Kit Gage

Kit Gage


* Former President of the National Coalition to Protect Political Freedom
* Former Executive Vice President of National Lawyers Guild
* Former Director of the Defending Dissent Foundation
* Current Treasurer of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee
* Opposes government anti-terrorism efforts

Holding a BS degree from Grinnell College, Kit Gage first gained prominence as a civil-liberties activist when she served as director of the National Committee Against Repressive Legislation (NCARL), formerly known as the National Committee to Abolish HUAC. (HUAC was an acronym for the House Un-American Activities Committee, which investigated subversive organizations, disloyalty to the United States, and allegations that Communists had secured positions of influence inside America’s government and society at large.)

In 1997, University of South Florida professor Sami Al-Arian appointed Gage as executive director of his (Al-Arian’s) newly created National Coalition to Protect Political Freedom, which sought to shield terrorism-affiliated individuals from the penalties associated with the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, predecessor to the Patriot Act. Gage subsequently served as executive vice president of the National Lawyers Guild from 1997-2003; a board of directors member with the Bill of Rights Defense Committee from 2000-08; director of the Defending Dissent Foundation (the new name for NCARL) from 2001-08; director of the First Amendment Foundation in 2005-06; co-director of the National Capital Region Watershed Stewards Academy from 2010-12; and president of an ecological organization known as Friends of Sligo Creek (April 2014-present).

Post-9/11, Gage suggested that American law-enforcement officials who had stepped up their efforts to foil Islamic terror plots were motivated by racism and anti-Muslim bigotry, more than by any legitimate concerns about U.S. national security. Nine days after the September 11 attacks, Gage and NCPPF, while acknowledging that the prosecution of some terrorist operatives may have been justified, hastened to add that “all Arab Americans, all Muslims, all people who others think look Afghani, Arab or somehow different must not suffer from those investigations and from ill-informed and/or racist presumptions.”

Objecting to the efforts of prosecutors to broaden the use of deportation for suspected terrorists, Gage complained in November 2001 that “it will be easier to deport anyone they accuse of being associated with a terrorist organization—no matter what the nature of the association.”

In the spring of 2002, Gage stated that as a consequence of the U.S. government’s counter-terrorism tactics, “[W]e have seen the chilling of the right of protest. The Muslim community is already feeling the repression.” She portrayed federal prosecutors’ efforts to expand the scope of crimes that legally constituted terrorism, as unwarranted assaults on civil liberties. 

In 2003 Gage replaced Sami al-Arian as president of NCPPF, following the latter’s arrest for his active involvement with the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad. A person’s “mere membership [in] an organization,” argued Gage, “… should not alone be the basis for prosecution. Unfortunately, this government is going that way.” Moreover, Gage vigorously opposed the U.S. government’s use of secret evidence in terrorism cases, and emphasized the importance of “defending the right of political dissent of individuals and organizations.”

In August 2004, Gage suggested that only bigots would oppose NCPPF’s efforts to thwart toughened counter-terrorism legislation: “There are always going to be people who are racist, who are anti-Muslim and feel threatened by groups like ours who do coalition work, because we stand up for groups that have taken on unpopular positions.”

In October 2006, Gage attended a Chicago Committee to Defend the Bill of Rights ceremony called “Celebration of the The Dynamic Life of Frank Wilkinson,” who had been a leader of the Communist Party USA, the New American Movement, the Democratic Socialists of America, and the National Committee to Abolish HUAC. Lauding Wilkinson as “one of the people most closely identified with the defense of the First Amendment,” Gade described him as someone who “worked to help people to recognize that the Bill of Rights is a living document but not self-enforcing.”

Over the years, Gage has made financial contributions to the political campaigns of John Kerry, Kweisi Mfume, and Barack Obama. She has also given money to EMILY’s List.

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