Letters to the Editor Templates

Take Action! Write a Letter to the Editor to support congressional reform of the Patriot Act and FISA Amendments Act

On October 20 2009, two bills - H.R. 3845 to reform the Patriot Act and H.R. 3846 to reform the FISA Amendments Act - were introduced to the House Judiciary Committee and are being prominently promoted by House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers.

According to reports, consideration of H.R. 3845 may occur as early as November of 2009! That doesn't leave much time for the public to become aware of these bills, much less participate in the congressional process. But in order for the outcome of House Judiciary Committee consideration to reflect the public's interest, it is crucial that the American public be as involved as possible as early as possible in the legislative process for these bills.

We encourage you to read the full text of H.R. 3845 and H.R. 3846 (see below) and to review the clear and concise summaries of the bills' provisions provided courtesy of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. For more background on the issue of surveillance abuse by the U.S. government, follow further links also provided below.

After you've read the bills, would you consider writing your own letter to the editor on the aspects of the bills that most strongly appeal to you? Tips on writing an effective letter to the editor appear at the bottom of this page.

If you already know how to write a letter to the editor of your local paper, doing so directly is best. But if you need help finding a local newspaper to write to, and if you'd like to submit a letter automatically online, we recommend using the letter-to-the editor service at http://my.barackobama.com/page/speakout/write. After all, President Obama did say he wanted change to come from the bottom up.

Sample Letter to the Editor
This letter to the editor was sent to the Portland Press Herald on October 20, 2009 and is provided as an example of one letter that might be written to spread the word. Please write using your own original words and thoughts. There are many possible theses on which to write; once you've written your own letter to the editor, please consider adding it to this wiki page as another example for others to be inspired by.

"Earlier this year, news leaked out that under the authority of the FISA Amendments Act, the National Security Agency of the Obama administration had been spying on Americans' communications by phone and e-mail, doing it within the United States, and doing it without the warrants specifically required by the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America (New York Times, April 15). According to reports, the extent of domestic spying on Americans in the first few months of the Obama administration ballooned even beyond what had been done during the Bush administration.

"How much warrantless surveillance of Americans is currently being carried out under the FISA Amendments Act? We just don't know for sure: such numbers are kept secret by the U.S. government. H.R. 3845 is a bill currently before the Congress that would require the government to tell us how many instances of electronic surveillance, physical searches, orders for library and business records, and sweeps of phone records have taken place without Fourth Amendment warrants. The release of such information doesn't harm national security and it helps Americans keep an eye on what their government has been up to. I encourage our own member of Congress, Hannah Pingree, to cosponsor this responsible government sunshine bill.

James Cook
Camden, Maine"

Bill Information

Text of H.R. 3845, the USA Patriot Amendments Act of 2009:

EFF Summary of H.R. 3845, the USA Patriot Amendments Act of 2009:

Text of H.R. 3846, the FISA Amendments Act of 2009:

EFF Summary of H.R. 3846, the FISA Amendment Act of 2009:

Summary of H.R. 3845 and H.R. 3846 by the House Judiciary Committee:

Some Background Resources on Surveillance Abuse

Reining in the Imperial Presidency
House Committee on the Judiciary Majority Staff, March 2009

A Review of the FBI's Use of National Security Letters: Assessment of Corrective Actions and

Examination of NSL Usage in 2006, March 2008

A Review of the FBI's Use of Section 215 Orders for Business Records in 2006, March 2008

Administrative Office of the United States Courts report on sneak-and-peek operations, July 2009

Officials Say U.S. Wiretaps Exceeded Law
New York Times, April 15 2009

Why Write a Letter to the Editor?

A letter to the editor of a newspaper can reach many people simultaneously.

Consider the daily circulation of these newspapers:

New York Times: 1,039,031
Chicago Tribune: 501,202
Arizona Republic: 389,701
San Francisco Chronicle: 312,141
Columbus Dispatch: 195,510
Richmond Times-Dispatch: 158,139
Tulsa World: 110,681
Arizona Daily Star: 102,063

A single letter to the editor in the one of these newspapers could be read by tens or even hundreds of thousands of people. Letters to the editor are a way for you to provide information that a newspaper may have neglected to share, and as such are a useful way to influence civic debate.

Opinion leaders tend to read letters to the editor. Newspaper readers are more likely to vote and to participate in the organizational life of a community. Political leaders often read letters to the editor to get a sense of what matters to their constituents.

How to Write a Letter to the Editor

Be concise. Requirements vary from paper to paper, but the shorter a letter is, the more likely it is to be published. Ideally, letters to the editor should be no more than 250 words long.

Be original. Newspapers are less likely to publish letters to the editor which are copies of other letters. To personalize your letter, include your own thoughts on the subject. If relevant, write about your community or local officials' position. If possible, refer to an article in the newspaper on the subject.

Include your contact information. Without your full name, complete address, phone number and e-mail address, most newspapers will not publish your letter. Only your name and city will be published with the letter; the rest is used to contact you and verify you wrote the letter.

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