Breaking: Ellsberg Says FISA Bill Means Blackmail

This is the most cogent and complete summary of what the FISA bill is all about that I have seen.  From the peerless Daniel Ellsberg of course.  This patriot was ready to go to jail for the rest of his life for leaking a document which showed that America's sons were being sacrificed for politics, with no chance of victory in Vietnam.  Now he is sounding the alarm.  Ellsberg says of the FISA bill now before the Senate:

Ordinary citizens who want to live in a democracy -- including those with nothing to hide -- should be concerned about the ability of the government to use private, sensitive personal information to blackmail, manipulate, and intimidate their representatives, journalists and their sources, potential whistleblowers, and activists or dissenters of any sort.

He is asking every American for 60 seconds of action before the vote is taken and says it's not too late to stop this.  From

What Every American Needs to Know (and Do) About FISA Before Tuesday

July 7, 2008 in News by Daniel Ellsberg

Tomorrow, July 8th, could mark the beginning of official condoning of warrantless surveillance of law-abiding citizens in the US, not to mention foreign nationals. Much of this information has been covered by Glenn Greenwald in the past week.

In the video below, I talk about what every American needs to know -- and do in the next 24 hours -- about the new FISA (Federal Information and Surveillance Act) amendments. The interview, and below partial transcription, answers questions like...

-I don't have anything to hide. How does this affect me?
-What if this type of surveillance is what has prevented another 9/11 from happening?
-What are common inaccuracies about FISA reported in the media?

Find below how you can make a real impact in less than 60 seconds. Every person counts -- the Senators who will vote are watching the numbers. 41 Senators can block the bill, and it's not too late.

Please do the following: How I ask you to spend 60 seconds

1. ALL AMERICANS: Go to the EFF website here and put in your zipcode to find your Senator's phone number. Call them and read the short script on the same page. If no answer, click the link at the bottom of the page to e-mail them.
(Tell others verbally to go to "" and click "take action")

2. OBAMA SUPPORTERS: Go to here and join the group requesting he oppose (as he did earlier) the amendment. This takes about 30 seconds. I suggest changing "ListServ" in the bottom right to "Do not receive e-mails." (Tell others verbally to search "obama please vote no" on Google and will be in the top 3 results, currently #1)

Some Highlights of the interview:

1. Why does the vote this Tuesday, July 8th matter to normal people who have nothing to hide?

Ordinary citizens who want to live in a democracy -- including those with nothing to hide -- should be concerned about the ability of the government to use private, sensitive personal information to blackmail, manipulate, and intimidate their representatives, journalists and their sources, potential whistleblowers, and activists or dissenters of any sort.

2. Couldn't it be argued that this type of surveillance ability has prevented another 9/11 from happening? Isn't it possible that this type of legislation has saved American lives?

The administration has claimed that is has, but without presenting a single piece of evidence that this is so, even in closed hearings to Senators with clearances on the Intelligence Committee. The FISA court has granted warrants in virtually every request that's been made of it that has any color of helping national security. The administration's decision to bypass that court, illegally, leads to a strong suspicion that they are abusing domestic spying, as some of their predecessors did, in ways that even the secret FISA court would never approve.

3. What are the most important factual inaccuracies about FISA found in the media?

Advocates of the bill take pride that it makes this amended FISA the exclusive basis for overhearing citizens, but that exclusivity is, in fact, in the current 30-year-old FISA bill already. President Bush simply ignored it in bypassing FISA, and there's not reason that he and his successors would not continue to do the same here.

It's been inaccurately stated that if this amendments didn't pass, FISA would expire. This is flatly false. FISA is open-ended and will continue as it already has, adequately for 30 years. What would expire are some blanket surveillance orders authorized last year, which the majority of Democrats, including Senator Obama, voted against.

The current bill does include one useful amendment to FISA, which could be passed with virtually unanimous approval in an afternoon, to allow warrantless interception of foreign-to-foreign communications that happen to pass through the United States. No one opposes this.

Various administration officials have claimed that the requirement of applying for a warrant from the FISA court deprived them of speed and flexibility. This is false. The FISA allows for surveillance to be implemented in an emergency situation before a warrant is sought, and that could undoubtedly be extended with Congressional approval without controversy.

What the administration seeks, and this bill provides, is permanent warrantless surveillance.

4. Let's consider an analogy: police officers have the legal right to stop you if you're going 56 mph in a 55-mph zone, but this right isn't often abused or applied to harass citizens. What makes you think the administration would abuse their surveillance powers if this amendment is approved?

