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Home > Past Releases and Reports > Communicating with Congress About NSA Surveillance Programs


Communicating with Congress About NSA Surveillance Programs

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So you want to make a difference on the domestic wiretapping issue.

GOAL: To have Members of the Appropriations Committee understand that voters are concerned about this issue in an election year. Appropriators control the cash, and therefore control the government.

OPPORTUNITY: The upcoming Memorial Day Congressional recess represents the real beginning of the campaign season. Members will be back in the district, and will be attending public events - they are looking for your input and your help on Election Day.

Click below to see if your Representative is a Member of the Appropriations Committee: http://appropriations.house.gov/index.cfm?FuseAction=AboutTheCommittee.MemberList&SubcommitteeId=18

STRATEGY: Attend a public event; politely and respectfully raise concerns about the NSA activity. Have members feel that halting the NSA program is better than taking flak from voters.

Key points to get across:

  1. He/She is an appropriator, and you appreciate the power of the purse for your town.
  2. The NSA is funded by Congress, therefore he/she has the ability to stop it, or at least learn more about it and let you know why he/she supports it.

SCRIPT: Below is a script and things to remember. This is written specifically for Appropriators.

"Representative XXXXX, It was great to hear you speak today about the ways you have helped [town name]. I think all of us here appreciate the work you have done as a Member of the Appropriations committee to make sure that [town name] is taken care of. We all know that the power of the pursestrings is crucial back in Washington.

"But I've got a question about another appropriations issue. Recently, USA Today reported that the National Security Agency is "secretly collecting the phone call records of millions of Americans". In other words, the government is keeping tabs not only my overseas calls, but even when I call my Aunt Milly down the street. This just seems wrong to me.

"So what I want to know is if you supported appropriating funds for this NSA project?"

POSSIBLE FOLLOW-UPS BUT CHOOSE ONLY ONE

  • Do you think the NSA should be allowed to keep records of every call I make even domestically?
  • Have you been kept informed of the NSA's activities on this front? And if not, would you be willing to withhold funds until you are properly informed? Not just members of the Intel committee, but the people who approve the money - you for example.
  • And if it was buried in part of a bigger budget, are you willing to work with other Appropriators to withhold funds until this domestic data collection is stopped?
TERRORISM FOLLOW-UP (if your representative says they had to b/c of Al Qaeda)

I can probably come up with a reason that the NSA can watch who I'm calling, but they are keeping all the records, even after they have determined I'm not calling a terrorist. That seems dangerous and wrong. I'm concerned about what future Presidents will do with this information, regardless of Al Qaeda.

THINGS TO REMEMBER

Do not raise more than one point in your statement. Members will focus on the point they can answer, and skip the rest. So if you feel that you have another important issue as well, make it about that. Don't mix.

Be prepared with a copy of the article to give to a staffer. Give a PAPER copy, not just a promise to e-mail.

Do not get antagonistic with the Representative. All you are trying to do is establish publicly that his constituents have a problem with the NSA's domestic surveillance. You want him/her to return to Washington, go to the staff and say "Why am I getting my chops busted on this during an election year?"

If you get the name and e-mail of a staff person at the event, send follow-up articles that may run in other publications. BUT DO THIS JUDICIOUSLY. Do not send every article you have ever read - the staffer covering this may cover 14 other issues as well.


Links:

Comments? comments@privacilla.org (Subject: NSACongress)

[updated 05/12/06]



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