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

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 “www.eff.org” and click “take action”)

2. OBAMA SUPPORTERS: Go to My.BarackObama.com 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 My.BarackObama.com will be in the top 3 results, currently #1)

Watch the video:

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.

41 thoughts on “What Every American Needs to Know (and Do) About FISA”

  1. What if my elected officials decide to just ignore my demands as they already have many times in the past? What then Mr. Ellsberg? lol XD

    I’ve got a much better idea…First, seek-out, identify, and cultivate new leadership talent that is untouchable by the elites!

    Second, jettison the “anti-war” movement, it is impotent and a total waste of time and effort (I believe this is largely by design.).

    Third, call for and organize a nation-wide General Strike! Nobody flyes, drives, shops, or works until these politicians are disciplined and brought to heel!

    Once these things have been accomplished we can move on to other much bigger issues: destroying the military-intelligence-industrial complex; dismantling the IRS and the Federal Reserve; rebuilding the educational system; etc., etc..

    1. I’m afraid that people like Mr. Ellsberg will continue to be ignored until the jackboot comes down full force on the average Amerikan boobus sheeple. But by then of course it will be too late.

      We are in a period of “soft fascism” and it seems it will only get worse. And I know writing or calling my congress critter will do no good because he alway votes for fascist legislation (if not also sponsoring it), and most of the people in his district approve of it or don’t care.

  2. If your Senator and/or Congresscreature, like mine, is one of the rabid, war-loving fascists sponsoring this odious piece of freedom-destroying legislation, then writing or calling them is pointless. In fact, writing any of your “representatives” in either house is a pointless waste of time, even in an election year, unless his/her name happens to be Ron Paul. I think little guy’s advice is about the only thing that has even a remote chance of succeeding, and even then the odds are overwhelmingly against success because, as Daniel points out, that the average Amoricon subscribes to the “If I have nothing to hide, why should I care?” argument (if they’re even aware of this impending disaster at all, which is HIGHLY unlikely).

    Let’s face reality, folks: “Democracy” has worked too well. Liberty is dead in this country, and the ignorant majority doesn’t give a damn.

    1. My compliments to Daniel Ellsberg. His views on the FISA travesty are well taken.

      Sure, go ahead and express your opposition to your members of Congress. Bear in mind, though, that he or she is a member of what Mark Twain called America’s native criminal class. The fact that the telecoms could buy immunity from lawsuits by spreadin’ the cash around only confirms that.

      The Senators from Minnesota are Amy Klobuchar (D) and Norm Coleman (R). About the former, I have some hope that she’ll vote against the FISA bill. About the latter, I have zilch hope. Coleman’s voted for the Liar-in-Chief’s
      bullshit in the past, and I’m sure he will here too. (He’s up for reelection this year, and I’m voting against him–that much I can promise.)

  3. Fortunately, I am one of the few who have a Congressman
    I don’t need to call or write on this issue.
    His name is Ron Paul. (I do plenty of cheering however!)

    Federalism is a TOTAL failure, just as predicted at the
    very first constitutional convention.

    We need to go back to the Articles of Confederation and
    scrap the Constitution alltogether. At this point I doubt
    we could even ammend it successfully.

  4. Like the Beastie Boys said, “It’s time to fight, fight for our rights!” Liberty is dying, the EEG machine is fading down and only static takes the place where there used to be sound. Time to use our voice boxes and their vibrations to fight for our liberties and make the word “democracy” in America still contain meaning. Abide the Constitution and its guidelines by our fathers and follow the line. Before democracy is sent down the road, it is time.

  5. Writting my congressman would do me no good at all. He’s about as useless as the next. what I am doing is trying to help Linda Goldthorpe a “Ron Paul” republican get into office. It may or may not happen, but it’s the only chance I have to get my opinion listned to. She gets it, I wouldn’t even have to ask. If anyone else in Northern Michigan (or elsewhere) is interested check out her site http://www.goldthorpeforcongress.com I have talked with her several times and she is the real deal. Not some fake wannabe hanger on, she knows whats going on and is doing her best to help the Revolution. Go Linda!

