Wall Street On Parade July 2 2013
In July 2002, less than a year after Congress passed the USA Patriot Act, Nancy Chang, then Senior Litigation Attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights, published a prophetic and comprehensive book about the legislation titled: Silencing Political Dissent: How Post-September 11 Anti-terrorism Measures Threaten our Civil Liberties.
Chang was one of the early visionaries to see that the USA Patriot Act was not so much about protecting us from terrorists but a weapon to control, contain and criminalize political dissent. I had the privilege of assisting in a New York City book launch event for Chang in September 2002, where Chang warned that the endless war on terrorism theme was critically different from past assaults on Constitutional freedoms during war time. The earlier crises came to an end when the country returned to peacetime. With an endless war mantra, there would be no ability to regain lost constitutional freedoms. “In the past year, so much of our democracy has been lost that we actually will need to get back to where we were prior to 9/11 before we can move forward,” Chang said at the event.
An even earlier paper by Chang, The USA Patriot Act: What’s So Patriotic About Trampling on the Bill of Rights?, published in November 2001, just weeks after the passage of the USA Patriot Act, warned that “To an unprecedented degree, the Act sacrifices our political freedoms in the name of national security and upsets the democratic values that define our nation by consolidating vast new powers in the executive branch of government.” Chang warned further that “The Act enhances the executive’s ability to conduct surveillance and gather intelligence, places an array of new tools at the disposal of the prosecution, including new crimes, enhanced penalties, and longer statutes of limitations…It remains to be seen how the executive will wield its new authority.” Thanks to Edward Snowden, it no longer remains to be seen.
Within weeks of the passage of the USA Patriot Act, Chang had the foresight to sound the alarm on Section 215 – the very portion of the Act that has been secretly interpreted by this administration to allow for a dragnet surveillance of Americans’ phone and email messages. In November 2001, Change wrote about Section 215 as follows: