Freedom Index, Congressional Scorecard

post Sep 22 2014, 08:14 PM
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See how well your Congress member adheres to the Constitution.

If they have a dismal voting record, send them an email and let them know you are fed up.


This post has been edited by kawika: Sep 22 2014, 08:18 PM
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post Jun 27 2015, 10:37 AM
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Reaction to USA Freedom Act
The Oversold ‘USA Freedom Act’
June 5
Some civil liberties groups praised the USA Freedom Act for its modest nips at the Surveillance State, but whistleblowers from inside the U.S. government were more skeptical about the law’s very slight accomplishments, writes Norman Solomon.

The morning after final passage of the USA Freedom Act, while some foes of mass surveillance were celebrating, Thomas Drake sounded decidedly glum. The new law, he told me, is a new spy program.” It restarts some of the worst aspects of the Patriot Act and further codifies systematic violations of Fourth Amendment rights.

Later on Wednesday, here in Oslo as part of a “Stand Up For Truth” tour, Drake warned at a public forum that “national security” has become “the new state religion.” Meanwhile, his Twitter messages were calling the USA Freedom Act an “itty-bitty step” — and a “stop/restart kabuki shell game” that “starts w/ restarting bulk collection of phone records.”

That downbeat appraisal of the USA Freedom Act should give pause to its celebrants. Drake is a former senior executive of the National Security Agency — and a whistleblower who endured prosecution and faced decades in prison for daring to speak truthfully about NSA activities. He ran afoul of vindictive authorities because he refused to go along with the NSA’s massive surveillance program after 9/11.

Drake understands how the NSA operates from the highest strategic levels. He notes a telling fact that has gone virtually unacknowledged by anti-surveillance boosters of the USA Freedom Act: “NSA approved.” So, of course, did the top purveyor of mendacious claims about the U.S. government’s surveillance programs — President Barack Obama — who eagerly signed the “USA Freedom” bill into law just hours after the Senate passed it.

A comparable guardian of our rights, House Speaker John Boehner, crowed: “This legislation is critical to keeping Americans safe from terrorism and protecting their civil liberties.”

While some organizations with civil-liberties credentials have responded to the USA Freedom Act by popping open champagne bottles at various decibels, more sober assessments have also been heard. Just after senators approved the bill and sent it to the president, Demand Progress issued a statement pointing out: “The Senate just voted to reinstitute certain lapsed surveillance authorities — and that means that USA Freedom actually made Americans less free.”

Another astute assessment came from CREDO, saying that Congress had just created “sweeping new authorities for the government to conduct unconstitutional mass surveillance of Americans.”

As it happened, the President signed the USA Freedom Act into law while four U.S. “national security” whistleblowers — Drake as well as Coleen Rowley (FBI), Jesselyn Radack (Justice Department) and Daniel Ellsberg (Pentagon Papers) — were partway through a “Stand Up For Truth” speaking tour from London to Oslo toStockholm to Berlin. Traveling as part of the tour, I’ve been struck by the intensity of interest from audiences in the countries we’ve already visited — Great Britain and Norway — where governments have moved to worsen repressive policies for mass surveillance.

Right now, many people in Europe and elsewhere who care about civil liberties and want true press freedom are looking at the United States: to understand what an aroused citizenry might be able to accomplish, seeking to roll back a dangerous accumulation of power by an ostensibly democratic government. Let’s not unwittingly deceive them — or ourselves — about how much ground the U.S. surveillance state has lost so far.

(links in article)
•Demand Progress Statement
The following statement may be attributed to Demand Progress Executive Director David Segal:

“The Senate just voted to reinstitute certain lapsed surveillance authorities — and that means that USA Freedom actually made Americans less free.”

“Demand Progress opposes the USA Freedom Act, as it does not end mass surveillance and could be interpreted by the Executive branch as authorizing activities the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has found to be unlawful. Even since the House passed the same bill in May, the political landscape has dramatically changed. Three provisions of the USA Patriot Act have expired. A federal court held an Executive branch surveillance practice under Section 215 to violate federal law. The Justice Department Inspector General concluded telephone metadata collection has not been essential in cracking major cases and was conducted by the FBI in a way that improperly infringed upon privacy.”

“All of this gives civil liberties advocates new leverage to push for greater reforms. These reforms include closing the ‘backdoor search loophole’ under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, addressing the use of Executive orders for surveillance, providing greater transparency and equity around operations of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, protecting whistleblowers, ending secret law, reforming the Intelligence committees, and strengthening congressional oversight of national security.”

“Yet we take some solace in the Senate’s rejection of amendments to further weaken the bill, and that Section 215 was—ever so briefly—allowed to sunset. This indicates the Senate no longer will quite so readily be stampeded by the most strident of national security hardliners who have held sway for a decade-and-a-half. A modicum of reason has returned to the upper chamber.”

“With recent votes showing the strength and growing number of members of Congress interested in protecting the Constitution and advancing the cause of freedom, members have the opportunity—and the political leverage—to achieve far-reaching, meaningful changes to surveillance programs, and the chance to assert America’s strong commitment to constitutional rights. We call on Congress to be fearless in its pursuit of genuine, far-reaching reform.”

•CREDO Assessment
In response to the Senate’s vote today to pass the USA FREEDOM Act, CREDO Mobile Vice President Becky Bond released the following statement:
“The Senate just voted to create sweeping new authorities for the government to conduct unconstitutional mass surveillance of Americans. From now on, every time the government violates our privacy without a warrant by sweeping up highly-sensitive medical, educational, financial, email and telephone records, the responsibility will rest squarely on the shoulders of the senators who voted today to re-create expired PATRIOT Act authorities.”
“As a telecom that can be compelled by the government to participate in unconstitutional surveillance of Americans, we have long opposed reauthorization of section 215 of the PATRIOT Act — and for a few days we accomplished just that. This a dark day in the history of our Constitution and the Senate. CREDO will continue fighting to repeal the PATRIOT Act and the FISA Amendments Act, rein in the surveillance state, and place real checks on unconstitutional government surveillance.”

•Stand Up For Truth Tour
William Binney spent more than 30 years at the National Security Agency designing programs that enabled mass surveillance of foreign terrorists.

Weeks after the 9/11 attacks, Binney retired in disgust when he saw the agency using that technology to spy on every American.

Since then, he has agitated for reining in unconstitutional invasions of privacy. At first he worked behind the scenes. Binney decided to go public after his actions resulted not in reform but retaliation, including being accosted at gunpoint by an FBI agent raiding his Maryland house. He began telling his story to journalists in 2011, two years before the stunning revelations of NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Last week, Binney brought his warnings of a growing “totalitarian state” to an unlikely venue: the Bent Creek Golf Club in Eden Prairie, where about 80 Libertarians, antiwar activists and others gathered to hear from the second-best-known NSA whistleblower.

Wednesday’s visit was a timely one. The day before, Congress had imposed the most significant limits on the federal government’s surveillance power in more than 30 years. The USA Freedom Act, quickly signed by President Obama, introduces more accountability for the secret court that grants spying powers and restricted the NSA’s collection of data from telephone companies.

Binney called it a “step in the right direction,” but far short of what he thinks would make federal officials change their ways: “We’d have to put them in jail. That’s the way to stop all this crap.”
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