    From her site.

    Washington isn’t listening to the American people:

    • We want secure U.S. borders—yet our troops patrol foreign borders instead.
    • We want less taxes—yet Washington perpetually demands more.
    • We want limited government—yet we get bloated bureaucracy.
    • We want a stable dollar—yet we allow the Fed to devalue our money freely.

    “Our government has grown beyond its constitutional boundaries and the American people are suffering for it. America is overtaxed and over regulated. The answers to the problems facing America today cannot be found in more legislation and bigger government—both are roadblocks to prosperity. I believe in the traditional Republican platform of small government and lower taxes. We need to allow the free-market and the economy of America to grow without governmental hindrance. The lumbering mass of federal control should never be mistaken for a benefactor.”

    – Linda Goldthorpe

  6. I don’t know how this issue could have been more eloquently described. Thanks to Mr. Ellsberg for his continuing service to America.

    1. Thank you, Mr. Ellsberg for your service to this country! Please stay the course.

  7. I’m completely dispirited at this point. I’ve marched and telephoned and emailed and worn buttons and even dared to disturb pleasant cocktail parties about all this. And you know what? People just treat you like a crank. American people are mostly crap, is what I’ve concluded. They’re just mounds of crap, crudely molded into the shapes men or women, filling up restaurants or clogging highways or plopped in front of electronic screens, reeking in the blue light.

    1. I understand how you feel—but you didnt think it was going to be THAT easy, did you?? Cocktail parties?Buttons?Marches? All good and well, but what the US needs is a coup ‘de etat, not a Ron Paulian “revolution”; nor an Obama-bs-over. We dont have forever to “hope”, gather and cry/pass out, swoon, wait for a “leader”–otherwise we’ll see the enemy and he will be us!–“Go forth! I will back thee!”. There are things worth dying for–and oil isnt one of them!

  8. I suppose we should fight this creeping FASCISM at every turn on every front that we can……. I get weary….. I WANT A NEW 911 INVESTIGATION……..ONE RUN BY INVESTIGATORS, NOT POLITICAL SUCK-UPS OR WARCRIMINALS……… But I’m able to understand how allowing the government free rein to wiretap, spy and (thereby) blackmail……gives them the perfect tool to cover up their manifold CRIMES Against humanity, Against the United States, Against International Laws, And in the END Against EVERY AMERICAN…..

  9. ACT NOW! Call your Senator. Make sure your friends know and also do so. As indicated by the many points of view in the responses below, response to the threat of impending fascism is not clear even for those who recognize it. I would like to suggest that democracy depends on a recognition of the common good – enlightened self interest – If we recognize this as the aim of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights we can also see it as our national mythos that can cite to unify and galvanize Left, Right, and Center. The United States is about United States and when we can settle upon the bedrock foundation of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights all the B. S. around authoritarian neo-fascist nationalism will blow away like so much dry toilet paper because it just cannot sustain credibility based on lies and fear.

    1. You’re in denial Greg.

      Lemme ask you a question Greg: What if your elected officials just ignore your demands? What, exactly, are you gonna do about it? I respectfully demand an answer to that question.

      There’s a reason why they’re (politicians, the rich and powerful) doing this at this time, do you know the reason why?

      Because they can totally get away with it! How can this be? Lemme break it down for all of you: They can do as they please because they have state-of-the-art “non-lethal” weaponry that can easily and effectively disperse hundreds of thousands of demonstrators within couple of minutes…literally! Active Denial Systems…Google it. They have a whole basket full of these powerful technologies that they will aim right at YOU, if you don’t fall in line!

      The great majority of the american sheeple are cowardly morons…I’m not just saying that ’cause I’m angry; I’m saying it because it’s true! They will do what the government tells them to do. Period!

  10. Now, Obama supporters, now you will get your first true taste of Obama’s true character. Watch as he sells you out. As your president he’ll do it again and again.

