What Every American Needs to Know (and Do) About FISA Before Wednesday Voting

“Those who can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

–Benjamin Franklin

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[Note: The vote was postponed from Tuesday (today) to tomorrow, Wednesday. There is still time to take the actions below.]

This is the most important and controversial post I’ve ever written. For American readers, the short video above could be the most important video you watch in your lifetime.

I hesitated to post this and will alienate some readers, but I accept that.

Wednesday, July 9th, could mark the beginning of official condoning of warrantless surveillance of law-abiding citizens in the US, not to mention foreign nationals. I am not an alarmist and believe in qualified surveillance with process — this is different. I’ve done the homework.

The above is an 18-minute interview that I just finished with Daniel Ellsberg, famous for releasing the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times in 1971. His actions are often credited with helping end not only the Nixon presidency but also the Vietnam War. He consulted for the Kennedy Administration after receiving a PhD. from Harvard in Economics and served in the Pentagon under Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara.

Remember that part of lifestyle design is creating a good environment for you and those you care for. Central to this is preventing dangerous laws — the rules of your environment — from coming into existence. This is not about being political. It’s about being responsible. There are Republicans in Congress who oppose this bill, so it shouldn’t be written off as leftist propaganda.

In the video above, I interview Ellsberg to learn what every American needs to know — and do in the next 24 hours — about the new FISA (Foreign Information and Surveillance Act) amendments. The interview, and below partial transcription, answers questions like…

-I don’t have anything to hide. How does this affect me?

-What if this type of surveillance is what has prevented another 9/11 from happening?

-What are common inaccuracies about FISA reported in the media?

Please watch it.

Find below how you can make a real impact in less than 60 seconds. Every person counts — the Senators who will vote are watching the numbers. 41 Senators can block the bill, and it’s not too late.

Please do the following.

How I ask you to spend 60 seconds

Daniel explains below several important reasons to act in the next few hours (much more in the video), but for those who are prepared to spend 60 seconds to help protect their liberties and prevent warrantless wiretapping from becoming a new standard in the US, here are two options:

1. ALL AMERICANS: Go to the EFF website here and put in your zipcode to find your Senator’s phone number. Call them and read the short script on the same page. If no answer or a full voicemail box, click the link at the bottom of the page to e-mail them.

(Tell others verbally to go to “www.eff.org” and click “take action”)

2. OBAMA SUPPORTERS: Go to My.BarackObama.com here and join the group requesting he oppose (as he did earlier) the amendment. This takes about 30 seconds. I suggest changing “ListServ” in the bottom right to “Do not receive e-mails.”

(Tell others verbally to search “obama please vote no” on Google and My.BarackObama.com will be in the top 3 results, currently #1)

I would love to give online Facebook-like groups for all Republicans, especially McCain, and Democrats who originally opposed the bill, but Obama is the only Senator I can find with a group to join specifically related this FISA bill.

Two Tips from a Former Pfizer Lobbyist and Fellow Reader

Credit and thanks to “Roger Dodger”:

1) When you call your Senators, ask then where they stand on the bills before reading the script. If they are with you on most issues, thank them! Then ask why they don’t support the issues you differ on. Then go on to ask for their support on those issues. If they are against you in most things, then refer to the entire script.

2) If they get enough calls, they will change their minds on an issue. 10 activists saying an issue is important to them may equal the opinion of 10000 constituents. If you don’t believe that, just talk to any Real Estate Developer in your area and listen to their war stories on how 10 people coming to a community meeting and shouting blocked a multi million dollar project from happening.

Be nice. And be interested in the person on the other end of the line. These people have nutjobs calling all day to scream at them.

I was amazed at how uninformed people in Congress (not just the elected, but their staff as well) were on issues. I was talking heathcare with them and in most cases, ten months after passing the Medicare Part D, I was the first person who they’d talked to who had interviewed doctors on how they felt Part D was working.

Inform your Congress on issues you are interested in!

Some Highlights with Daniel Ellsberg

1. Why does the vote this Tuesday, July 8th matter to normal people who have nothing to hide?

Ordinary citizens who want to live in a democracy — including those with nothing to hide — should be concerned about the ability of the government to use private, sensitive personal information to blackmail, manipulate, and intimidate their representatives, journalists and their sources, potential whistleblowers, and activists or dissenters of any sort.

2. Couldn’t it be argued that this type of surveillance ability has prevented another 9/11 from happening? Isn’t it possible that this type of legislation has saved American lives?

