARPA scientist’s eye), as Bradley Manning released information via WikiLeaks on the ’Net.

And yesterday, the announcement of closing embassies on Sunday (not sure what to think of that) and a global travel alert asking U. S. citizens to register with our consulates overseas.  Would that make you feel safer?

We should have known.

Actually, we did know—this group formed in July 2008, in reaction to then-Senator Obama’s vote on the FISA Amendments Act—a vote to, among other things, give retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies for warrantless wiretaps.  Little did we know about PRISM, or Bountiful Informant—which were probably not in full flower then, maybe did not exist—but the seeds were there.

Very few of us would change the results of the 2008 presidential election—even those of the 2012 election, as a third-party presidential candidate is virtually unelectable in this country.  However, by November 2011 tour mission statement proclaimed us no longer “proud Obama supporters”, but “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.”.  At least some of us voted third parties in 2012, or sat out the presidential vote.  Here, we have continued to rail against the policies that have been created or followed since 2008 (as have others, elsewhere, of course).   In the first Obama election, we were among the majority who elected a candidate whom we believed would diminish the power of the imperial executive branch, not to expand those powers (a candidate, I remind you, who ran on a platform of transparency).

Not completely naïve, we did note in 2009 how difficult that would be for even the best candidate, once in office (read back through our posts from that time), but we certainly did not expect expansion of powers, nor the secretive surveillance state that seems to be in place today.
Yesterday afternoon, I got from RootsAction an E-mail that included Norman Solomon’s USA Today column; here, a quotation from that:
Consent of the governed is meaningful only to the extent that it is informed consent. Bradley Manning let Americans, and many others around the world, know what their governments were really doing. The disclosures caused problems for leaders in many nations who much preferred to operate behind an opaque curtain. . . .
It’s easy to insist that Bradley Manning must face the consequences of his actions. But we badly need whistle-blowers like Manning because U.S. government leaders do not face the consequences of their actions, including perpetual warfare abroad and assaults on civil liberties at home.
No government should have the power to keep waging war while using secrecy to cloak policies that cannot stand the light of day. Thank goodness for the courage of Bradley Manning.

It seems as though our government wants everyone’s information—unreasonable search and seizure be damned—but wants to share none.  Unacceptable, I say—and encourage everyone to find a local Restore the Fourth event tomorrow and join the patriotic resistance.

Coalition holds Van Hollen accountable for NSA vote at OFA climate change town hall

August 3, 2013

Bird-dogging a Congressman who voted the wrong way on Amash-Conyers.

Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition

On Thursday evening, Rep. Chris Van Hollen made his first local appearance since his regrettable “Nay” vote against the Amash-Conyers defense appropriations amendment — a bill that would have stopped NSA warrantless surveillance under the FISA Amendments Act dead in its tracks.*

Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition (MCCRC) activists and coalition partners were on hand to hold him accountable.

The event — held at the Silver Spring Civic Center — was a “Climate Change Town Hall” organized by the Montgomery County chapter of the Obama administration volunteer support group “Organizing For America” (OFA).  MCCRC and Peace Action activists fanned out in front of the Civic Center to pass out flyers and collect petition signatures urging Van Hollen to make amends by co-sponsoring and voting for legislation to prohibit bulk collection of communications metadata, bar prospective surveillance, enable adversarial review of violations in a public court, and establish a…

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Coalition to Van Hollen, Delaney: “Profound disappointment” with NSA vote

August 3, 2013

Major coalition pushback in a county with 2 Democratic Representatives who voted “Nay” on the Amash-Conyers bill. Try it where you live — you might get some good results!

Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition

A veritable “Who’s Who” coalition of progressive organizations in Montgomery County has co-signed a letter to Representatives Chris Van Hollen (D-MD-8) and John Delaney (D-MD-6) expressing “profound disappointment” with their “Nay” votes on the Amash/Conyers amendment last week.  The amendment would have explicitly defunded NSA warrantless surveillance purportedly authorized under provisions of the FISA Amendment Act.

UPDATE, 8/3: ACLU of Maryland has co-signed the letter as well.

Organizational co-signers included ACLU of Maryland, ACLU of Montgomery County, Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) Maryland Chapter, CASA de Maryland, Defending Dissent Foundation, Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition, Montgomery County Progressive Alliance, Montgomery County Young Democrats, Pax Christi Montgomery, Peace Action Montgomery, Progressive Neighbors, and Veterans for Peace DC Area Chapter 016.*  The text of the letter to Representative Van Hollen is embedded below:

Following a public appearance yesterday where he was met with “Wrong on NSA” signs, Rep. Van Hollen…

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