WASHINGTON, DC—Moments ago, the U.S. House of Representatives dealt a blow to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Trade in Services Agreement (TISA), and other secret trade deals by overwhelmingly voting down a critical Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) provision linked to the fast track authority package. Under the rules for the fast track debate, the vote means that the current version of the “Fast Track” bill sent over by the Senate is dead, and it pushes future votes further into election season, putting the TPP and other secret agreements on shakier ground than ever before.
The House may reconsider the TAA vote next week in attempt to salvage the badly beaten Fast Track package, but a growing and politically diverse coalition stands ready to fight it going forward if necessary.
Fight for the Future, an Internet-freedom nonprofit best known for their role organizing massive online protests around SOPA, online privacy, and net neutrality, issued the following statement, which can be attributed to campaign director, Evan Greer:
“Today, the Internet wins again. The public has resoundingly rejected every attempt to limit our online freedom from SOPA to attacks on net neutrality. Today, Internet users around the world made their voices heard when Congress rejected an utterly broken and outdated trade negotiations process that has been abused for far too long to advance the interests of the largest industries at the expense of innovation and basic human rights.
Every month pro-Fast Track members of Congress have claimed that they would pass it and every month the overwhelming resistance from the public has forced them to abandon or delay their plans at the last minute. Trade Promotion Authority legislation will put us on a Fast Track to Internet censorship and decreased privacy, and would allow bureaucrats and lobbyists to make crucial decisions that impact the future of the Web in total secrecy.
Lobbyists from the MPAA and RIAA, the same folks that brought us Internet censorship bills like SOPA and PIPA and terrible trade agreements like ACTA, thought that the closed-door Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations would be the perfect place for them to push through extreme copyright provisions that could be devastating for online free speech and the startup economy.
Today, we can celebrate a victory over this secrecy, and prepare ourselves to continue fighting for a world where decisions that impact the Web are made with transparency and accountability.“
Fight for the Future is a digital rights nonprofit that has driven more than 130,000 emails and more than 15,000 phone calls to Congress in recent months, rallied more than 7,500 websites for an online protest, and helped coordinate a letter to Congress from more than 250 tech companies expressing transparency and tech related concerns about Fast Track legislation.
The group made headlines in March when they flew a 30’ blimp over several of Senator Ron Wyden’s town hall meetings calling for him to “Save the Internet” by opposing Fast Track for the TPP, and then parked a Jumbotron on capitol hill to display the viral video they made about the stunt. More recently, Fight for the Future made a splash on the hill when they delivered actual rubber stamps to every house Republican’s office with a mock letter from President Obama asking Congress to “please rubber stamp my secret trade agenda.”
Fight for the Future works to defend the Internet as a free and open platform for expression and creativity, and is best known for their role organizing the massive online protests against SOPA, the Internet Slowdown for net neutrality, and the Reset The Net campaign for online privacy, which was endorsed by Edward Snowden.
The appropriations process is being used by a captured Congress to undermine Open Internet Rules that nearly 4 million Americans fought to pass.
On Wednesday, June 10, 2015, the House introduced no less than three amendments to a must-pass appropriations bill that, through different mechanisms, would block the FCC from enforcing its Open Internet (“Net Neutrality”) Rules. By attaching these amendments to a must-pass bill, Congress has made them difficult for President Obama (who supports Open Internet rules) to veto.
Each amendment, if passed, would severely undermine the FCC’s ability to stop cable companies from blocking, throttling, or discriminating against specific websites for arbitrary, non-technical reasons.
“Congress doesn’t get it. Millions of Americans fought for net neutrality, and they won,” said Fight for the Future campaign director Evan Greer, “It’s time for the cable companies to stop looking for favors from Washington and actually focus on providing the thing their customers want: faster, more reliable service.”
“These FCC rules are the Internet’s last line of defense from the one threat it can’t simply out-innovate: being throttled by companies like Comcast who have millions of American households locked in,” said Fight for the Future co-director Holmes Wilson, “Here you see Congress jumping through ridiculous procedural hoops, just to kill the most vibrant part of our economy: Internet-enabled small business.”
“It’s almost sad how unsurprising this kind of underhanded sneak attack is coming from cable companies and their friends in Congress,“ said Fight for the Future Campaign Manager Charlie Furman. "People overwhelmingly support Net Neutrality, so of course cable companies bury their attacks a hundred pages deep in an appropriations bill the public doesn’t read closely.”
WASHINGTON, DC –– Late last week, House Republicans started to receive hand-delivered packages in large white envelopes addressed to each Representative by name and purportedly “from” President Barack Obama. The packages contained a satirical letter to Congress from the President asking Republicans, “Please rubber stamp my secret trade agenda.” The packages also contained a rubber stamp of the President’s face along with the text, “I approve President Obama’s secret trade deal.” Finally, the packages contained a fact sheet headlined, “Facts to Ignore when Rubber Stamping my Trade Deal.”
