WASHINGTON -- October 25 -- Since President Bush signed the USA PATRIOT Act into law on October 26, 2001, 355 communities, four states, and hundreds of organizations including the American Library Association and the National League of Cities have registered their opposition to sections of the Act and to what they see as a general erosion of civil liberties since 9/11. To mark the Act's third anniversary, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC) is sending President Bush a full set of the resolutions and ordinances opposing it.
"The collection of resolutions and ordinances is 400 pages long, more than triple the size of the USA PATRIOT Act," according to BORDC director and cofounder Nancy Talanian, whose organization formed soon after the USA PATRIOT Act passed to support public education and debate about its impact on civil liberties. "One in five U.S. residents-55 million people-now live in communities, counties, or states with resolutions condemning parts of the USA PATRIOT Act, making this one of the largest mass movements in U.S. history."
Hundreds more communities are looking at the Act and considering taking action to defend the rights of their residents. "Despite the efforts of President George W. Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft, when people and communities see for themselves how the USA PATRIOT Act and other measures affect their rights and liberties, they overwhelmingly disapprove," says Talanian.
Critics of the Act and other measures are having their positions validated by a growing list of court decisions and DOJ missteps. The Supreme Court handed down two decisions last June that disagreed with the Bush Administration concerning the rights of "enemy combatants," and two federal judges have found parts of the USA PATRIOT Act to be unconstitutional. More such decisions are expected. The DOJ's Inspector General is examining allegations of misuse of the Act in connection with the wrongful detention of Oregon Attorney Brandon Mayfield, and the DOJ asked a Detroit judge to overturn the convictions of the so-called Detroit Terror Cell, which were secured through prosecutorial misconduct. The DOJ had previously touted the convictions as a key victory against terrorism.
But hundreds of the resolutions and ordinances passed long before the Administration's cases began to crumble. Talanian attributes the actions to an underlying sense among all Americans that their country must stand for freedom, justice, and the rule of law, as set forth in our Constitution and Bill of Rights. "We all want to be safe from terrorism, but the government has failed to convince most Americans that we'll be safer if we give up our freedom of speech, our privacy, and our right to due process of law."