Stop Tom Cotton From Extending the "Patriot" Act

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You have surely heard of a new Senator from Arkansas by the name of Tom Cotton. He was a 37 year old congressman who won the Senate seat formerly held by the conservative Democrat Mark Pryor in 2014. Cotton took the Senate by storm penning one of the most embarrassing documents ever written by a sitting Senator and then getting the entire GOP Senate caucus to co-sign it --- the infamous Iran Letter.  

Undaunted by this humiliation, the Republican party has decided that Cotton is the man to lead them into the future on national security issues. And unfortunately, he's decided that his next mission will be to lead the Republican charge to extend certain provisions of the Patriot Act which are set to expire this June. They've even added some new powers for the NSA just to make things interesting, 

There was a lot of talk at one time about a new coalition of civil libertarian Republicans and civil libertarian Democrats coming together to reform these programs now that the nation is aware of what they're actually doing. Sadly, the number of civil libertarians in the Republican Party can fit in a small Smart Car and the civil libertarians in the Democratic Party are not a majority. And with uber-hawk Tom Cotton waving the “national security” banner we can be sure the Republicans are intent upon squelching any thoughts of reform.

This is why it's so important for Democrats to elect more real progressive civil libertarians to congress. We cannot count on this tiny faction of libertarian Republicans, led by their hypocritical grandstanding leader Rand Paul, to ever provide the numbers required to roll back the surveillance state. Hawkish national security and authoritarian police policies are in the modern GOP's DNA.

This is going to require a majority progressive Democratic Party led by people like Congresswoman Donna Edwards who is now running for the Maryland Senate seat currently held by retiring Senator Barbara Mikulski.

Edwards has been consistent on these issues throughout her career in congress. For instance, in 2014 she voted against the USA Freedom Act, originally conceived as a reform measure which was later gutted by the Republicans in committee. She issued this statement at the time:

“After much deliberation I opposed the USA Freedom Act because I continue to believe it doesn’t strike the necessary balance between protecting our national security and protecting our 4th Amendment rights. Without question, national security issues are critically important, and I applaud all those who work at the Department of Defense, the National Security Agency, and others for their dedication to duty and professionalism. We must provide them with the means to gather the information necessary to keep America safe. However, we cannot allow the pursuit of that goal to infringe on the civil liberties that we, as Americans, hold sacred and fought so hard to defend.”

She will bring that same principled clarity to the Senate.

Last week the House passed yet another Republican surveillance bill. Blue America's slate of progressive civil libertarians voted against while all the usual suspects supported it. Blue America primary candidate Alex Law, who is challenging New Jersey congressman Donald Norcross gave this statement:

Yet again we have a clear difference between myself and my opponent in the Democratic primary in NJ-01. Today, Donald Norcross voted in support of the Protecting Cyber Networks Act, a bill that is a surveillance bill disguising itself as a cyber-security bill. This bill gives companies a significant expansion in their ability to monitor customers' online activities. It allows them to share vaguely defined 'cyber threat indicators,' which then automatically go to the NSA. The NSA is then authorized broad law enforcement rights that could stretch beyond cyber-security.This chain of events is a slippery slope. I totally disagree with the structure of this bill. We must stand up for individual privacy. What we have in this bill is a wolf in sheep's clothing, and if I were in Congress, I would have voted against it like other progressives such as Alan Grayson and Judy Chu.

The provisions of the Patriot Act which are set to expire in June should not be extended. We don't know for sure if they will. The USA Freedom Act ultimately died in the Senate when the Democrats who were in the majority at the time added a few safeguards and then couldn't overcome a filibuster. (Yes, the GOP ultimately filibustered the bill for being too weak ...) The Republicans are now in charge and Tom Cotton is working overtime to give the NSA every last item on their wishlist. Perhaps we'll get lucky and gridlock will work in favor of freedom once again. But I wouldn't count on it. 

There are simply not enough principled, progressive civil libertarians in congress to stop these abuses. We must elect more of them.

Please give what you can to stalwart civil libertarians like Donna Edwards and Alex Law.  And then, give your current representatives a call and tell them you want them to vote against any extension of the Patriot Act. 



Domestic spying? Ted Lieu already wrote a law against it.

One of the most critical primaries coming up next week is for Henry Waxman's House seat on the Westside of Los Angeles-- Santa Monica, Venice, Malibu, Beverly Hills, Redondo Beach… Blue America did a dual endorsement for a jungle primary that will yield two finalists for the November general election, hopefully two stalwart progressives. Our picks are state Senator Ted Lieu, a proven progressive leader and champion of working families, and Marianne Williamson, an independent progressive and cutting-edge thought leader.

Ted has been the California legislature's top leader in several areas, including mortgage bank reform and protecting citizens from unconstitutional domestic spying. I spoke to him yesterday and asked him about the phony NSA "reform" the House passed last week. They voted on the so-called USA Freedom Act, a watered-down, pale excuse for reform of the NSA that passed overwhelmingly, 303-121. 51 Republicans and 70 Democrats voted no. I noticed that one of the Democrats working with the Republicans to pass it was Adam Schiff, who is also working to elect Wendy Greuel, one of Ted's opponents. Most of the congressmembers who are working to elect Ted-- solid progressives like Mark Takano, Mike Honda, and Alan Lowenthal-- fought the bill and voted against it, as, of course, did Henry Waxman. I asked Ted a simple question-- Had you been in Congress last week, would you have voted with Adam Schiff and the others who wink and nod at domestic spying or would you have voted the way Henry Waxman, Barbara Lee, Alan Grayson, Raul Grijalva and your own backers did?

