Patriot Act Concerns Community Members

maria-kornalian
el-vaquero-staff-writer/" class="creditline">MARIA KORNALIAN
El Vaquero Staff Writer

“Freedom of expression
means nothing if it is
chilled by the actions of
government,” guest speaker
Gordon M. Conable, president of
the American Library
Association said at January’s
meeting of the American Civil
Liberties Union (ACLU) of
Southern California.

The meeting at the Church of
the Brethren in Glendale
discussed the progress of local
resistance to the act, followed by
Conable’s discussion. Members
meet every few months or so to
inform one another of their
progress.

A representative from
Glendale reported that Rep.
Adam Schiff, D-Glendale, has
not yet supported HR 1157, the
Freedom to Read Protection Act,
a bill presented to the House of
Representatives which would
amend the Foreign Intelligence
Surveillance Act in order to
protect certain rights of libraries
and bookstores. Forty-eight
states have recognized privacy
rights for libraries.

Petitions asking Schiff to cosponsor
the Freedom to Read
Protection Act were distributed
to about 50 audience members
who were urged to get as many
signatures as possible within the
coming weeks.

The Glendale City Council
has voted against an anti-Patriot
Act resolution, while more than
200 other communities, 20 of
them in California, have voted to
support such resolutions.

Petitions were passed to those
that resided in the area to urge
Glendale councilman Bob
Yousefian to change his “no”
vote on the issue to a “yes.”

Various members of the
ACLU explained how section
215 of the act was especially
dangerous to civil liberties. It
allows the FBI to order any
person or entity to turn over “any
tangible things” so long as the
FBI “specif[ies]” that the order
is “for an authorized investigation….”

La Canada Flintridge reported
on the release of their Web site,
which will make it easier for
community members to access
information about upcoming
meetings.

The audience was also
informed of the approaching
Patriot Act Forum, an event
which was held on Feb. 11 at St.
Bede Parish Center in La
Canada. This was another
opportunity in which presenters
were able to discussthe history
and status of civil rights and
homeland security in the states,
as well as major issues and
controversies posed by the
Patriot Act.
The Los Angeles representative
Sharon Murphy presented
the report of Los Angeles,
informing the audience that the
LA City Council passed an anti-
Patriot Act resolution. “[The city
council’s resolution] was a lot of
hard work from a lot of
individuals and groups,”
Murphy said. Los Angeles is the
largest city to pass an anti-
Patriot Act resolution.
Murphy informed the
audience of the ironic twist to
the occasion; the resolution was
passed the day after President
Bush’s State of the Union
address in which he asked
congress for an extension on the
act in order to keep it from sun
setting in 2005.

The 9-2 vote was a big victory
for the ACLU and their efforts to
halt some of what they believe to
be the Patriot Act’s most
devastating blows on civil
liberties.

The act, for example, enables
federal officials to demand from
any library or bookstore any
information regarding the
research or check out of any
material by any patron at any
time.

“Even though the resolution in
its language isn’t the strongest,
the psychological impacts from
the resolution were really
positive,” Murphy said.

The Patriot Act has even
spurred discussion on campus.
Students involved in the People
Against War club have
questioned the need for such an
act. “Civil liberties are curved,”
said club member Jo Takarabe.
“People are being told to trade in
their freedom for security.”
The club, formed in
November 2001, following the
Sept. 11 attacks. “We explain
that military actions are not
justified,” said Takarbe. The club
meets approximately every
week, according to events, in
LB221. They will resume
meetings in March.

Finally Conable, a librarian of
nearly 30 years from Riverside,
spoke to the audience about the
dangers of the Patriot Act.
Conable, who has written
extensively on the Patriot Act, is
known to be one of the most
forthright opponents to the act.

Audience members asked
Conable what kind of responses
could be given to those
proponents who claim the Patriot
Act has not yet called for the
exercising of any of the extreme
powers it has given to the federal
government.

“To that, I say to [U.S.
Attorney General] John
Ashcroft, if you’ve never had to
use it, clearly you don’t need it.
Why not repeal it?” Conable
said. The audience cheered
fervently.

Conable described how every
single hotel in Las Vegas was
asked to hand over a list of all
guests staying in their hotels
during New Year’s Eve as a
safeguard against any terrorist
threats. “That’s the country we
are living in today,” he said.

He also described an incident
where a peaceful protester
holding a sign which read: “Bush
must love the poor, he sure has
made a lot of them,” was
arrested by the Secret Service
from a crowd who was watching
President Bush speak.

The Secret Service claimed
the protester’s stick which held
up the sign could potentially
have been used as a weapon.

“But that did stop them from
arresting the guy standing next to
him holding a sign that read ‘reelect
Bush’,” said Conable.

“That’s not the country I grew
up in. It’s the country I live in
and the country I want back,” he
said.

Conable also criticized the
name that was given to the act.
“Patriot Act…you must not be a
patriot if you oppose it,” he said,
sarcastically.

The meeting was concluded
with a question and comment
session made by audience
members for Conable and their
fellow opponents of the Patriot
Act.