If you don’t take action to protect your own privacy, nobody will.
Yesterday, I testified in a Pennsylvania state Senate committee hearing on a bill (SB999) that would prohibit the state from participating in or cooperating with federal indefinite detention under provisions in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act.
My time at the Pennsylvania capitol complex reinforced a very important truth – if we hope to find success in our efforts to protect privacy and rein in the surveillance-state, each and every one of us must get involved and directly engage in the process.
If we sit on the sidelines and depend on politicians to do the right thing, our efforts will end in abject failure.
In the few hours I spent in Harrisburg, I saw literally hundreds of lobbyists. Many clearly represented union interests, as evidenced by their T-shirts. But there were many others who quickly morphed into a well-dressed, homogeneous mass of humanity. They represented a wide array of interests, from banking to insurance, from law enforcement organizations to major corporations.
These men and women not only represented particular positions and policy interests, they represented dollars. Some hearing rooms were packed with people.
Mine was not.
I spoke to a nearly empty chamber. In fact, most of the committee members didn’t even bother to show up. I can’t think of much more important issue than taking action against indefinite detention without due process. When your own government claims the authority to snatch you up off the street and lock you away without charges, there isn’t much it can’t do.
But sadly, protecting civil liberties doesn’t advance any particular business interest. It doesn’t further the agenda of any corporation or government entity. It won’t line anybody’s pocket with cash or empower any special interest. These issues just relate to the average Jane and Joe.
You and I.
The ugly truth is – the politicians don’t care.
Lobbyists and big-money donors don’t knock on a representative’s office door to demand that they protect privacy or due process. They don’t promise a nice campaign donation if the senator casts the “right” vote. They don’t show up at committee hearings in mass to make their presence known.
So, nothing happens.
The old adage certainly applies in politics – the squeaky wheel gets the grease.
If we truly care about privacy, civil liberties and the Bill of Rights, we – each one of us – must get involved and start making some noise. Because right now, you can hear crickets chirping at state capitols around the country when it comes to privacy and civil liberty issues.
The bottom line is that until we begin filling up committee hearings, banging down representatives doors and flooding capitol switchboards with calls, we will not have success.
We can’t match the clout of lobbyists. We don’t have the money of corporate interests. We don’t have the organizational structure of unions.
But we do have numbers.
Thousands of people have visited OffNow.org, liked out Facebook posts and retweeted our Tweets. But that simply isn’t enough. We must translate this interest into action.
YOU need to call your state senator and representative and ask them to introduce legislation to protect your privacy and stop the NSA. (Model legislation HERE.)
YOU need to keep up with bills in your state and make phone calls before important votes. (Track bills HERE.)
YOU need to attend committee hearings, write op-eds and organize demonstrations.
You actually represent something more important to a politician than money. You represent a vote. And many of you working together represent many votes. That serves as our ace-in-the-hole.
Our numbers can create the kind of squeak necessary to get the attention of the politicians. But without people taking action to protect their own pricacy, we will continue to find our message drowned out by well-dressed moneyed lobbyist and uber-organized special interests.
Click HERE to find out what actions you can take in your state.