American society is at one of those defining moments, one of those once-in-a-generation turning points which will help to show who we are as a people and as a nation.
Are we going to be a total surveillance society? Do we let ourselves be taken into an age of fear, mistrust, and paranoia, forever feeling that we are being watched and that everyone is a spy?
Or do we hold our heads up, unafraid, and as Americans declare that enough is enough?
Don't miss your chance to speak out against domestic surveillance and the FISA and PATRIOT Acts. Voting at the Change.org site ends at 2 p.m. Pacific time on Thursday, Jan. 15.
Jon Pincus' idea, "Get FISA Right, repeal the PATRIOT Act, and restore our civil liberties" is currently at number 8 in Change.org's Ideas for Change competition with more than 7100 votes. The Top 10 ideas will be presented to the Obama Administration on Inauguration Day and will be supported by a national lobbying campaign run by Change.org, MySpace, and some non-profit partners as well — clearly, it could be a big deal.
"FISA and the PATRIOT Act strike at the core of our Fourth and First Amendment Rights and institutionalize a surveillance society -- and FISA's telecom immunity clause mocks the rule of law by not holding telecom companies accountable for any illegal actions," says strategist/activist/writer Jon Pincus. "Beginning the new Administration and Congress by focusing on these issues sends one of the clearest signals possible that that the new government is committed to ending the abuses of the last eight years and restoring our civil liberties."
Pincus and his group, Get FISA Right, are asking that President Obama, In the first 100 days of his Administration:
• Stay immunity lawsuits until after the Inspectors' General report in July (Electronic Frontier Foundation's What Obama Can and Should Do To Stop Telecom Immunity discusses this)
• Comply with FISA and other legislation (including the warrant requirements) and clarify that he will not assert "Article II" power
• Defer bulk surveillance of Americans, even though it has been authorized by the FISA Amendment Act.
Back on June 29 of last year, Reality Catcher called on then-Senator Obama to stand against telecom immunity and to Get FISA Right. Now the President-Elect has one of those rare second chances in American politics -- the chance to truly get it right this time, and to show that he cares about the civil liberties enshrined in our great Constitution.
Many of Obama's supporters, myself included, were quite disappointed when he failed to uphold his promise to filibuster any bill that contained telecom immunity, and instead reversed course and ultimately voted for passage of the FISA Amendments Act (FAA). But, as Obama himself said when defending his support for the FAA:
"This was not an easy call for me. 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. It grants retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that may have violated the law by cooperating with the Bush Administration's program of warrantless wiretapping. This potentially weakens the deterrent effect of the law and removes an important tool for the American people to demand accountability for past abuses. That's why I support striking Title II from the bill, and will work with Chris Dodd, Jeff Bingaman and others in an effort to remove this provision in the Senate."
Unfortunately, those efforts to amend the FAA by stripping immunity out of the bill or delaying its implementation failed, despite Obama's support. But now, as President, Obama will have the power to make things right. Now he can prove that he meant what he said when he opposed telecom immunity, that he stands behind the votes he made against immunity, and that his claims of a "change" when it comes to reversing the Bush Administration's authoritarian excesses are more than empty rhetoric.
"That means no more illegal wire-tapping of American citizens... That is not who we are. And it is not what is necessary to defeat the terrorists. The FISA court works. The separation of powers works. Our Constitution works. We will again set an example for the world that the law is not subject to the whims of stubborn rulers, and that justice is not arbitrary. This Administration acts like violating civil liberties is the way to enhance our security. It is not. There are no short-cuts to protecting America..."
~ Senator Barack Obama, August 1, 2007