The administration has claimed that is has, but without presenting a single piece of evidence that this is so, even in closed hearings to Senators with clearances on the Intelligence Committee. The FISA court has granted warrants in virtually every request that’s been made of it that has any color of helping national security. The administration’s decision to bypass that court, illegally, leads to a strong suspicion that they are abusing domestic spying, as some of their predecessors did, in ways that even the secret FISA court would never approve.

3. What are the most important factual inaccuracies about FISA found in the media?

Advocates of the bill take pride that it makes this amended FISA the exclusive basis for overhearing citizens, but that exclusivity is, in fact, in the current 30-year-old FISA bill already. President Bush simply ignored it in bypassing FISA, and there’s not reason that he and his successors would not continue to do the same here.

It’s been inaccurately stated that if this amendments didn’t pass, FISA would expire. This is flatly false. FISA is open-ended and will continue as it already has, adequately for 30 years. What would expire are some blanket surveillance orders authorized last year, which the majority of Democrats, including Senator Obama, voted against.

The current bill does include one useful amendment to FISA, which could be passed with virtually unanimous approval in an afternoon, to allow warrantless interception of foreign-to-foreign communications that happen to pass through the United States. No one opposes this.

Various administration officials have claimed that the requirement of applying for a warrant from the FISA court deprived them of speed and flexibility. This is false. The FISA allows for surveillance to be implemented in an emergency situation before a warrant is sought, and that could undoubtedly be extended with Congressional approval without controversy.

What the administration seeks, and this bill provides, is permanent warrantless surveillance.

4. Let’s consider an analogy: police officers have the legal right to stop you if you’re going 56 mph in a 55-mph zone, but this right isn’t often abused or applied to harass citizens. What makes you think the administration would abuse their surveillance powers if this amendment is approved?

The abuses of surveillance to which governments are drawn are those that keep them in office, used to intimidate and manipulate their rivals, and to avoid debate and dissent on their policies. These are exactly the abuses that the Church Committee discovered in 1975, which had been conducted on a wide-scale by the Johnson and Nixon administrations, and in some cases even earlier, which is what lead to FISA in the first place.

To remove judicial oversight, which this amendment would effectively do, is to invite the same kind of repressive abuse that lead to FISA in the first place.

5. Why would the current administration want this amendment to pass, if not for safety of citizens and prevention of attacks?

Using NSA to spy without judicial oversight or constraint on American citizens provides the infrastructure for dictatorship. George W. Bush has frequently said what other presidents may only have thought: “It would be a heck of a lot easier in a dictatorship, if only I were the dictator.”

Other presidents have violated the law and the Constitution in much the same way as Bush, so long as they could do it secretly, but they haven’t proclaimed that as a right of their office as Bush, Cheney and their legal advisors have done.

The oath of office they took, along with all members of Congress, was to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign or domestic. I believe that, in the matters we’ve been discussing, the Founders had it right, not only for their time but for ours.


Please Digg and Buzz this below if you believe this is important. Please act now, as hours matter.

Extended bio of guest:

Daniel Ellsberg’s earlier career includes serving as a Marine Corps company commander and earning a PhD. in Economics from Harvard. In 1959 he joined the Rand Corporation’s Economics Department as an analyst, and consulted for the Kennedy Administration on the command and control on nuclear weapons. In 1964 he was recruited to serve in the Pentagon under Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. Following two years in Vietnam for the State Department, Ellsberg eventually returned to Rand. In 1971 he made headlines around the world when he released the Pentagon Papers. Ultimately his actions helped end not only the Nixon presidency but the Vietnam War.

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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229 Replies to “What Every American Needs to Know (and Do) About FISA Before Wednesday Voting”

  1. I am not from the US but to the best of my understanding:

    The US (as opposed to the USA = constitution) is registered as a corporation (in Puerto Rico). Other countries such as Australia are registered as corporations in the US (HQs on Pennsylvania Avenue). All other corporations (including US citizens and citizens of other countries) registered in these countries are franchise-like ‘foreign’ entities, i.e. foreign to the corporation of the United States. So any ‘entity’ in any ‘foreign jurisdiction’ may be subject to surveillance. This is not legal advice. Anyone who accepts this as legal advice is ‘a fool representing himself’.

    Pardon me for mistakes, no malice intended. Occupation = n/a (i.e. non combatant)

  2. I think it’s funny, in a sad kind of way, that one of the first comment posters (Lewis, 7th July) on this site was a Brit who thought that maybe the UK was heading this way too… Buddy, what planet have you been on? I’m from Australia and even I know that, just like Australia and the US, the UK is right up there at the top of the list for governmental breaches in privacy. Don’t look now, Lewis, but you’re on candid camera – pretty much everything you do, say, pay for, etc. etc. is being monitored and has been for quite a while. Oh and freedom of speech and your rights – don’t have to worry about those – just toe the politically correct line and you’ll be fine.

