A Brief Reprieve on FISA: What Now?
Thursday evening, Senator Reid officially delayed a final vote on the FISA Amendments Act until July 8. That gave us just twelve days — now, eleven — to change the political calculus and avoid a Congressional seal of approval on illegal wiretapping.
With the clock counting down, here are three tactics that could help change the game:
1. July Fourth Activism
It's especially ironic that Congress has picked Independence Day Recess to mark its decision to shred the Constitution. A Fourth Of July Parade could be an excellent leverage point to pressure politicians to stand tall for civil liberties.
Chris Dodd and Russ Feingold succeeded in giving us a gift: no FISA votes in the Senate until July 8th -- after the Fourth of July recess. That means that when all the Senators go home for the holidays, to ride in those parades, you have a chance to be seen and heard. Not by the intern who downloads and counts the emails, not by the staffer who answers the phones and logs the calls, but by the Honorable Senator.
In person, face to face.
In public, where they can't turn away.
In front of the cameras, everywhere they look.
...If you have a place reserved for a float in your town's parade, maybe you need an idea for your decorations. If you have a place reserved for your lawn chair or the curb, maybe you need an idea for the sign you'll hold up when the Senator or Representative comes by.
"Hey Senator, can I have some immunity, too? -- Vote NO on FISA!"
"I like the WHOLE Bill of Rights -- Vote NO on FISA!"
Watch Deeplinks and Firedoglake for more on this soon.
2. The Bingaman Amendment
If Congress is determined to grant the telcos immunity — something we're fighting against tooth and nail — then it ought to at least know what behavior it's protecting. That's where Senator Bingaman's amendment comes in.
This amendment, which should garner support from moderate and conservative Democrats and even some fair-minded Republicans, would give Congress the opportunity to reconsider telco immunity before it goes into effect, after Congress has received the Inspectors General report on the president’s surveillance program. EFF calls on every Senator that cares about civil liberties and the rule of law to support the Bingaman amendment if the amendment to strip immunity fails.
3. Barack Obama
Last month, the potential nomination of Barack Obama and John McCain as their parties' Presidential candidates seemed an excellent development for this fight; both of them opposed the President's warrantless wiretapping program at the time, and both of them rode this reputation for defying so-called conventional wisdom to the nomination.
Now that they've secured their nominations, their tunes have changed. When Senator McCain reversed his position earlier this month, we (and others) hoped Senator Obama would take leadership.
Our hopes were disappointed. Obama reneged on his previous commitment to filibuster, saying "the issue of the phone companies per se is not one that overrides the security interests of the American people." Now, Obama is being attacked from the right for being a flip-flopper, and from the left for sacrificing civil liberties to political expediency.
Obama supporters have not given up hope of changing his mind. They intend to use the reprieve to pressure their candidate to stand tall. Activists have created a "Please Vote Against FISA" group on Obama's social-networking website. Mike Stark, one of the groups founders, wrote "We've got a little over 1 week to change his mind - the vote on FISA will happen July 8th. But we can't wait until that day; our goal is to see the Senator (and next President!) come out in opposition a few days earlier so that he can drag the rest of the Senate behind him." If you're an Obama supporter, consider joining the group and making your voice heard.