Episode 25: We've been here before - How History is Repeating Itself in Government Overreach

April 9, 2020


Vince Warren, Baher Azmy

“We are left to wonder why we cannot see with foresight what we see so clearly with hindsight.” A Philadelphia-based federal appeals court wrote this in explaining why the New York City Police Department’s program of suspicionless surveillance of Muslims in the name of national security resembled destructive roads the country has traveled before, when targeting Jews during the Red Scare, African Americans during the Civil Rights Movement and Japanese-Americans during World War II.

Center for Constitutional Rights’ Legal Director Baher Azmy and Executive Director Vince Warren talk about how lessons learned in how the government has responded to crises, from the AIDS/HIV epidemic to 9/11 and now COVID-19. They discuss how this public health emergency will disproportionately harm the most vulnerable in our society with both over reach, such as allowing judges to close courtrooms, including for criminal procedures and habeas corpus, and under reach, by not allowing those in jails, prisons, ICE detention centers, and Guantanamo Bay to follow the CDC guidelines of social distancing the rest of society can practice.

While not minimizing the dangers to life and loved ones, this crisis still requires us to be skeptical and vigilant about how the government can manipulate this pandemic. To stay guarded, we are dedicating this month’s episode to hopefully seeing in foresight what we can clearly see with hindsight.