The December 31 deadline for reauthorizing three key clauses of the Patriot Act — and the possibility of introducing reforms in the process — is fast approaching. In response, Get FISA Right has put together an Open Letter to President Obama, and we're seeking your signature on the letter in the form below.
While the legislative details are complex (see Kim Zetter’s Handy Chart Tracks Proposed Amendments to the Patriot Act for details) the basic outline of the debate so far is straightforward:
• pro-civil liberties Democrats are proposing significant new protections
• Republicans and “independent” Joe Lieberman are proposing reauthorization without any new protections
• Blue Dogs are somewhere in between
• the Obama administration has spoken of its openness to reform, but during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings worked behind the scenes with Senator Sessions to significantly weaken the legislation.
That’s not the change many of us thought we were voting for, and so we at Get FISA Right are gathering signatures on an open letter to President Obama. We're asking him to take a stand, to support significant reform, and to live up to his commitment to transparency by taking this stand publicly. What we ask in the letter specifically is that he:
"take a strong stand to support significant reform of key sections of the Patriot Act, incuding National Security Letters, Section 215, Lone Wolf, Sneak and peek, and material support. Legislatively, we ask for your public support of HR 3845 and 3846, and amendments adding similar protections to S 1692."
What can you do?
If civil liberties are important to you, we're asking you to join us, to sign our open letter and to spread the word. Sign the letter right here on this page (just fill in the form below and Send the Letter) or at the Bill of Rights Defense Committee site. You can help us spread the word via the retweet and facebook links here.
Last July, you told us of your intention to direct your Attorney General to “make further recommendations on any steps needed to preserve civil liberties and to prevent executive branch abuse in the future.” Once Patriot Act reform legislation was introduced, Attorney General Holder talked about “a conversation that can be had” about civil liberties concerns. So far, the conversation has been disappointing. Your administration opposed long overdue and badly needed protections for civil liberties and urged their eventual rejection by the Senate. Absent this intervention, the legislation emerging from the Senate and House Judiciary Committees would likely include greater civil liberties protections.
We ask you and your administration to take a strong stand to support significant reform of key sections of the Patriot Act, including National Security Letters, Section 215, Lone Wolf, Sneak and Peek, and material support. Legislatively, we ask for your public support of HR 3845 and 3846, and amendments adding similar protections to S 1692.
In spite of your promises for an open and transparent government, much of the conversation around this issue has been behind closed doors or via unnamed participants. We ask that you remember your promises and respond in an open and transparent manner. With your background in constitutional law, and insight into the complex trade-offs you must make as President, you are uniquely qualified to help all Americans see beyond the false trade-off between national security and civil liberties. Please continue the discussion with us, and other voices supporting civil liberties, even when we disagree.
President Obama, the Organizing for America caption still reads, “I’m asking you to believe. Not just in my ability to bring about real change in Washington…I’m asking you to believe in yours.” We believe, and hope you do too.
Americans of all stripes have grown increasingly wary of giving up liberty for the illusion of security. Get FISA Right’s 23,000 community organizers are the largest grassroots issue-oriented group on Organizing for America, and we are only one of many organizations across the political spectrum working to restore our civil liberties.
If you join us, you can inspire the same wave of grassroots energy that propelled you to the Presidency. Together we can reject the politics of fear, and turn the page on the abuses to our constitutional rights during the last eight years.