His response was clear and unambiguous. "I'm disappointed Congress gutted significant provisions of the USA Freedom Act. Our privacy rights and our Constitution are not watered-down, neither should legislation that upholds our fundamental values. If I were in Congress, I would have voted NO on the watered-down 'reform.'"

Lieu comes from a military background and he doesn't take national security lightly. He's also an attorney and he doesn't take the U.S. Constitution lightly either. "I agree with the National Security Agency that the world is a dangerous place," he told us. "That is why America’s founders enacted the Bill of Rights. They understood there are few things more dangerous than an Orwellian government that overreaches, invades our privacy, and monitors our everyday lives. The NSA’s bulk collection program-- which seizes the phone records of every single American for seven years-- has been described by a federal judge as Orwellian. One of the reasons I am running for Congress is to stop this program and reign in the NSA’s invasions of our privacy and constitutional rights."

Other than Matt Miller, a DC-centric kook who publicly admits he supports bulk collection of personal communications, all the candidates running pay some kind of lip service to privacy rights. In Ted's case, it goes beyond posturing and promising; he's already taken action.

I am proud to author bipartisan legislation, SB 828, that prohibits California officials from supporting or assisting the NSA’s blanket spying on Americans unless the NSA has secured a specific warrant for a specific individual. The Fourth Amendment is clear: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated” unless the government upon probable cause secures a specific warrant. The NSA’s blanket dragnet is flat out unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment and it is time we stop this mass violation of our privacy."

Regardless of whether we have a President Bush, a President Obama, a President Clinton, a President Cruz or a President Orwell in the White House, we need principled, capable, independent-minded Members of Congress willing to stand up against the herd. That will never be a Wendy Greuel, an Elon Carr or a Matt Miller. It will certainly be Ted Lieu.

Blue America is helping Ted, who is leading in the polls, raise money for his Get Out the Vote efforts this week, and for his tough campaign against whoever comes in second next Tuesday. Please consider contributing here.



HOOTERS Stand Up for the "Liberal Lion" and you could win this HOOTER!


A few days ago our pals at the PCCC endorsed Pennsylvania "Liberal Lion," state Senator Daylin Leach for the open blue seat in Montgomery County and Northeast Philly (PA-13). "Alan Grayson and Elizabeth Warren have proven that bold progressives in Congress can change the national conversation. Daylin is one of those game changers," said Adam Green of PCCC. "When Wall Street front group Third Way attacked Elizabeth Warren and Social Security, Daylin could have remained silent-- especially since his outgoing Congresswoman, Allyson Schwartz, was a Third Way Chair. Instead he denounced Third Way and demonstrated the kind of clarity and bold leadership we need in Congress."

Daylin has an astounding record in the Pennsylvania state legislature and helping get him into Congress is one of Blue America's most important goals this cycle. And it isn't just the folks at PCCC and Blue America who have noticed. Favorite sons, The Hooters, are big Daylin fans too. Lead singer Eric Bazillian, a neighbor, told us "Daylin Leach has never, to my knowledge, used an untested combination of drugs in an Execution By Lethal Injection. Pretty cool! In all seriousness, I couldn’t ask for a better friend or political leader. He embodies these qualities every day in his work as a public servant, which is why I want him to be our next Congressman." Kids these days! These particular kids, though, have contributed their band's name-sake, the hooter pictured above-- customized and autographed-- to Blue America to help us raise some campaign funds for Daylin.

This is how it works: just go to this page and contribute to Daylin's campaign-- any amount-- and you'll be eligible to "win." In fact, if you want the hooter and find yourself strapped for cash, send a post card to Blue America at P.O. Box 27201, Los Angeles, CA 90027 and you'll have a chance to win too! We'll do a random drawing next week.

By the way, Daylin is also a Hooters fan. He explained that he "was struck by how much energy and sense of melody they had. They quickly became one of my favorite bands. It’s a real thrill to now have a personal friendship with Eric Bazillian and his wonderful family." But whether you're as big a fan of the Hooters' music as Daylin or not, this is the kind of congressman he will make-- and why The Hooters are so enthusiastic about him:

"I've been a member of the ACLU since I was 18 years old. I taught and practiced Constitutional Law and named my daughter Brennan after my favorite Supreme Court Justice. Civil Liberties mean a great deal to me. I have seen no evidence that the results of the NSA spying program in any way justify the intrusion inherent in such a program. Our Constitution guarantees individualized suspicion that we have done something wrong before we are investigated. The NSA data collection program flies in the face of that basic right. It's time we rebalance our approach to place more emphasis on respecting basic liberties."

So whether or not you like music, the fact that you're reading this here probably means you're CRAZY about having more candidates like Elizabeth Warren and Alan Grayson in Congress. That's exactly what having Daylin Leach in Congress means. So, we ask that you give what you can today to help get him elected. Who knows? Maybe you'll win the hooter too! Thanks so much for all you do.

We are all in this together,
Howie, for John, Digby and the Blue America Team




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