Happy Birthday Get FISA Right: Looking forward to what comes next!

Cross-posted on Get FISA Right

Red white and blue birthday cakeGet FISA Right started on June 26, 2008, with posts by Mardi S on my.barackobama.com and Mike Stark on Open Left. We were the first high-profile grassroots social network activism campaign in the US and got enough attention that Obama responded to our open letter. Still, we and our allies lost that battle over the disastrous FISA Amendments Act. And since then, it’s been more of the same.

Five more years of the NSA vacuuming up our phone and internet information.

Five more years without meaningful oversight.

Five more years of evasion and outright lies in Congressional testimony.

Five more years of secret court rulings.

Five more years of legal maneuvering to try to prevent EFF, ACLU, or anybody else from challenging the laws’ constitutionality.

Five more years of Patriot Act and FISA reauthorization.

Happy f—ing birthday.

But after the firestorm of publicity in response to the recent leaks, I’m increasingly optimistic that momentum is building for a change.

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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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What’s the best technology base for an activism Q&A website?

two question marksAn activism group I know is thinking about setting up a Q&A (question-and-answer) site.  What technology base should they use?

Here’s the functionality wishlist:

  1. users can ask and answer questions, vote on others’ answers, and leave comments
  2. multilingual and accessible
  3. a pleasant and attractive user experience
  4. good moderation tools
  5. easy to attach tags (or categories) to questions and to browse all the questions in a category
  6. people can sign in with their existing Twitter, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook, etc. IDs
  7. questions, answers, and comments are easy to tweet and look good when posted on Facebook etc.
  8. there’s a way to include Twitter, Facebook, etc. responses as answers or comments
  9. users can have profiles if they want but don’t have to spend any time setting them up
  10. the overall look-and-feel can be customized (to match the activism campaign’s overall branding)
  11. there are a few options for themes for questions, answers, profiles, and categories
  12. it’s possible to integrate discussion forum and chat software [to help people as they’re learning to use the system, and to talk about ‘lessons learned’ as we’re using it]
  13. secure
  14. privacy-friendly (meaning a robust privacy policy if it’s hosted elsewhere)

In general, open-source software with a fairly  unrestrictive license (BSD-style) is preferable; if the GPL’ed or commercial tools for the job are better, that’s fine too.

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Notes from Underground: DJ Anomaly at the party without a name

pink lava lampIt was so underground that there weren’t any flyers and it didn’t even have a Facebook group.  A tiny venue with headliners who we’ve seen at DNA Lounge and Barnevald, with DJ Anomaly opening and closing.  The music was fantastic, amazing visuals, incredible depth, great colors.  I heart psytrance.

lavender fingernails in the black lightI was in a great mood and totally had the “I’ve earned this” feeling.  The latest skirmish in the fight to restore our civil liberties worked out far better than anybody had hoped.  Twitter and blogs and CSPAN callers agree, Americans across the political spectrum hate the PATRIOT Act.   Yeah, who knows what’ll happen next: we’ve got three months to organize, and oh gee, there’s also wiretapping back doors (CALEA 2.0), the internet kill switch, COICA, domain name seizures, Wikileaks, and the TSA.  For now, though, time for some well-deserved celebration.

So we enjoyed the lava lamps and the glowsticks and the candles and the depth and the music and danced all night.

At 6 a.m., D read my cards in the atrium.

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ACTION ALERT: House PATRIOT Act vote on Monday!

Monday at 6:30 Eastern, the House is once again voting on HR514, which extends the PATRIOT Act until December of this year without introducing any new safeguards.   So please try to find time this weekend to get involved and get the word out!

To start with:

Then help get the word out!

  • email this info to people
  • share it on Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter
  • leave a comment on any blog posts, articles, Facebook groups, and message board threads discussing the PATRIOT Act and make sure to include the link to the POPVOX page: http://bit.ly/oppose514
  • and if you’re on Twitter, tweet early and often using #patriotact hashtag — some suggested tweets in the first comment

Get FISA Right will be having a chat during the vote on Monday — watch our blog at http://getfisaright.wordpress.com/ for updates.

Have a great weekend … and make some noise!



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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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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.
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Patriot Act renewal: Time to make some noise. Fortunately, there’s an app for that!

Update, February 11: The House will be voting on HR 514 again soon.  Keep making noise!  Shahid Buttar’s Demand JUSTICE for the PATRIOT Act has the latest.

Key provisions of the Patriot Act will sunset unless Congress renews them by the end of February. The Obama Administration is working with its allies in Congress to extend Bush Administration policies including National Security Letters , “sneak-and-peak”, and warrantless wiretapping.  On February 8, the House unexpectedly stood up and defeated HR 514, which would reauthorize the odious clauses until December.  It’s back for another vote, though.  With there are three bills in the Senate, and Congress is on recess the last week of the month, it’s not a pretty picture.

Time to make some noise.

Fortunately, there’s an app for that!

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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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Social network activism and the Patriot Act (DRAFT)

DRAFT Work in progress! Feedback welcome!

Final version intended for The Seminal and Pam’s House Blend

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