The abuses of surveillance to which governments are drawn are those that keep them in office, used to intimidate and manipulate their rivals, and to avoid debate and dissent on their policies. These are exactly the abuses that the Church Committee discovered in 1975, which had been conducted on a wide-scale by the Johnson and Nixon administrations, and in some cases even earlier, which is what lead to FISA in the first place.

To remove judicial oversight, which this amendment would effectively do, is to invite the same kind of repressive abuse that lead to FISA in the first place.

5. Why would the current administration want this amendment to pass, if not for safety of citizens and prevention of attacks?

Using NSA to spy without judicial oversight or constraint on American citizens provides the infrastructure for dictatorship. George W. Bush has frequently said what other presidents may only have thought: "It would be a heck of a lot easier in a dictatorship, if only I were the dictator."

Other presidents have violated the law and the Constitution in much the same way as Bush, so long as they could do it secretly, but they haven't proclaimed that as a right of their office as Bush, Cheney and their legal advisors have done.

The oath of office they took, along with all members of Congress, was to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign or domestic. I believe that, in the matters we've been discussing, the Founders had it right, not only for their time but for ours.

There's more...

FISA And Progress

Sen. Dodd has a post up at HuffPo on FISA:

Most agree that this law needs to be modernized, as it has been many times over the years. But this time, the president is asking Congress to do something much more: to shield the telecoms from any judicial review of their actions. He wants Congress to declare spying without a warrant both constitutional and necessary to defend this country.

It is neither.

That is why I have done everything I can to stop retroactive immunity from being included in the FISA bill. As written, this bill does not say, "Trust the American people." It does not say, "Trust the courts and judges and juries to come to just decisions" about what happened at the telecoms. Rather, retroactive immunity sends this message:

"Trust me" -- a message that comes straight from the mouth of President Bush. I would never take "trust me" for an answer, not even in the best of times. Not even from a president on Mount Rushmore.

The work to stop this terrible bill is overwhelming, and I know we could lose.

But process-wise, there's been great progress. The issues with FISA are dense (history of why Congress first passed the act/the concept of civil vs. criminal telecom immunity/exclusivity precedent/etc.). Five years ago, would 20,000 activists organize on a politician's website in protest? Would any conversations between activists, online or off, even broach the subject?

There's still time to tell our elected officials not to cave. Blue America has tools, and Christy Hardin Smith writes up the details.

It used to be harder for the average citizen to engage in politics - reading news on specific issues and checking the positions of their representatives pre-internet was time consuming. Advocacy campaigns too-often relied on more heated, visceral issues to engage people.

Even just a few years ago, activism around an issue as weedy as FISA wouldn't stand a chance. And we're certainly not quite where we need to be yet. But it's a thrill watching so many people discuss and organize around a fundamental constitutional issue.

There's more...

Core Supporters Question Candidate's Shifts on Policy

I am looking at Morning Joe this Monday and all I have seen is a continual bashing of Senator Obama.

Everything has been negative - his efforts to expand his base has been touted negatively (guns, faith based orgs);

The FISA website at is being cited as proof of unrest among his consitutents;

He has not moved his position on Iraq, but it's construed by the MSM (especially on Morning JOe)that he has;

Another day in the neighborhood. Time to rev up the Democratic base!

There's more...

FISA and the Bill of Rights

On July 2nd, I had to study for my US Citizenship test, wherein the ICE officer asks you 10 questions about US history and civics, and you have to get 6 (or more) right in order to pass.  These 10 questions are randomly selected from 100 published questions.  Therefore, one effective means of studying for the test is to memorize the answers to these 100 questions.

When I looked up the questions, I realized that I knew the answers to all of them~except for 2.  I did not know which Constitutional Amendments pertain to voting rights (15, 19, 24 and 26), and I did not have the Bill of Rights memorized.

And so, here are the Bill of rights (as copied from Wikipedia, the answers expected by the ICE officer are slightly different):

There's more...

GetFISARight: Our response and what you can do

This is a response to Senator Obama's response to the Get FISA right effort mybarackobama. Link

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.
Full text after the jump.

What you can do

Please sign Senator Feingold's petition to all senators. This petition will be sent to all senators on Tuesday. ities/92-senate-petition-to-stop-telecom -immunity

Call your senators offices tonight! Leave a message so that they can start off their Monday morning listening to lots of anti-FISA voicemails. The easiest way to do that is here. Other ways to contact your senators are here

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

Check out the new discussion forum at!

There's more...


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