a burst of applause from the dozen civil libertarians who
came out to support the measure, the Albany Common Council
passed a resolution Monday (May 19) calling for a repeal of
the USA P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act.
In doing so, Albany joined 108 other towns, cities and counties
nationwide whose local governments have expressed opposition
to the federal legislation pushed through Congress after the
terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The Patriot Act (which stands for Uniting and Strengthening
America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept
and Obstruct Terrorism) grants law enforcement greater and
easier access to telephone, medical, library and other personal
information of individuals suspected of terrorist activities.
Civil libertarians have long decried the law, saying many
of its provisions infringe upon the basic civil liberties
granted to all U.S. citizens by the Bill of Rights.
The Council passed the resolution, sponsored by Alderman James
Sano (Ward 9), 10-3 after nearly two months of deliberation
and three drafts of a measure that came up against a fair
amount of opposition. Alderman Daniel Herring (Ward 13), Joseph
Igoe (Ward 14) and Sandra Fox (Ward 15) voted against the
resolution Monday night.
do have serious issues with the Patriot Act, but we lost focus
in the grandstanding—passing the resolution became a P.R.
exercise rather than a look at the serious issues,” Herring
said. “This resolution didn’t even recognize the current debate
about repealing the sunset provisions attached to the Patriot
But Alderman Dominick Calsolaro (Ward 1), who initially introduced
a resolution in March asking local law enforcement to inform
the council when taking part in terrorism-related investigations
that could possibly infringe on citizens’ civil liberties,
was pleased that his months of work had come to fruition.
had this open and free discussion for months, yet we have
some who were afraid to vote on the issue,” said Calsolaro,
who cosponsored the resolution. “It took a few months, but
I’d rather take the time and have a good resolution rather
than do it hastily and have it fail.”
Melanie Trimble, executive director of the Capital Region
Chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said local
resolutions like Albany’s are important because they help
raise issues of constitutionality related to the Patriot Act.
is great debate about whether localities can blatantly ignore
federal law and go by their local law,” Trimble said. “There
are a lot of legal issues involved as to how well these things
can be enforced, but unless you find a brave local legislative
body [to challenge the Patriot Act’s provisions], we will
never see the law tested in court.”