    I applaud you, Tim, for posting this, but if you really want to do some good about this (and heck, you’ve got the platform to do it) start researching it buddy. First you’ll be amazed, bewildered, scared, then resigned but at least you’ll come to understand that it’s pretty much a done deal already – it’s just happening incrementally, just like the tale of the frog heating up slowly not knowing he’s being cooked (that is a falacy of course, because frogs actually hop out when it becomes uncomfortable – they’re smarter than humans; we just try to ignore it and just hope the water gets cooler – but unfortunately it’s not for humans – we allow ourselves to be cooked).

    There are individuals and organisation who have been warning westerners for the last 10 to 15 years ago about the enormous damage that had already been done to our constitutions in the name of security/protection of our borders, or environmentalism etc. All 3 countries have signed more sovereignty over to the UN than you’d want to know, and the comment about the US and other countries being setup as corporations which can operate outside of any constitutional boundaries is very true.

    Gotta keep standing up ’til the bitter end fellas. But better to die on your feet than live on your knees.

  3. I personally stopped contributing to the Obama campaign after his stunning deception on the FISA issue. I also wrote in and told him exactly why.

    My understanding is that the legislation protects the administration and the telecoms from any civil damages. However, I’ve heard that the administration could still be pursued CRIMINALLY for the warrantless wiretapping. I’ve started writing Obama and my senators/congressmen to ask that it be pursued criminally.

  4. I live in Portugal, and my country lived from 1928 to 1974 in a ditactorship. When Freedom came in the 25th of April of 1974, i was still a very young child, 2 years old, but i know one thing for sure, FEAR is the weapon polititians have always used and always will use, to make us accept to lose our freedom on our own free will. They take advantage of the fear of terrorism and other things to make laws that otherwise would have never been aproved, because the people would never let it happen. In Europe the way is the same, not just the USA. Good luck on your action.

  5. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. That means watching the watchers if you will, not giving them more power to watch us.

    I just bought your book and through that found your website. Interesting stuff so far.

  6. While I do support you Tim, in identifying this issue, I think that now is a great time to step back from your rationalizing and trust your instincts. If you are putting out negative vibes about this subject- which you are whether you’re for or against, you are adding energy to it.

    So sure, make the call to the Senator, if that feels right, and then let it go. Trust that your Freedom is way larger than what man-made organizations have anything to do with. Freedom starts with the mind… Get clear there and then it wont matter what’s going on. Sure-easier said than done. My point is- like attracts like- isnt anyone paying attention to science these days? Quantum Physics anyone?

  7. Glad you did the interview Tim. We reposted it on our site [linked from our name] which deals with civil liberties and privacy related issues.

    Best, Michael

  8. surveillance laws were passed by our govnmnt with little fight, (in the uk) and, now they are not used ot fight “terrorists”, but to carry out surveillance on people (who are easy to fine), people who drop litter, people who don’t recycle enough. The local authorities use it for this, not terrorism.

    Only a fool believes that politicians would not use these laws for personal gain.

    What happens when you get accused fo something you didnt do, and get detained for 90 days without charge, lose your job, home, possibly partner, kids who knows.

    And then they say, sorry, your right you didnt do anything.

    I suggest, the more naive among you read up on DEMOCRACY and what it is supposed to mean.

    On the right to trial by peers, innocent until proven guilty.

    Without it, our world, is a dictatorship for the billionaires to enslave us all further. By pretending they are protecting us

    You see terrorists on ever corner, how many of you know a terrorist. I would say less than .01%.

    You are being conned. Wake up !!!!!!!!!!!!

    Your next.

    Not paying 99% tax, will be a terrorist offence in 30 years, if we let the have’s, have their way.

    Don’t be a have not for the rest of your life. Have the common sense to see, politicians do not work for you. And as for the current president, he was not democratically elected, he was elected by his cousin i believe rigging the votes.

    Which I don’t think many even bother to deny fully.

    Yet you trust these people with your freedom.

    Oil, GM crops. The next big dependence of man.

    They have shares in them all. They dont want you finding out what they are up to, so pass laws ot stop you finding out, pretending terrorists are in every street.

    Wake up, you will probably never meet a terrorist if you lived five lifetimes.

    Think of the world you are denying your childeren with these laws.

