Happy f—ing Bill of Rights Day

the Bill of RightsBoth houses of Congress have passed the #NDAA codifying indefinite detention — and Obama’s happy with the language, so won’t be vetoing it.

Meanwhile even as I write this, the House is debating #SOPA.

Remember back in 2006-8 when the Bush Administration rammed through PATRIOT Act reauthorization and FISA? Obama was on the right side for a while — at least until July 2008, when he broke his promise to filibuster. Now, he’s continuing and building on Bush policies. Senator Chris Dodd was heroic on FISA; now, he’s working for the MPAA and using China’s internet policies as a blueprint for the US. And how about Patrick Leahy, bulwark of civil liberties — and co-sponsor of the Senate equivalent of SOPA?

It’s not that I think the Republicans are any better on the whole. Both parties have a few standouts on civil liberties — Wyden, Nadler, the Pauls. But on the whole, the political establishment continues to show itself remarkably unconcerned with Americans’ rights.

Here’s hoping that in 2012 we’ll start to do something about it.

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Save the Rave: Stop Surveillance in San Francisco

Save the Rave: Come down to City Hall TOMORROW night

Hot on the heels of last month’s joint San Francisco Youth and Entertainment Commission’s hearing on electronic dance music, we’re back with a sequel.   Now, in what Jim Harper of Cato calls a “jaw-dropping attack on privacy and free assembly“, the San Francisco Police Department has proposed onerous new conditions for permitting for all venues with more than 100 people.  For example:

3. All occupants of the premises shall be ID Scanned (including patrons, promoters, and performers, etc.). ID scanning data shall be maintained on a data storage system for no less than 15 days and shall be made available to local law enforcement upon request.

4. High visibility cameras shall be located at each entrance and exit point of the premises. Said cameras shall maintain a recorded data base for no less than fifteen (15 days) and made available to local law enforcement upon request.

Yikes!   As Deborah Pierce of Privacy Activism says, “We go to clubs to relax and spend time with friends. Knowing that all of your interactions are being recorded and that those images may be matched to your driver’s license information and handed over to the police at any time chills all manner of speech and association.” Yeah really.   And there are issues from the business perspective as well; on his Facebook profile, Save the Rave organizer Liam Shy summed it up as “Increased unnecessary burden/right to privacy conerns = fewer events, fewer folks attending events.”  Indeed.

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

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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PATRIOT Act reform: phone the White House on April 5

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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. Several clauses of the PATRIOT Act will sunset unless Congress extends them by May 27. It’s a great chance to introduce reforms; on the other hand, there’s also the risk of a permanent extension. More and more Republicans are coming out in against the extensions; grassroots Tea Partiers and Libertarians as well as Rand and Ron Paul are strong on civil liberties, and other Republican Congressmen like Jason Chaffetz have voiced their concerns about overbroad legislation as well.

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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Save the Rave at City Hall: Next Stop Sacramento?

save the rave at city hallIn my 12+ years in the scene – if I ever questioned how diverse we all really are, it was certainly very apparent tonight.

— Samantha Marie, on Facebook

It was a huge success for the electronic dance music community. With the diversity of attendance and the overwhelming support for Supervisor Scott Wiener’s resolution supporting electronic dance, it’s a harbinger of how we’ll work together in the battle over AB74.

— Save the Rave co-chair Matt Haze Kaftor

Over 400 people turned out on a rainy Tuesday night for the San Francisco Youth and Entertainment Commission’s special joint hearing. Several hundred of us were in the overflow room, watching on video until we were called to speak, and cheers erupted again and again as dozens of people spoke beautifully.  We heard from teens, students, teachers, parents, business owners, promoters, lawyers, harm reduction experts, an astrophysicist — and somebody from the San Francisco police department, who described it as the most professional hearing he had heard on the subject.   If you missed it, Trance Family SF has posted the video and mp3 audio.*  I’m so proud to be a member of this community.

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Tonight: Save the Rave — live at City Hall!

“We’re dealing with the most difficult-to-motivate generation ever. People today feel so powerless, like they can’t have an impact on anything that matters. But you can! So one of the things I’m trying to share with the community is that when you come together, we can make a difference. ”

– Save the Rave organizer Liam Shy

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Demand JUSTICE, not the PATRIOT Act!

It’s time to go on the offensive! Here’s the action alert Bill of Rights Defense Committee just sent out. Please help by using POPVOX to support the reintroduction of the JUSTICE Act, and getting the word out widely in email, via Facebook, and on Twitter. The House is expected to vote again early next week so now is a critical time to make some noise!

– jon


Ten years after passing the USA PATRIOT Act, Congress is again debating this enormous expansion of government power. With three provisions set to expire at the end of this month, and Tuesday’s revolt in the House against fast-track reauthorization, there has never been a better time to insist that Congress restore constitutional rights.

Take action now. Demand that your congressional representatives support meaningful reforms through the JUSTICE Act.

