Obama’s official response to the Get FISA Right movement

Barack Obama has posted an official response to the Get FISA Right movement [update: he posted the same response (with much nicer formatting) on his own campaign blog here. Most of my statements below still apply to both venues]. His position hasn’t budged a bit, and it doesn’t say much new about why he would vote for the bill even if it contains the telco immunity portion, and he certainly doesn’t apologize for breaking a specific promise from just a few months ago, but the response does have a few very interesting and positive aspects to it:

  1. He posted the response on the Huffington post.
    1. He used the web. The web is the people’s medium; it’s cheap, it’s accessible, it’s fast. Not to mention, it’s just an efficient and effective way for the campaign to communicate. It sets a good tone and shows good judgement.
    2. He used a blog… Blogs are the people’s news media. They encourage sharing, responding, debating, and contributing.
    3. …and kept comments enabled! Wow! I don’t even know how to express my joy about this… comments on an official statement put out by a presidential candidate on an issue concerning civil liberties and government accountability??! Be still, my beating heart.
    4. He used a very progressive/liberal publication. In fact, its head honcho, Arianna Huffington herself, just delivered a pretty scathing criticism of Obama’s “move to the middle” a few days ago in that very venue.
    5. He used the “Huffington Post Blogger” channel. This point is a bit nuanced, but check it out– he has an account as a Huffington Post blogger, and posted the response in that venue. He didn’t call up Arianna and say “Hey, I am special and I want to publish a response, give me a special news article to do that”. Instead, he (or probably a staffer, but that doesn’t change anything) just logged into the system, wrote a post, and hit “publish”. Look up at the top of that article, you see the same tools that all the other bloggers have (bio, become a fan, email alerts). To put it another way: I personally know at least 2 people that I can think of off the top of my head who are Huffington Post bloggers. Not anyone can sign up for it, it’s invite-only, and I think there are less than 2,000 bloggers (about 900 when I checked a couple years ago — I can’t find a way to count them on the site now). But still, Obama is just publishing content like anyone else in that mix of academics, writers, and various other thinkers/journalists who can publish in that channel at any time, without asking the Huffington Post editors first.
    6. And comments! Okay, I’ll shut up about the comments now.
  2. He repeats that he is going to try to strip telecom immunity from the bill. He then goes ahead and describes why that portion of the bill is so bad. Even though it’s just one sentence (in bold), it’s quite satisfying to read, if only because it demonstrates that he can actually think about these issues in a rational way, and then speak to us about them like rational adults.
  3. 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.

  4. He goes into some respectable detail about why he thinks the other parts of the bill are actually important. Nothing he said really struck a chord with me with me, and he certainly didn’t say what shortcoming the pre-Bush FISA system had, which is the only thing I am interested in reading about. I await Glenn Greenwald’s analysis so that I know what to think… 🙂
  5. He ends with a bit of inspiration addressing the community, including… 

    …when citizens join their voices together, they can hold their leaders accountable. I’m not exempt from that. I’m certainly not perfect, and expect to be held accountable too. I cannot promise to agree with you on every issue. But I do promise to listen to your concerns, take them seriously, and seek to earn your ongoing support to change the country.

    Well, you do have our support for now, Mr. Obama, but it’s up to you to follow through with listening to our concerns and changing this country, because since we gave you the nomination, you haven’t demonstrated that.


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