  9. Regardless of our stance on the issue, it is good to know what is going on in the world of politics and the direction the world is heading. Looking at world conditions and hoping for a solution can be quite discouraging… when one “problem” is fixed another is created…

    Most of us work our days away (or not) and will never see life as we wish it to be: perfect bodies and sharp minds that don’t age and die, a government that is fair for everyone, a happy family life, a healthy earth, no suffering for anyone, peace.

    Perhaps that’s why in the model prayer Jesus taught his followers to pray for God’s Kingdom to come, and for his will to “take place, as in heaven, also upon earth”. A government created by God. Not to be a “bible banger”, but that hope seems more permanent and satisfying to me; thus my neutral political stance when it comes to mankind’s governments.

    Suggested reading: Psalms 37:11, Jeremiah 10:23

  10. HELDER; Yes, I am talking about the LOA and quantum physics…And really excited about when more people start talking about the leading-edge research that proves that- what you think about you create. (see: the observer effect)

    TIM ,for every article that you post that is on the negative side, and submits negative news, wouldnt it be nice to post a good-news story that reminds us that life is pretty much REALLY GOOD!

    That way we stay on the positive side of things… because from there we make better, MORE EFFICIENT decisions. (that’s been my experience anyways) . Worth a try?…

  11. I’m opposed to warrantless surveillance, even when considering that the rationale for such illegal activity is TO SERVE THE GREATER GOOD. Daniel Ellsberg broke the law and faced 115 years in prison. The charges were dropped because Nixon’s minions stupidly broke into Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office. That Ellsberg’s releasing the Pentagon Papers was utterly illegal is beyond dispute. And Ellsberg did it TO SERVE THE GREATER GOOD. (Sound familiar?) His is a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

  12. Hmm, interesting.

    Being Swedish, the surveillance debate has been quite interesting in Sweden the past year.

    The “FRA” law that was passed in Sweden is a bit more complicated than many seem to think. The preposition was originally created by the previous left government, and the new heavy surveillance legislation in the EU was actually driven quite hard by the previous left (social democrat) minister of justice.

    This is not a left/right issue, I am not left, far from it, but oppose what happened in Sweden with the new FRA law, and I can see the need for military surveillance for tracking and assessing threats, but the law as passed in Sweden was built for civil surveillance, any Swedish government authority or the sitting government is to be able to order surveillance by RFA as they see fit (no legal system to approve on beforehand).

    Next step of the surveillance legislation is coming now, which is the one pushed the hardest by the previous minister of justice (Thomas Bodstrom), which is detailed tracking of all SMS, MMS, phonecalls and internet connections by the Telco and ISP operators. This is intended solely to monitor the citizens in Sweden, the primary purpose is for crime prevention. But this is not an active surveillance, but the legislation will require operators to store all this information and be made available to government bodies on request. Original proposal put forward by Tomas Bodstrom, included allowance for authorities to install spy-ware with-out owners knowledge on computers (this was not accepted through out the legislation process).

    The problem here is not military surveillance for intelligence purposes, which in todays world must exist, but the fact civil surveillance of all citizens in a country with-out any third-party legal system that monitors it before it takes place.

    Talking about left and right, the left Tomas Bodstrom has been the one pushing this really hard, in Sweden and the EU (and is in much responsible for the EU legislation).

  13. >>> Dean Ouellette

    When there are over 1 Million Americans on the terrorist watch list, it would make it pretty easy to spy on someone considering it doesn’t take much to be put on that list in the first place. What we have here is a government that is afraid of its people. The wealthy elite of this country are afraid of losing their grip that they have maintained for so long and will do almost anything to stop a person or group of people from overthrowing their ideas and/or positions of power. Anyone who is concerned with this should look up Choice Point Inc. They’re a private corporation that collects data on U.S. citizens and sells that information to the government. It’s a bit of a loop hole.

  14. I have been a big fan of Tim’s book and applaud his independent thinking. And I think he showed courage by posting on a politicized topic.

    However, there is a strong legal case contrary to Mr. Ellsberg’s position.

    The best short summary of the legal issues that I have seen can be found at: http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/012631.php

    It is based on longstanding court precedent dealing with the commander in chief’s inherent constitutional powers to conduct a war.

    There is also a good overview of the legal issues in Wikipedia at:


    Interested readers may want to read these short articles. This is a topic that the country will undoubtedly be revisiting as the war on terror grinds on.

  15. Am I the only one that thinks it’s crazy McCain didn’t vote on this issue? Maybe I’m missing something. Please let me know.

  16. HELDER:

    I like Esther Hicks’s books.


