efforts to counteract the USA P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act’s many civil-liberties
infringements will come one step closer to fruition on Monday,
when a resolution opposing the federal legislation will be
introduced into the Albany Common Council.
Alderman Dominick Calsolaro (Ward 1) will present the council
with a resolution asking federal and local law enforcement
within the city not to take American citizens’ basic rights
for granted while engaged in terrorism-related investigations.
Calsolaro’s resolution specifically asks law enforcement officials
“to continue to . . . uphold and defend citizens’ civil rights,”
and to issue a monthly public report to the Common Council
showing the extent to which they have acted under the P.A.T.R.I.O.T.
say the attacks on our country were because of our rights
and our freedoms,” Calsolaro said, “I find it a little hypocritical
to go to war to defend the country and to defend your rights,
but we have to take [them] away to do that.”
In the past month, a number of local activists have worked
to educate Albanians about the USA P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act and
enlist support for the resolution. Heidi Siegfried, interim
director of the Capital Region Chapter of the New York Civil
Liberties Union until March 7, participated in an educational
forum on the P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act held at the Albany Public
Library on Feb. 12.
been trying to make this an educational bill as well,” said
Siegfried. “Part of the reason why we had the P.A.T.R.I.O.T.
Act forum [was to] to show how this affects our everyday lives.
People don’t realize that it affects everyday life. They think
it is just an immigrant problem, but it affects everybody.”
The USA P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act, which stands for Uniting and Strengthening
America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept
and Obstruct Terrorism, was created by U.S. Attorney General
John Ashcroft and the Department of Justice, and was hastily
passed by Congress shortly after the attacks of Sept. 11,
Since President Bush signed the P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act into law
on Oct. 26, 2001, civil libertarians have pointed to new,
broadly defined criminal categories and far-reaching powers
of surveillance granted to law enforcement as evidence that
the basic rights granted to every U.S. citizen by the Bill
of Rights are being violated.
In one of the P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act’s more Orwellian examples
of civil-liberties infringement, the legislation expanded
the authority of law enforcement to obtain records from libraries
and bookstores pertaining to the reading habits of individuals,
and forbids librarians and bookstore personnel from disclosing
that they have been asked to do so.
If the measure passes, Albany would be the third city in the
state to adopt such a resolution, joining Ithaca and New Paltz,
and 61 other localities nationwide.
The Common Council meeting will be held at Albany City Hall,
24 Eagle St., on Monday (March 17) in the council chambers
on the second floor. A public comment period, lasting up to
one half-hour, will be the first agenda item.