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Patriot Act Produces Wave of Opposition Across Nation
Published on Friday, December 26, 2003 by the Toledo Blade (Ohio)
Patriot Act Produces Wave of Opposition Across Nation
by Tom Troy
 

In taking on the USA-Patriot Act, Toledo joined more than 200 cities, towns, counties, and states across the country.

Plans for a successor act, dubbed Patriot Act II, that would further broaden federal investigatory powers, have gone underground.

"When Patriot Act II was leaked, that caused a huge outcry and it disappeared," said Chris Link, executive director of the Ohio American Civil Liberties Union.

Toledo was one link in a nationwide campaign coordinated by the ACLU to raise the alarm over the USA Patriot Act.

Similar debates have swept the country in the past. In the 1980s, many communities passed resolutions to protest apartheid in South Africa. In response to the arms race, a few communities - mostly liberal college towns - declared themselves "nuclear-free zones."

Diverse views of Patriot Act
What Section 215 of the Patriot Act says: The Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation ... may make an application for an order requiring the production of any tangible things (including books, records, papers, documents, and other items) for an investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities, provided that such investigation of a United States person is not conducted solely upon the basis of activities protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.

What the U.S. Department of Justice says about Section 215: "Law enforcement authorities have always been able to obtain business records in criminal cases through grand jury subpoenas. ... The government can now ask a federal court (the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court) to order production of the same type of records available through grand jury subpoenas."

What the American Civil Liberties Union says about Section 215: "Section 215 vastly expands the FBIís power to spy on ordinary people living in the United States. ... The FBI can investigate persons based in part on their exercise of First Amendment rights. ... The FBI could spy on a person because they donít like the books she reads. ... Those who are the subjects of the surveillance are never notified that their privacy has been compromised."

But political history professors are hard put to think of an issue that has attracted as much participation as the Patriot Act.

Dr. Lynn Bachelor, chairman of the University of Toledoís political science department, said the movement has an obvious partisan character but isnít just political.

"A large part of this is opposition to the sitting President. But some of it goes beyond partisanship," Dr. Bachelor said.

She attributed it to the fear of losing basic civil liberties.

"You almost have to go back to the restrictions passed in World War II" for a similar perceived threat to fundamental values, Dr. Bachelor said. But "there was much broader support for World War II and people felt it was a much different kind of time."

Introduced on council by Councilmen Frank Szollosi and Peter Gerken in June, the resolution criticized the USA Patriot Act as an infringement on constitutional rights and a threat to minorities.

Congress passed the law about six weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in response to complaints from the Justice Department that its hands were tied in confronting terrorists and that it lacked techniques in fighting terrorism that were legal in investigating narcotics and organized crime. It received overwhelming support from senators and congressmen in both parties, including U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo).

Since then, complaints about the law have grown.

The 132-page law expands federal law enforcementís power to detect and prevent terrorism. Much of it expires in 2005.

Among other things, the law permits federal agents to use wiretaps in terrorism cases, to keep its terrorism investigations secret, and to obtain records such as bank, library, and Internet records.

Justice Department spokesman Mark Corallo said the new law has protections. He said all searches must be cleared by a federal judge and reported to Congress. Like other justice officials, he is eager to counter the publicity campaign against the law.

"So much of the debate from their side has been based on misleading information and an attempt to scare people," Mr. Corallo said.

But civil libertarians say the war on terrorism served as a cover to roll away protections against domestic spying that have been in place for almost three decades.

Ms. Link said laws passed in the 1970s to curb spying on law-abiding Americans were "wiped out" by the Patriot Act.

Since January, communities in 35 states have weighed in - including the city councils of Baltimore, Chicago, Las Vegas, Detroit, Austin, Denver, and Minneapolis.

The text of the resolutions has become more assertive as the campaign has spread.

Ann Arborís, passed Jan. 7, 2002, and believed to be the first, is only six paragraphs long and doesnít even mention the Patriot Act.

Since then, the ACLU has posted a draft version of a resolution, and many of the 233 communities have used the ACLU draft as the basis for their resolution.

Many of the sentences in Toledoís resolution are straight out of the ACLU draft.

The measure passed City Council 10-2. Republicans George Sarantou and Rob Ludeman voted against the resolution, calling it politically partisan and an unsupportive message to troops overseas in a time of war.

The only other Ohio cities to pass such a resolution were Oberlin, Oxford, and Yellow Springs, near Dayton.

Ms. Link said the debate over the Patriot Act got more attention in Toledo than in most cities, where it typically passed city councils with no comment at all.

"The debate was much more vigorous and I think to the good for the community," she said.

The debate has proven a good membership tool for the ACLU. Ms. Link said the number of "Bill of Rights" committees in Ohio has risen from four or five before the law to 18 now and has made her an in-demand speaker. "I gave 78 speeches on the Patriot Act," including two in Toledo, she said.

Groups such as the ACLU have tried to keep the attention on the so-called Patriot Act II - the Domestic Security Enhancement Act. The measure has never been introduced and is contained only in a memo that was leaked in February to a citizen action group. It allegedly would expand further the governmentís powers to monitor and investigate groups and persons suspected of terrorism.

A spokesman for Sen. Michael DeWine (R., Ohio), said there is no such proposal.

"There was never any legislation that we saw or heard directly from the administration. We heard the same media reports everyone else heard," said Amanda Flaig, a spokesman for the senator.

© 2003 The Blade

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