    Glad to see some great positive stuff on the blog lately- that feels nice to read and seems more productive to me. I am a strong believer that all is created from our thoughts/choices first, so why not have good vibes, Then make inspired decisions rather than those that are fear-based.

    But hey- whatever blows your hair back.

  17. WAKE UP!

    Given the established existence of ECHELON (through which every voice/data transmission is under surveillance by the NSA), FISA is irrelevant!

    FISA is only debated to make the public believe that there is some due process or choice or freedom in all of this.

  18. Tim,

    Regression to the mean brother… Buying into the cospiracy theorist politics and then publishing it has lessened the overall great information you have otherwise provided on your site and in your book. Keep up the excellent work and get the hell away from politics.


  19. Semper Fi

    I started watching the video because I truly enjoy your approach to life. Then, I saw Daniel Ellsberg. I am a former Marine (Parris Island, 1988) and Marines like Daniel Ellsberg are a badge of honor on the legacy of former Marines everywhere.

    He is a man of honor and we would do well to take his words to heart.

    All the best,

    Chris Moline

    Bowie, MD

  20. I drop a comment whenever I appreciate a post on a website or if I have something to contribute to the discussion. It’s a result of the fire displayed in the post I looked at. And on this article What Every American Needs to Know (and Do) About FISA Before Wednesday Voting. I was actually excited enough to create a thought 😛 I do have 2 questions for you if you usually do not mind. Is it only me or do some of the remarks appear like they are written by brain dead folks? 😛 And, if you are posting at other online social sites, I’d like to follow anything new you have to post. Could you make a list every one of all your social pages like your twitter feed, Facebook page or linkedin profile?

  21. I just recently saw this post from a link by Tim on Twitter.

    It is truly fascinating to read through the post and the comments with the benefit of hindsight.

    Specifically, that Democrats were at the center of defending individual rights and the right to privacy in opposition to the Bush Administration. Then-Senator Obama specifically rallied individuals to fight against this encroachment on the Constitutional Rights of American citizens.

    And they were right!

    Until Obama became President.

    The Obama Administration then went on not only to push for reauthorization of the “Patriot Act” but for even further intrusions into the very same individual civil rights that they were fighting to protect only a few years earlier.

    It just goes to prove that the opposition to Bush and the support of civil rights was political, not based on principal.

    All Democrats now were for the Patriot Act (with the possible exception of Bernie) and the additional encroachments on our liberties.

    And a lot of the Republicans who were for the Patriot Act under Bush were now against it’s reauthorization.

    Beware the party system! (Read George Washington’s Fairwell Address for more on this…)

    The parties run focus group tests to find out what we want to hear and then they say that!

    Don’t ever believe that they actually mean it. This article and the comments contrasted now with what we know happened after this event shows without any doubt that they are lying to us.

    Republicans always talk about reducing spending then when they get power spending goes up. (And it goes up under Democrats too)

    Democrats argue against Republican abuses of individual rights when a Republican is President and then when a Democrat is President they advance the same abuses and even worse. And the Republicans turn around and oppose them.

    The worst part though is that “we”, the average person, if we are part of a political party or identify closely with one political party worldview, we change our position TO SUPPORT OUR PARTY rather than remaining consistent with our values.

    This needs to end.

    Please reconsider your support (or even your “devotion” as many people are devoted to their parties) for your political party because they don’t “support” you. They support themselves, Republicans and Democrats alike, and they support those who pay for their campaigns. That’s it!

    The rest of us are just political fodder to be fooled and manipulated and programmed to salute “their” party flag while they plunder not just our current wealth but they plunder the wealth of our children and grandchildren. They get us to be suspicious of our fellow citizens who are part of the other party. They get us to view the members of the other party as evil or stupid or racist or sexist all while keeping us from looking at the true villains here – those running the parties!

    We’ve all been exposed to SO MUCH propaganda and social conditioning that it’s very difficult for this message to penetrate. It’s hard to get people to “unplug from the Matrix”. Their entire lives, their identity, their social circle all depend on remaining plugged in to the Matrix. But, as Martin Luther King Jr. wrote and Tim quoted above, if we choose to stay plugged in to the Matrix, if we shrink from standing up for the truth, then we’re already dead, even if our funeral won’t take place for decades.

    Please consider changing your political affiliation to independent or unaffiliated (whatever they call it in your state). Please be skeptical of all news outlets and take the extra time to do your own research. Please be skeptical when ANY politician says anything and try to identify what alternative motives may be at work.


    Your fellow citizen…