The media is in a feeding frenzy over the government’s spying. From Quaker groups, to environmental groups, to animal rights groups to the faithful Catholic Worker it seems that no one is beyond reproach. The Department of Defense (Military), NSA and FBI have all been cited for their surveillance. Each passing week has brought a new revelation that has only increased the media’s appetite. All of this bad publicity has forced the Bush administration into damage control that has seen them launch an aggressive counter offensive to defend their actions.
This has presented progressives an opportunity drive to home the message of peace, liberty, justice and the America way. We can turn what is currently a PR challenge for the Bush administration into a catastrophe.
Activists need to make the spying story a local story. As I noted in "Localizing National Issues": "[Y]ou can make a national issue a local issue by giving it a local face". You can do this by filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and holding a press conference. A public forum is key.
Issue a press release in advance telling the press that you are going to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request asking whether you and your group have been monitored by the government. Say that you are taking this action because you are afraid that you have been illegally monitored. Voice your outrage over recent revelations about government spying on citizens.
To increase your chances for press coverage have as many groups and individuals as possible file FOIA requests. Make it FOIA rally and filing. Holding your press conference at a Federal Building and having people go to various government agencies, like the FBI, and delivering FOIA requests will provide a good visual and help garner coverage.
Filing a FOIA accomplishes several things:
1) It gives the local media a local news peg on a major national story. Most local media outlets, if they have not reported on local area groups already mentioned as being monitored, would be very interested in reporting on local opinions/actions on a national news story.
2) Local coverage will give depth to the story and increase the furor of Americans. Local play is helpful because a lot of people only watch and/or care about local news.
3) It hits home. The illegal surveillance of Americans goes from something being done "out there" to your neighbor. It will make Americans pause and wonder if they could be next.
4) The story does not end there. You will at some point get a reply from the government. At that point you will have another opportunity for media exposure. What you do and what you say will be contingent on what the government provides.
Who Should File
Anyone and everyone should file. The extent of the spying reported so far shows that team Bush is willing go to after anyone that has ever publicly spoken out against them (we’ve been Plamed). Issues diverse as peace, animal rights, gay rights, religious freedom and its expression, local political issues, globalization, senior citizens rights, anti-poverty, labor issues, to name a few, should challenge team Bush.
No group is too small, or too obscure to file a FOIA. In fact it is better if the lambs are the ones speaking out because it will provide a very graphic image of the malice and breath of team Bush’s assault on America. Churches, anti-poverty groups, high school clubs, union groups, senior citizen groups, block associations, should not hesitate to file. Think, by filing a FOIA you are sending a message to your community that you feel that your rights have been violated. You will also be voicing your solidarity with those that have been violated. More importantly you will be taking a very active stance in standing up to team Bush and thereby increasing the sense of magnitude of their egregious act.
Filing an FOIA
Both individuals and organizations should file separately to insure that an accurate and honest response is received from the government. You can file a request with the Justice Department.
However given the extent of spying by so many agencies I suggest that you file individual requests with various agencies themselves:
Department of Defense:www.defenselink.mil/pubs/foi/
National Security Agency: www.nsa.gov/foia/index.cfm
Your letter/email should be as specific and detailed as possible. Give your name, address, and telephone. Specifically, ask them for all and any information that they have on you or your group. Since there may be fees associated with your request ask for a fee waiver in the body of your letter. Some organizations may have to pay copy fees. Here is a draft:
"Under the federal Freedom of Information Act, I request copies of any and all documents related to any investigation and/or surveillance of _____ (individual name or organization name) by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), National Security Agency (NSA), or any other federal law enforcement agency during the period of _______ to _______. Please mail these copies to me at ____________________ (address).
I ask that any fees be waived for this request.
________________ (name, address)"
Go to the following links to learn more about filing a FOIA requests:
*www.eff.org//Activism/foia.kit They have a more detailed request letter.
When the Response Comes
The government agency’s response will take time and will come back sporadically to various groups and individuals. Don’t be surprised if you get a response saying that the particular agency has no information about you.
Before you respond publicly read the following article on what to do when you get back incomplete information: www.eff.org//Activism/foia.kit
Chances are good that you might not get complete records. Agencies have been cited for their reticence in replying to requests. You may have to file an appeal.
Whatever you get provides you with an opportunity to publicly voice your concerns.
A Chance to Right America
Publicly filing a FOIA is a chance to voice outrage over the illegal monitoring of Americans. It is a way to openly challenge team Bush over its reprehensible and illegal treatment of Americans.
Should you file a FOIA request you might want to comment on the following blog by listing your organizations name and location:http://stopspying.blogspot.com/
You can make a difference and challenge the government. Go file today!
Madis Senner, CPA, is an ex-global money manager turned faith-based activist. His causes include supporting a Muslim doctor, Dr. Rafil Dhafir, being convicted of violating the Iraqi sanctions, and protesting the Federal Reserve (www.fedhead.org/). He is working with other Dhafir supporters and various Peace and Justice groups in the Syracuse NY area for holding a FOIA rally and filing. He can be reached at: email@example.com.
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