Constitution in Crisis :: April 2017

NSA sign
Drawing a Line on Mass Surveillance: How Congress Must Reform Section 702
April 4, 2017
NYPD officers at a #BlackLivesMatter protest in NYC
New Documents Show NYPD Infiltrated Black Lives Matter
April 6, 2017

Dear Troublemakers,

At a recent hearing on Russian interference in the election, the ignorance of many members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence was on full display. This is the Committee that was established in 1977 after revelations of CIA and FBI illegal shenanigans, to oversee the intelligence community to ensure that it isn’t illegally spying on Americans or otherwise trampling the Constitution or abusing its authorities.

But committee members seem to lack the most basic understanding about how intelligence agencies are collecting the communications of US persons under the guise of surveillance aimed at foreign intelligence targets. This is important because Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendment Act is up for renewal this year. That’s the law that the NSA claims allows the agency to vacuum up vast troves of our internet communications (programs called Prism and Upstream, as revealed by Edward Snowden), and it’s crucial that members of Congress understand how the law works before they blindly reauthorize it.

It’s also important that activists understand the law so we can be strong advocates to reform or defeat it. Please join us for a teleconference briefing to understand the law, the political dynamics, and how Rights & Dissent and our allies on the left and right plan to force Congress to adopt radical reforms or let the law sunset.

Briefing: 702 Reform or Bust
Thursday, April 27
8 pm eastern/ 5 pm pacific
RSVP here for dial-in information 

I hope you can join us.

Stay Loud, Stay Strong,


Sue Udry, Executive Director

Now keep reading for the latest articles from the Dissent NewsWire …

Grassroots Updates

Defending Rights & Dissen supports grassroots activism to protect and advance Constitutional rights. Join the movement! Please reach us at Here are some organizing highlights from around the country:

Maryland Legislature Considers Creating a Blacklist of Human Rights Activists
For the third time in four years, the Maryland General Assembly is considering an anti-free speech, anti-boycott bill specifically designed to silence supporters of Palestinian human rights. Defending Rights & Dissent worked with grassroots partner Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition and other local groups to fight back against the bill. Read more…

640 Concerned Georgia Lawyers
Gardner Culpepper is an Atlanta commercial litigator who got worried by President Trump’s attacks on the judiciary, the media, so he sat down to write a letter. He ended up with a powerful, but measured missive to Georgia’s two Senators asking them to reflect on some of the President’s proposals Read More…

NYPD Settlement Would Create Greater Oversight for Surveillance
On Monday March 6, 2017 plaintiffs who had challenged the New York Police Department’s (NYPD) spying on their First Amendment protected activity announced they had reached a settlement with the NYPD. The settlement would impose new guidelines on the NYPD designed to prevent future abuses from happening. Read more…

Defending Rights & Dissent Condemns Anti-Whistleblower Law Passed in Arkansas
It is bad enough that there are corporations that wish to protect their profit margins by muzzling their critics, it is even worse though, that there are elected officials who are willing to violate their constituents constitutional rights in order to appease them. Read more…

Flurry of Anti-Free Speech Bills Passes New York State Senate
Last week the New York State Senate fast tracked three anti-free speech, anti-protest bills. These bills are now headed to the State Assembly. Read more…

Advocacy and Agitation

Help End Racial and Religious Profiling
With the introduction of the End Racial and Religious Profiling Act of 2017 in both the House and Senate, we have a chance to prohibit such profiling by federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. Read more…

CVE: Making a Bad Program Worse
The Obama Administration’s CVE program focused on ideology and identified lawful activities that could be signs of a budding terrorist (with no evidence thereof). The Trump Administration wants to make the program even worse. Read more…

BORDC/DDF Condemns Muslim Ban 2.0
This EO, like the previous one, is motivated by bigotry and prejudice and is simply a Muslim Ban designed to promote a narrative that stigmatizes Muslims in the US and across the globe. Read more…

Free Speech, Press Groups Call President’s Attacks on the Media a Threat to Democracy 
Eighty organizations committed to the First Amendment right of freedom of speech and the press, have condemned efforts by the Trump administration to demonize the media and undermine its ability to inform the public about official actions and policies. Read more…

News and Analysis

Trump Cites Fake FBI Terror Plots to Justify Muslim Ban or, How State-Sponsored Islamophobia Breeds More State-Sponsored Islamophobia 
Trump’s use of phony FBI terror plots to to make the case for suspending the refugee program should be cause for concern. These plots are not just rooted Islamophobia, but foster it as well. The FBI concocted these phony plots, now Trump points to them to justify his own Muslim Ban, illustrating how state-sponsored Islamophobia breeds more state-sponsored Islamophobia. Read more…

New Anti-Protesting Legislation: A Deeper Look 
As civil and human rights advocates face the challenges of the new administration, it is imperative to not be demoralized or frightened into ceding the streets in the face of legislative attempts to curb mass protest. We must instead continue to organize and to keep a close watch on these bills as they emerge in state and federal legislatures, and to push back at every level. Read more…

Anti-Boycott Bills Are Part of Wider Crackdown on Protest
Anti-protest bills, whether they target boycotts against Israel or the mythical (and non-existent) paid rioter, are designed to silence social movements by sowing confusion and spreading fear. These pernicious bills are popping up in statehouses across the nation. To defend dissent, it is incumbent for activists to push back against these bills. Read more…

The Long Road to Ending Racial and Religious Profiling 
The End Racial and Religious Profiling Act of 2017 is as ambitious as the current atmosphere surrounding racial and religious profiling is terrifying. Read more…

A Muslim Ban is a Muslim Ban is a Muslim Ban
President Trump today signed a new Executive Order banning travelers from 6 Muslim majority countries and putting a hold on the refugee program. It’s the same as the old Muslim Ban. Read more…