Get FISA right: our response to Senator Obama

by: JonPincus

Sun Jul 06, 2008 at 18:00

(re-promoted, with permission.  tick-tock, tick-tock! - promoted by JonPincus)

Get FISA Right logoAlso posted on dKos; please visit and recommend!  For background, please see our previous open letter to Senator Obama, his statement to the group, and Glenn Greenwald's analysis.  Please repost widely -- and when you do, please add the link here.

If you're blogging or writing an article about this story. please be kind enough to include a link back to the Get FISA Right site and to the group on myBO. -- and add the link to our coverage page.  Thanks!

If you would like to join us, please call your Senator, join the group on myBO and Facebook, and help get the word out!

UPDATE: digg it!

UPDATE, July 7: Ari Melber's Online Activists Keep the Pressure on Obama has great perspectives and links on the Get FISA Right "net movement".  Deborah Pierce's FISA: a brief history discusses how the statute has steadily been broadened since it was first introduced in 1978.

An Open Letter to Senator Obama
From the 20,000+ members of the group
"Senator Obama - Please Vote NO on Telecom Immunity - Get FISA Right"

Dear Senator Obama,

Thank you for taking the time to respond to us with your post "My Position On FISA" dated July 3rd, 2008. In your response, you pledged to "listen to [our] concerns, take them seriously, and seek to earn [our] ongoing support," and in that spirit, we would like to continue this conversation. We ask that you help transfer our passion and political activism into getting the FISA bill right -- now.

JonPincus :: Get FISA right: our response to Senator Obama
Senator, as a legal scholar who has done extensive study of our country's constitution you know that the FISA re-authorization bill currently before the Senate (HR 6304) threatens the rights guaranteed to American citizens in the Constitution, especially the Fourth Amendment.

One of the most troubling parts of this bill is its provision to provide retroactive immunity from civil lawsuits for telecommunications companies that may have assisted the Bush administration in violating the civil rights of Americans. You wrote in your statement that you "support striking Title II," which provides this immunity, "from the bill, and will work with Chris Dodd, Jeff Bingaman and others in an effort to remove this provision in the Senate."

We ask that you back up your words with action by addressing your constituents on the floor of the Senate with the same oratorical power you used in Philadelphia to lay out your vision of a 'More Perfect Union.' The American people have just as much right to know of the dangerous precedent this Congress would be setting by granting retroactive immunity to those who "may have violated the law" and allowing spying on law-abiding citizens as we did to relearn of segregation and Jim Crow. The arm of government oppression reaches far and wide, Senator, and we must beat it back on whatever front we find it.

We ask you to reconsider your current position on the bill as a whole and strongly oppose a bill about which you said, "I know that the FISA bill that passed the House is far from perfect. I wouldn't have drafted the legislation like this, and it does not resolve all of the concerns that we have about President Bush's abuse of executive power." In your statement you also wrote, "In a dangerous world, government must have the authority to collect the intelligence we need to protect the American people. But in a free society, that authority cannot be unlimited." We agree. Our nation just spent the holiday weekend in celebration of our independence from unlimited government authority. America in 1776 wished to be strong and free. Much has changed in 232 years but Americans will never consciously abandon freedom.

Senator, while you wrote that not passing this bill would result in the government "losing important surveillance tools," these important surveillance tools are in fact blanket surveillance programs already underway solely due to the passage of the Protect America Act, which you rightly opposed and voted against. This is only one example of how, even without the provisions for retroactive immunity, this bill is still dangerous to the civil liberties of American citizens.

As we understand it Senator, your oath to uphold the Constitution requires you and others in the Congress to vote against HR 6304.

We appreciate your willingness to continue the discussion. We represent a large and vocal part of the movement you have nurtured and that has nurtured you during this campaign season, and include many of your most active and ardent supporters. As you have said time and again Senator, "we are the ones we have been waiting for," and we are here, working to bring about real change in Washington. We have grown to over 20,000 strong in the space of just a few days. We are lobbying our representatives, and working to get our friends, relatives and neighbors to do the same. We are organizing support for removing the immunity provisions for telecommunications companies and building opposition to this dangerous bill in its entirety.

Working together, we have a better chance to assist Senators Dodd and Bingaman, and can achieve what your commitment to us, your supporters, has been before your recent change in position. Together, we can protect our civil rights and continue to keep America safe. Please join us and let's work together to Get FISA Right.

If you would like to join us, please call your Senator, join the group on myBO and Facebook, and help get the word out!

Have you called your Senators?
Multiple times
Not yet
No. I don't care about the rule of law


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an Exxon/Mobil Ad? (0.00 / 0)
C'mon guys - are you gonna tell us again that you have no control over the ads that appear on this site, or are you in fact profiting from Exxon /Mobil dollars?

District of Columbia (0.00 / 0)
some of us don't have Senators.

In that case ... (0.00 / 0)
... probably the best bet is to call the Obama campaign ...

[ Parent ]
For what it's worth (0.00 / 0)
While I have joined the group, I gave no one the right to claim my assent to any particular statement, and I don't recall being asked.  

I'm working on my Senators.  Obama's position seems fixed.

And his position is not good enough (0.00 / 0)
But its better than 60% of the Democratic Senate, and far better than 100% of the Republican Senate. The reply seems well crafted but light on goals. How would one know Obama met the demands here.

But I dont object to it at all.


The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky

[ Parent ]
Obama The future we have always deserved. (0.00 / 0)
Would that it were not so.

[ Parent ]
This fellow apparently doesn't want Obama in office (0.00 / 0)
That has been his reason for writing forever:
On May 23rd for example:
BO on the other hand - has been kissing the ring and lower extremities of right wing idiots without so much as a whimper from the castrated left.

Look. if Markos and Bowers and the rest want to have feverish dreams about Obama in the White House - that's their scene - and they're welcome to it.

But if the goal is to defeat McCain - they're nuts to ignore Clinton.

It sounds like a rovian script to me, but in any case its been like this for months, even if its a naderite, they get most of their money from rovians anyway.

Almost all of it in foul language, and oddly very old school foul too, all castrations and such, very republican talk.

Its funny, read all his comments, one after the other.

I'll be back in a minute though, I have to take a shower.


The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky

[ Parent ]
We circulated a draft to the mailing list earlier today ... (4.00 / 3)
... and had it up on the wiki for anybody to edit.  We also posted it in the Facebook group.  It's always hard to make a statement for a large group with diverse viewpoints; given the time pressure, we did our best.  Apologies if you don't feel it reflects your postition.

I do agree that working on the multiple senators makes sense.      Our action items start with "Call your Senators!" and pointers to the various ways to do that.  We're also doing some Facebook activism in aid of this -- more in the new Get FISA Right discussion forum here.

[ Parent ]
I appreciate that (4.00 / 1)
But I find that mailing list to be basically unusable given the volume.  

[ Parent ]
This is very light on the inherent contradiction in Obama's statement (0.00 / 0)
A) the surveillance tools Obama says are so important as to warrant voting for immunity he voted AGAINST when he voted against the Protect America Act. Obama do you now support the protect america act? Is this another change in your positions?

B) because the protect america act surveillance rights do an end around the FISA court, this Bill does the OPPOSITE of what Obama claims: it doesn't NOT ensure oversight over such spying, it removes it! Obama did you read the bill before deciding to support it, or did some adviser do it who doesn't care about civil liberties?

Greenwald has the substantive critique of Obama's response. This statement from the group mostly misses that and instead rehashes on points about immunity that Obama already stated he agrees with, but says are over ruled by the importance of keeping the surveillance tools of the protect america act. This will be far too easy for Obama to blow off.

Michael Bloomberg, prince of corporate welfare

Never the less recommend it at DailyKos (0.00 / 0)
Although I think the statement is weaker than I would like, we still need to get as much attention for this as possible.

It has been posted to DailyKos, please recommend it:

Michael Bloomberg, prince of corporate welfare

[ Parent ]
recommend at TPMCafe (0.00 / 0)

big media push folks - if you have an account and can recommend at the sites the story is cross posted too, please do so.

Michael Bloomberg, prince of corporate welfare

[ Parent ]
You may well be right ... (0.00 / 0)
I included a link to Greenwald's critique at the top.  It's not clear what we could add to that.

And in terms of our asks, our most realistic opportunity is to get Obama to schedule floor time in the debate and speak out more strongly on immunity.  [Yes, we want him to change his overall position; that seems even less likely.]  We may well have gone overboard in emphasizing that.

Apologies for not having been able to fit in more of your feedback earlier -- we got most stuff in but not all.  We thought it was important to launch to try to get the evening crowd on the east coast ...


[ Parent ]
The strongest argument (4.00 / 2)
will not come from demolishing Obama's rhetorical position since it is pretty obviously built on sand anyway.

The stronger argument against Obama and his "centerist" advisors would be the dismay of thousands, if not millions of supporters who, all of a sudden want their hope back.  

Whether he was lead by his handlers to reverse himself on "Scooter Libby Justice" or chose to foresake his position on his own, he is moving against the popular tide.  If we can just bang the drum long enough and loudly enough, the good politician in him should figure out which way the wind is blowing.  (Tide, drum, wind.  Sorry, they had a special on mix'n'match metaphors at Trader Joe's today.)

As Jon points out, the main ask is that he shows up and actully uses his considerable telegenic powers to support the amendments he claimed so strongly to support as recently as July 3.  Perhaps this could be the catalyst for other Senators and media figures to give this legislation further consideration.  

Like a nice left over fourth of July halibut fillet, the longer this bill sits around, the more obviously it stinks.  

USA: 1950 to 2010

[ Parent ]
You Cant Always Get What You Want (0.00 / 0)
Our founding fathers crafted a system that required compromise to function.  That compromise has been sorely lacking over most of the previous decade and so it is easy for us to forget that compromise does indeed work.  But compromise is built on the capacity to admit ones own failings, as well as to acknowledge the strengths of the opposing side.

What I need from Obama is some strait talk, some adult conversation, some dialogue that has been sorely lacking in America since before most of us were born.  I know that we won't get what we want: a perfect government that will never spy on its own citizens.  Thats been going on since the birth of free society.  But I hope that we will get what we need.

This comment is under surveillance

There's been plenty of compromise (0.00 / 0)
but it's all been on the part of the Democrats.  It's time to stand strong against Bush and the Republicans.  Otherwise, I fear that Obama will suffer the same fate as Kerry.

I listened to the focus group that Peter Hart did on C-Span last week.  There wasn't a lot of hope in that group.  What I saw was voters who, though they wanted change, were very unsure of Obama because of his lack of experience.  If he doesn't draw distinct policy differences with McCain and the GOP, he will lose out to the "experienced" politician.

And after listening to the Sunday talk shows yesterday, I think the media narrative is being set:  Obama is moving in McCain's direction on policies.

How depressing.

[ Parent ]
I have not seen a better analysis than Greenwald's* (0.00 / 0)
Before the break I sent it to Obama's offices and to the offices of selected Senators. FWIW.

*Including his various rebuttals.

John McCain doesn't care about Vets.

Sen. Dodd banking headlines (0.00 / 0)
The Obama campaign might know something we aren't mentioning or considering when it considers telecom immunity.  Somehow, after Sen. Dodd's FISA filibuster, a ton of research into his financial history was compiled and leaked along with allegations of impropriety.

Now, I think that "Barack Obama" is too big a political brand to take much of a hit from innuendo, but this recalcitrance might be more than just an unwillingness on the campaign's part to engage on an issue.

Is this your logo to alter? (0.00 / 0)
I know you think your cause is just.  And that Obama should follow your lead on this.  Whatever.  Free Speech and this open forum give you that opportunity.  I do not  think that you have any right ot alter Obama's logo! Really who do you think you are?  Did you get his or his campaign's permission?  

Who does he think he is? (4.00 / 1)
How dare you disagree with this post. Did you get permission to do so? Who do you think you are?

[ Parent ]
Hey. the author can write whatever he wants. (0.00 / 0)
The fact is yes I do not agree with this movement by the majority of left authors on their respective blogs (Greenwald, Markos, Rosenberg, Pincus, etc. etc. etc.) Typically I just read it the stuff, whether I agree or not and let it go.