Today, the digital rights group, Fight for the Future, revealed that they were behind the action. Fight for the Future issued the following statement, which was also mailed anonymously to several media outlets:
“People from across the political spectrum oppose Fast Track/Trade Promotion Authority because we have learned that when our government acts in secret, it is never in the public’s best interest.
Republicans who claim to advocate for individual liberty should know better than to vote for legislation that gives unprecedented powers to the executive branch to make decisions in secret that affect everything from national sovereignty, to U.S. patent laws, to internet freedom.
Any Republican who decides to go against the majority of their constituents and rubberstamp the Trans-Pacific Partnership will learn come election that paying lip service to liberty while endorsing tyranny is a fast track to losing the faith of the American public.”
Fight for the Future Campaign Director Evan Greer added, “Given all the secrecy surrounding insider deals for Fast Track legislation and classified agreements like the TPP and TISA, we thought it was apropos to have a bit of mystery surrounding our protest too. Congress is supposed to listen to their constituents, not party leadership, not the White House, not industry lobbyists––the people they represent. We sent them these stamps as a reminder, and to show them that the public is watching, and will remember how they vote.”
Fight for the Future made headlines in March when they flew a 30’ blimp over several of Senator Ron Wyden’s town hall meetings calling for him to “Save the Internet” by opposing Fast Track for the TPP.
Fight for the Future is a nonprofit that has driven more than 100,000 emails and phone calls to Congress in recent months, rallied more than 7,500 websites for an online protest, and helped coordinate a letter to Congress from more than 250 tech companies expressing transparency and tech related concerns about Fast Track legislation. The group is best known for their role organizing the massive online protests against SOPA, the Internet Slowdown for net neutrality, and the Reset The Net campaign for online privacy, which was endorsed by Edward Snowden.
Major sections of the Patriot Act expired on June 1, 2015, in line with the public sentiment. Yet Congress moves to revive the mass surveillance powers.
On Tuesday, June 2, 2015, 67 US Senators voted to give the government back its legislative justification for executing mass surveillance on the phone calls of all Americans.
Each member of the Senate who voted for the USA Freedom Act will now be on record for re-instating—with full knowledge of its illegal usage—a piece of the largest scale violation of the US Constitution in America’s history. They will carry that failure into the next elections, and through the rest of their political careers.
“The public wants a complete end to mass suspicionless surveillance, not more government deception and doublespeak,” said Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, “Sunsetting the Patriot Act was a step toward the major structural changes we need to restore privacy, and now Congress is taking a giant leap in the wrong direction with the USA Freedom Act, which revives one of the most badly abused pieces of legislation in U.S. history. It’s enough to make even the most trusting citizens question the intentions of their government.”
“We have made it clear to the world these programs are useless and need to end. What we did was change the conversation from should we end mass surveillance to how? The answers Congress is coming up with so far, like the faux reform USA Freedom Act, are wrong and dangerous. But at least the public has forced them to start asking the right questions’” added Tiffiniy Cheng, co-founder of Fight for the Future.
“The sunset of the Patriot Act provisions marks a historic moment that–for the past 13 years until just weeks ago–was unthinkable. It happened because of massive public pressure to see these programs end, and because a few senators, including Senator Paul, had the courage to actually listen to the public, and to take a stand for their own principles and the principles embodied in the Constitution. By passing USA Freedom Congress just threw that victory away. But for a brief moment, if the administration was in fact following the law, Americans were able to call their loved ones without the government tracking them.That alone is worth celebrating, but now Congress is moving to take that freedom away once again,” added Holmes Wilson, co-founder of Fight for the Future.
In the weeks leading up to the expiration deadline for Section 215 of the PATRIOT ACT, polls were released which showed the public’s opposition to the government’s surveillance of U.S. citizens. In addition, a report from the Department of Justice identified these programs as ineffective for counter-terrorism. The public also organized against these programs, sending hundreds of thousands of emails and calls to Congress, organizing 40+ vigils at senators’ district offices, blacking out Congress’ access to tens of thousands of websites, and coordinating letter drop-offs at lawmakers’ district offices.
Fight for the Future and dozens of other groups have vowed to continue the fight to end mass government surveillance, working toward a full repeal of the Patriot Act, FISA Amendments Act, and other structural changes needed to restore our basic human right to communicate privately and express ourselves freely. Fight for the Future will continue its work to spread easy-to-use, strong encryption tools through campaigns like Reset the Net, to protect people everywhere from rogue government programs, like those reauthorized today.
“Thanks to Edward Snowden and the free and open Internet, the global public is more aware than ever before of the U.S. government’s abusive spying operations. The members of Congress who just voted to reauthorize and expand these programs will soon learn that the Internet-using public is not easily fooled, and we will not forget the names of the politicians who raised their hands and voted to take away our freedoms mere moments after we had restored them,” concluded Greer.