A law so extensive that many members of Congress admitted to having never read it, the USA PATRIOT Act has been in place for too long—and there has been too little debate on its dramatic expansion of executive power—to allow a reauthorization without debate.
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Patriot house alert breaks heads: found art from Twitter

Images from Twazzup’s Patriot Act page as the House prepares to vote again on the Patriot Act extension.  The refrigerator magnets on the top are the most common words and hashtags.

patriot house alert breaks headspatriot act live

You can weigh in on the head-breaking yourself via POPVOX, Demand Progress, ACLU, EFF, Downsize DC or the phone. Julian Sanchez’ Now what? and the ACLU’s letter describe why you should ask your Representative to oppose HR514, the sneak attempt to extend the Patriot Act without a debate.

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Notes from Underground: I’m noticing a pattern here …

synchronizeHey, guess what?  Civil liberties activism and psytrance!

Back in 2008, It’s the Fourth of July and we’re fighting for our civil liberties was written the day after Senator Obama responded to Get FISA Right’s open letter.  It was a great moment in grassroots civil liberties activism, and the bonds we formed then have remained.  It’s Goa Gil’s birthdy, and we’re *still* fighting for our civil liberties is from October 2009, in the midst of the battle over Patriot Act renewal.  Hail Eris!  All Hail Discordia! is from December 2010, featuring wikileaks and anti-TSA activism.  Hey wait a second.  I’m noticing a pattern here …

Tonight we’re in the middle of another Patriot Act battle; trying to building on an unexpected victory with grassroots activism.  As always the odds are stacked against us … hey, if changing the world were easy, everybody would do it!  With Tunisia and Egypt leading the way, 2011 is shaping up to be the year where social network activism breaks through internationally.  Will it happen here?

synchronizeBut the Patriot Act isn’t the only civil liberties battle that matters.  The TSA is still clinging to its scanning/groping policy, insisting that the only way to keep us safe is to touch the breasts and genitals of 2% of travellers (including all Sikhs, women wearing saris, and other “anomalies”).  And here in California, Save the Rave is taking the lead in standing for our right to peacefully assemble and fighting back against the war on fun.   When worlds collide …

So after spending the last week hunched over a computer dealing with the bizarreness of legislative process (“S.249 is also S.289 is likely to make it to the floor, while S.193 aka S.290 may get marked up by the SJC, but how to reconcile with HR 514?”), it was great to go out tonight to Synchronize, San Francisco’s Wednesday night psytrance weekly.  As usual, there were few dozen people there, and the DJs tonight were great.  I got there at 11:30 and danced until 1:55, when it closed.

Tomorrow’s back to work, and I’ll be hurting in the morning. But it’s worth it.

I heart psytrance.

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Following the Patriot Act battle on Twitter with Twazzup

ACTION ALERT: Ask Obama to veto the PATRIOT Act, April 5.

ACTION ALERT: Meet with members of Congress about the PATRIOT Act, April 18-May 1

Most popular linksTwazzup did a custom Twitter backchannel for Computers, Freedom, and Privacy conference back in June 2009, and soon after that became the best way to follow the #iranelection protests. Later that year they were kind enough to set up getfisaright.twazzup.com and at least for me it remains the best way to follow the Patriot Act action on Twitter.

patriot congress urgent demand action
#patriotact #tcot #p2 #congress #fbThe buttons aren’t just refrigerator art, they let you see what words and hashtags are the most common … #p2 and #tcot are arch rivals (the biggest progressive and conservative hashtags) and unusually enough they’re in agreement right now: we are sick of Washington trying to sneak the Patriot Act extension past us rather than having a proper debate.

The “Most Popular Links” and “Popular Tweets” sections make it easy to see at a glance what’s going on — and you can click to translate foreign tweets into English. There’s also a useful (and pretty!) “community” section.

I wonder how many tea party freshmen are going to be voting to renew the USA Patriot Act tomorrow.

You don’t have to have a Twitter account to use Twazzup. If you want to join in the conversation, though, our If you’re new to Twitter page has some suggestions.

Please join us!
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Social network activism and the future of civil liberties

Also posted on The Seminal and Pam’s House Blend

The most recent skirmish on the Patriot Act reauthorization battle ended badly for civil liberties.   Despite passionate speeches all around in the Senate Judiciary Committee public hearings and classified briefings, in the end, only Senators Feingold, Durbin, and Specter stood up for the Constitution. As Marcy Wheeler says, we got rolled.

At the same time, though, the social network activism I discussed in Can Skittles fix the Patriot Act? and on the Get FISA Right blog highlights the opportunity to broaden and recharge the civil liberties community.

Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Care2, OFA and other social network sites:

  • provide a way to engage with Millennials and other diverse groups of people who care a lot about the Patriot Act — but are not currently involved with civil liberties activism.
  • make it easy for people to let their politicians know their feelings — and recruit their friends in the process.
  • allow civil liberties organizations to get beyond the media blackout and provide accurate information to everybody.
  • complement in-person local campaigns like People’s Campaign for the Constitution’s local ordinances and good ol’ fashioned letters-to-the-editor

It’s a powerful narrative.  Social network sites epitomize the wave of the future, Obama’s strength in 2008, and youth.  They’re overwhelmingly in favor of civil liberties.  And civil liberties supporters are getting organized there.  As we continue to make progress, every political consultant and politician thinking about a primary or general election challenge in 2010 or 2012 will be paying attention.

Social network activism for civil liberties has made great progress so far.  Some simple steps from organizations and bloggers can take things to the next level.  Before getting to the suggestions, though, I’d like to discuss the diversity aspects in a little more detail.
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