Liberal activists are planning a rally this weekend in House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s home district to protest her vote last week to protect the National Security Agency’s phone records snooping program, saying the California Democrat has betrayed her principles.
“Pelosi has let down the large number of her constituents — whether they call themselves, liberal, progressive, conservative, libertarian or whatever — who are appalled by revelations of dragnet NSA surveillance and want it stopped,” said Norman Solomon, co-founder of RootsAction and one of the scheduled speakers.
The activists say they plan to rally and then march past Mrs. Pelosi’s district office. They’ll also hear speeches from famous whistleblowers such as Daniel Ellsberg, the government contractor who released the Pentagon Papers exposing the full scale of U.S. involvement in Vietnam during the war.
The rally is part of a nationwide push known as “1984 Day” — timed for Aug. 4, or 8/4 — designed to call attention to the NSA’s surveillance program, under which the government collects and stores for five years the records of all phone calls made in the U.S.
The government said it doesn’t look at the data unless it suspects someone of terrorism, but those assurances have not calmed critics in Congress.
Last week, opponents in the House tried to cancel the program by proposing an amendment to defund it. Mrs. Pelosi voted against that amendment, helping doom it to defeat on a 217-205 vote.
The activists organizing Sunday’s march say Mrs. Pelosi was responsible for the defeat because as her party’s leader, she rallied Democrats to oppose the amendment. Foreign Policy magazine reported that she had a bigger effect in swaying Democrats to back the program than even NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander.
In the end, 83 Democrats joined 134 Republicans in protecting the program.
Democratic leaders, however, were split. Mrs. Pelosi and House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer voted to preserve the program, while Assistant Leader James E. Clyburn and Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra voted to scrap it.
All of the chamber’s Republican leaders voted to protect the program.
In the wake of the vote, Mrs. Pelosi organized a letter signed by 153 fellow House Democrats demanding that President Obama try to work with Congress on changes to the program.
“Although some of us voted for and others against the amendment, we all agree that there are lingering questions and concerns” about the data-collection program, the lawmakers said in their letter.