    And worse, there’s no longer any good alternative in the big two parties. Ron Paul was your last and only chance to have a man of integrity as your president in 2008.

    What will you do now? What will you do after tomorrow? Will you do anything? Or will you do nothing?

  11. I am not an Obama supporter. I not an anyone supporter. And I will do ANYTHING! “I’m a regular guy with nothin’ to lose!”

  12. Anybody else having trouble logging in to Obama’s site? It could just be “flooded”–but i’ve been trying for days now. They send me new passwords and then they dont work. I just wondered, because i heard about google shutting down some anti-Obama sites recently.

  13. This criminal white house has dissed all of us, and Congress, repeatedly. They have acted incompetently, stole elections, lied without end. They smirk and continue their evil deeds, ad nauseum. I did not pick Obama, Hillary, McCain. Who picks them? Why can’t true public servants like Nader, Kucinich, Gravel, and possibly, Paul get traction? Tim Russert, and his ilk ask questions like he did of Kucinich, Kucinich being the only candidate willing to advocate single payer health, dept. of peace, UN in US out of Iraq, etc. He asked “Have you ever seen a UFO?” So, the media aid in all this destruction of science, intellectual aptitude, competence, even speaking ability is dissed. Wake up! America is no more. You are responsible.

  14. In a five hour fit of anger and frustration, I dug up the names and contact information on the “Democratic” House & Senator traitors who voted to approve the latest version of the “Compromise FISA bill” — which destroys our Fourth Amendment.  I put the two lists up on the Net as websites and will now go about “promoting” them.  Ideally, with your help, we could bring these sites to the attention of enough people to develop a viral network that could then gain critical mass among voters to remove these traitors.

    Here are the sites: 

    For House “Representatives”: http://www.cloudbyte.com/traitors.html
    For “Senators”: fhttp://www.cloudbyte.com/senatetraitors.html

  15. In a five hour fit of anger and frustration, I dug up the names and contact information on the “Democratic” House & Senator traitors who voted to approve the latest version of the “Compromise FISA bill” — which destroys our Fourth Amendment.  I put the two lists up on the Net as websites and will now go about “promoting” them.  Ideally, with your help, we could bring these sites to the attention of enough people to develop a viral network that could then gain critical mass among voters to remove these traitors.

    Here are the sites: 

    For House “Representatives”: http://www.cloudbyte.com/traitors.html
    For “Senators”: http://www.cloudbyte.com/senatetraitors.html

  16. Time to pack up and head home to Ireland?
    This whole “inalienable rights” pitch was a load of stuff.
    These Yankee Elect types are no better than the English.
    Liars, all.
    Maybe we can get back before the EU swallows what’s left?
    Maybe the Germans would like another go? With our help
    this time?
    Just a muse.

  17. Besides calling, you might consider joining/donating to the Strange Bedfellows Coalition — which includes some Ron Paul people, Glenn Greenwald, the ACLU, and many liberal blogs — who have a PAC at ActBlue to punish Democrats who vote for FISA. Here’s a link that explains Strange Bedfellows:


    And here’s a link to the donate page which also has some info:


  18. “This criminal white house has dissed all of us, and Congress, repeatedly. They have acted incompetently, stole elections, lied without end. They smirk and continue their evil deeds, ad nauseum.”

    Why shouldn’t the White House diss Congress? They’re a pack of traitors. The reason they won’t impeach every single person in the administration of El Fascista Maximo is because every one of them, with the exception of a scant few, has been in bed with these criminals, voting for every plank in their police-state agenda, and voting for every bill to continue funding this genocide in the Middle East, courtesy of this patently phony War OF Terror. If they’re so incompetent, how have they managed to steal two consecutive presidential elections? But let’s get to the real point here . . .

    Why in the f*** is there even a FISA court to begin with? How does the federal government get away with creating a secret court with judges nobody ever sees, making decisions while accountable to nobody, etc.? What kind of a country is this, and what kind of people, as a nation, allow this crap to go on?

