Patriot Act renewal: building on an unexpected victory (DRAFT!)

Draft! Work in progress! Feedback welcome!

Talk about a shocker!  24 Republicans (including 8 new members) joined with 124 Democrats to stand up for civil liberties and defeat an attempt to sneak Patriot Act Reauthorization through the House.  Here’s what EFF, Wired, and the Washington Post have to say about this unexpected victory.

Thanks to everybody who joined in the flash activism campaign and made some noise!  It was a great multi-partisan campaign that broke through the media blackout and got some attention.  So let’s take a moment to celebrate!

Okay, now back to work.

The legislative landscape

In the coming days, BORDC will launch a coalition effort calling for transformative changes to the PATRIOT Act, as well as intelligence authorities embedded in the FISA Amendments of 2008.  The JUSTICE Act, which gained the support of seven Senators last year, would restore various protections for privacy across a range of government programs.

— Shahid Buttar of BORDC on The People’s Blog for the Constitution

The next battle is in the Senate.  With three bills in play, a deadline of February 28, and Congress on recess the last week of the month, it’ll be an intense time.  The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to mark up Leahy’s bill S.193 on Thursday, although I’ve also heard that Feinstein’s S.? is more likely to come to the floor.  And while Leahy’s bill is better than the other options in play (see the EFF and ALA had to say), it’s still a lot weaker than the last year’s JUSTICE Act.

Need to be specific about what we’re doing. If I understand correctly, it’s weighing in against Feinstean and Grassley, building support for reintroduction of the Justice Act, and pressing for amendments to Leahy.  We can set up “legislative agendas” in POPVOX to make this easier; I’ll prototype something tomorrow.

Firing on all channels

increasing from almost nothing on February 4 to a lot on February 9

Mentions of #patriotact on Twitter

One of the things that’s working extremely well on the activism front is that there are a lot of different ways for people to engage.   ACLU, EFF, Downsize DC, and Demand Progress, the ALA, and lots of other groups have action alerts out.  And there’s plenty of discussion too, on blogs and message boards and mailing lists — and Twitter, of course.

Key points, still a sketch

– focus energy on POPVOX — complementary to the others.  reach out to other organizations

– continue to use #patriotact hashtag.  link to info about how to use it well

– what about Facebook?   if we get simple processes in place that make it easy to find out about and ‘like’ posts as they go up, we can start to reach new people virally — while helping each org’s page get visibility.

Next steps

We’ve got an organizing call schedule for Wednesday at 4 p.m. Eastern/1 p.m. Pacific to discuss more.  Agenda and dialin information coming soon; check the Get FISA Right blog for the details.

– need a media outreach plan and volunteers

– what video assets do we have (or can we quickly generate)?

The opportunity

The Patriot Act is only one of the major civil liberties battles we’ll be fighting in 2011.  COICA, expansion of internet surveillance (“CALEA 2.0”), the  internet “kill switch”, the TSA’s scanning and groping approach to security … it’ll be a busy year.  So the skills and connections we build in this battle will be useful time and again.  And wouldn’t it be great to start  2012 with savvy acivil liberty supporters from across the political spectrum?   Progressives, libertarians, Tea Partiers, and centrists who despite their disagreements on other issues share a commitment to civil liberties and are used to working together could be a potent force in a lot of primaries and general elections.

Dynamite ending here!