FISA 702 Reauthorization: The Fight Against Mass Surveillance Continues

April 2, 2017

Almost a decade after Get FISA Right was born, Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act is once again up for reauthorization. FISA provides the legal basis for warrantless surveillance, and when it was originally passed over strenuous objections from civil libertarians in 2008, it included a “sunset clause”. After being extended once in the lame-duck session in late 2012, Section 702 will sunset if it’s not reauthorized again by the end of the year.

Stop Watching Us demonstration in DC, 2013, photo from the Daily Mail

As usual, the White House is pushing for a “clean reauth” — extending the provisions without any further reforms. As usual, civil libertarians across the political spectrum are pushing for reform. As usual, the government is saying they can’t even count how many Americans are swept up in target coverage. As usual, Ron Wyden is concerned and speaking out.

But there are some big differences this time around.

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Call the Rules Committee Tonight!

June 13, 2016

I got an e-mail from Fight for the Future an hour or two ago (they were still answering the phone when I called), asking for a quick phone call to tell the Congressional Rules Committee, which will be voting on FISA amendments, to take another step toward restoring the privacy that we once had.

Here is the link: http://tinyurl.com/2ffltx; Decide the Future gives the phone number to call, asking that we let the committee know that we support the Massie-Lofgren Amendment to defund mass surveillance under Section 702 of FISA.  The group that created this blog have been asking the president, Congress, anyone who will listen to “GetFISARight” for almost a decade now—through President Obama’s full 8-year administration (we grew out of a My Barack Obama group opposed to the then-senator’s support for warrantless wiretapping in July 2008), so don’t stop now!  Pick up the phone, make the call, and Tweet the link!

Defund the NSA


So we have been silent. . .

February 12, 2014

. . . but that does not mean that we are not aware of what is happening, fighting on our own. Speaking for myself, I came here a couple of days ago to figure out how to put up the banner for “The Day We Fight Back”, yesterday (ugh!) and failed miserably—tech challenged. My time would have been better spent writing a post, as I am doing now.

The letter that was sent by those who clicked on the links presented in that banner hit on various Internet issues, including our own FISA, but also SOPA, the TPP, etc.

I hope everyone has been following the TPP information—TransPacific Partnership. It seems that, from what has been leaked/reported about these secret negotiations, the main elements of SOPA—the Stop Online Piracy Act that was defeated by public outcry last year—are included in the TPP. This takes it out of U.S.A. jurisdiction, makes it global and gives our government a pass—they can say that their hands are tied, they are just following the international agreement. Please, get involved—there are weekly conference calls on Sundays, “TPP Tuesday” Twitter storms weekly, and probably more where you live.
Yes, we still care—we are also very busy, but let’s all find a bit of time to keep abreast of these issues, and communicate wherever we are.


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.


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.

Sincerely,

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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 https://getfisaright.wordpress.com/2011/12/).
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.


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.

Legislation
 News roundups
Activist links