    Does ANYBODY have a clue as to how many judges are in this court, who they are, what they do, how they get appointed to this court, what evidence they base their so-called decisions on, etc.? Does anybody know whether this court actually exists, by the way?

    If the Founders were alive today, there would be an immediate shortage of rope and bullets in Washington DC.

    1. I agree, Big M. We are now reduced to pathetically pleading for the old, albeit unconstitutional, FISA that we know nothing about yet love. None of this new, even more secret, fascist FISA for us freedom lovers!

  19. Time to pack up and head home to Ireland.
    The Yankee Elect are no better than the English.
    Liars, all.
    All this talk about “inalienable rights” is just a bunch of stuff.
    England has become a nation of snitches and America is close behind.
    Maybe the Germans would like another go?
    With our help this time?

  20. On the telecom immunity issue included in the FISA amendments, once upon a time there was a bright and shining moment when, approached by the NSA to release their customers’ records, Denver-based Qwest Communications refused. Concerned about the legality of such a demand, the Feds were told by Qwest’s attorneys to come back with a warrant if they wanted that information. No warrant was produced for this fishing expedition, and no records were turned over.

    The interesting part of this is that it happened in February of 2001, a month after Bush first took office, and well before the 9/11 attack the following September. Now why, when the country was not under a known ‘terrorist threat,’ did the Govt need to collect this information to begin with? Why the need to spy on Americans?

    Give the other telecoms immunity for being cowards, unlike Qwest? No. No. No.

  21. An unregulated free market gave us the stock market crash of 1929, an attempted coup in 1933, Latin American dictatorships, necessity for the Trading With the Enemy Act, child labor, unequal pay, unequal opportunity, unequal justice, bailout of the Chrysler Corporation, an unpaid EXXON fine, Savings and Loan Scandal, ENRON, subprime mortagage lender bailout, the intelligence community, news media, specific big business interests conspiracy against the republic, monopolies, outsourcing, stagnant pay, no heath care for 47 million people, 20 million of which are children, dishonesty, secrecy, torture, unsafe toys, automobiles, unsafe working conditions, no overtime pay, no annual vacation, no sick leave, no equal pay for equal work, capped lawsuits for damages no matter how eggregious the negligence or disregard, disrespect for the consumer, a poverty rate of over ten percent, pardoning of criminals because of who they are rather than what they did, illegal invasions of privacy, an insulting manipulation referred to as “trust us,” disrespect for the rule of law, arrogance toward the Constitution, people who put their careers over true patriotism and tell their bosses what they want to hear rather than what they need to know, propagandizing the American people as if they are the enemy, the corruption of Congress, and the destruction of our system of government in order to benefit a few, among other things.

    The pot of gold that the traitors are after is the absolute right, without consequence, to screw Americans.

  22. If all this surveillance is supposedly targeted at terrorists – then why are AMERICANS the ones being spied upon, the ones being told they have to have a ‘real ID’, and the latest crap – an electroshock bracelet to be able to board an airplane?

    Sounds to me like the Bush Administration believes that American Citizens are the terrorists since all of their efforts are aimed at Americans.

    We need to get out the torches and pitchforks and descend on Washington and run all the bloody bastards out of the country.

  23. We lost on Tues., so we sued on Wed. SHAME ON CONGRESS1 Reid and Pelosi are not fit to continue as leaders there.

    1. “…so we sued on Wed.”

      Who is we? lol…We is now targeted for secret surveillance ops! XD

  24. Question:
    If the terrorists hate us and are attacking us because of our freedom,
    then doesn’t it follow that taking our freedom away is an open act of appeasement?
    What will Congress do next, impose shaira law on the U.S.?

    These pro-hitler terrorist appeasers must be stopped.
    What’s next? A new holocaust against the Jews?
    AIPAC needs to alerted immediately that passing the new FISA
    bill is the first step in the conspiracy to destroy Israel.

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