However this bothered me so much I had to say something.  In fact I got a logon just to make the comment I made.. That is Obama's logo is his.. would you like someone bastardizing your open door logo to put pressure on you?  I don't think so.  Please make your own logo if one is so needed for this effort.  Do not be so lazy that you use Obama's campaign's artwork. In the truest sense you are adding insult to injury..

..and yes I do think what is going on is injurious.  Barrack has such a small window of opportunity to become president.  He has to do just about everything right to win.  If he has to constantly watch his back flank becuase it is being undermined by "supporters".. well it's going to make it that much more difficult.  The cause these bloggers make may be just..  but in the end.. will it be worth it if this arrow shot at Obama indirectly helps elect John McCain?

[ Parent ]
What Bowers Said (4.00 / 1)
Also, Fair Use Doctrine.  Seriously, I would expect liberals of all people to understand Fair Use...

[ Parent ]
This is not Fair Use (0.00 / 0)
it is plagiarism.. plain and simple...  

[ Parent ]
Fail (4.00 / 3)
Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. § 107: "[T]he fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright."

Took me 2 minutes to find that.  Epic fail is epic.

[ Parent ]
You picked and chose selected parts of Section 107 (0.00 / 0)
of the CopyRight Act.. the fact is there are 4 factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair:  
1.  the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

2. the nature of the copyrighted work;

3. amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

4.  the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

According to the copyright office "The distinction between "fair use" and infringement may be unclear and not easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission. Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission."

Additionally the CopyRight Office suggests "The safest course is always to get permission from the copyright owner before using copyrighted material. The Copyright Office cannot give this permission."

Now that is all to say that the item is copyrighted.  I did not say that initially.  You just threw out the fair use policy as if it applied.

I stated and maintain that the altering and use of Obama's logo for this cause is lazy and unoriginal.  and I still ask.. Has the author asked the Obama campaign if it would be okay to insult the campaign by altering his logo and posting it on a website that supposedly.. in the relevant political realm.. is on the same side?

[ Parent ]
Whatever (0.00 / 0)
Ignorance knows no ideology, clearly.

If it's not copyrighted, then it wouldn't matter if they used it.

Secondly, it IS copyrighted because under U.S. law (via Wikipedia) "the mere creation of a work establishes copyright over it, and there is no legal requirement to register or declare copyright ownership." (went into effect March 1, 1989)

Thirdly, I didn't pick and choose, I quoted the opening of the section.  Indeed, there are specific criteria; however, modifying an existing political logo in order to make a political critique or comment has always, in every case I'm aware of, been deemed 'Fair Use'.

Shorter me: L2Research

[ Parent ]
I guess (0.00 / 0)
you'd have a problem with using his name in the name of the group too?

"Senator Obama - Please Vote NO on Telecom Immunity - Get FISA Right"

USA: 1950 to 2010

[ Parent ]
I laud this effort, but (0.00 / 0)
I was disturbed to read in Melber's article that the group is now slowing down the servers.

In my mind, those servers were set up to facilitate electing the candidate by registering voters and bringing people into the democratic process under the guise of supporting the candidate.   If this effort effectively undermines those tools, that is wrong--no matter how noble the effort of this particular campaign to influence Obama's position on the FISA Amendments Act.

I think at this point the leaders of this protest have an obligation to move the group to another server.  If they do not do that, they risk holding the campaign hostage over this one issue.

The point has been made about the size of the group.  Now it's time to change the structure so as not to undermine the campaign tools.

Great minds. (0.00 / 0)
The new discussion forum is

John McCain thinks we haven't spent enough time in Iraq

[ Parent ]
Jeff come on (0.00 / 0)
they can go buy 100 more servers and they'll have nothing to worry about. their slow server problems can be solved in a few days. enough hand wringing.  

Michael Bloomberg, prince of corporate welfare

[ Parent ]
the only reason (0.00 / 0)
the group slows the servers is because it is so large. That so large a group of Obama supporters oppose FISA abuse should be an indication that Obama needs to reexamine his position and uphold his oath of office to defend the constitution.

[ Parent ]

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