Syracuse Opposes the USA PATRIOT Act
by John D. Brulé
Locally, there has been a flurry of activity around the USA PATRIOT Act (USAPA) and the efforts are encouraging. In August, Democratic legislator Mark Stanczyk introduced a resolution to the Onondaga County legislature pointing out faults with USAPA and calling for its revision. On September 2, the legislature voted on it. It failed on strictly party lines by a vote of 13 to 6, with all the Republican legislators opposing the measure. There was, however, a lively debate over the resolution, and that is good.
In April of this year, a coalition was developed under the leadership of the local ACLU Chapter. The Syracuse Peace Council is part of this coalition referred to as the Bill of Rights Defense Campaign, or BORDC. Over the past few months several committees were formed, including a legislative committee. This committee compiled a resolution that addresses the preservation of civil liberties of all individuals living in Syracuse. The resolution was prepared for presentation to the Syracuse Common Council, and educational materials were distributed to the council to assist in their decision-making. The Common Council has nine voting members and a non-voting President.
The resolution expresses concerns that there need be no inherent conflict between national security and the preservation of liberty. It also acknowledges that the USAPA threatens fundamental rights and liberties by a variety of means, including indefinite incarceration of non-citizens based on mere suspicion, granting Federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies broad access to personal records, permitting the FBI to conduct surveillance of religious services, etc.
In response, the resolution affirms the strong commitment of the Common Council to the protection of civil rights and civil liberties and calls for the enactment of resolutions to ensure that sunset dates (expiration dates built into certain USAPA clauses) within the USAPA are honored. The Common Council has no official authority over the Police Department of the City of Syracuse, but calls on them to refrain from utilizing profiling based on ethnicity, language, national origin, religion or religious belief, political affiliation or political belief when initiating investigatory activities, without particularized suspicion of criminal activity.
One concern that can be effectively addressed is the potential for the government to snoop into the reading habits of people who use libraries, buy books, or use the Internet. The resolution urges institutions of higher learning and schools within Syracuse to provide written notice to students as follows: WARNING: Under Section 507 of the Federal USA PATRIOT Act public law 107-56, educational records may be obtained by federal law enforcement agents. This educational institution may be prohibited from informing you if your records have been obtained. Questions about this policy should be directed to: Office of the Attorney General, Department of Justice, Washington, DC 20530 Attention: John Ashcroft. Libraries within the city of Syracuse are requested to post a similar notice.
The resolution was brought before the Syracuse Common Council on September 8, and passed by a vote of seven ayes and one nay. The Aye votes were councilors Bill Simmons, Joane Mahoney, Kate OConnell, Stephanie Miner, Marty Masterpole, Van Robinson, and Mike Atkins. Councilor deRegis had indicated to us that he would support it also, but he was not present at the meeting. Bea Gonzalez, the President of the Common Council also supported it, but she has no vote. Rory McMahan, a Democrat, was the only councilor to vote against the resolution.
This is just the beginning of a continuing campaign to keep in touch with our legislators, both national and state, to keep them informed and let them know we are most interested in how they support civil liberties activities. A crucial interest now is how Congressional representatives Clinton, Schumer and Walsh handle upcoming activity around the even more disastrous Patriot Act II.
There is a national program doing this same work. Check it out at www.bordc.org. Their website provides information on current Congressional legislation related to the USAPA, as well as Congressional voting records, so you can follow up with your local federal representatives regarding their position. There will also be a full meeting of the local BORDC Wednesday, October 1, 7 pm, at 3800 E. Genesee Street. Call 471-2821 for more information.
John has been very active in local efforts to oppose the USAPA and is a long-time supporter of the Syracuse Peace Council.
Syracuse Common Council Resolution
Resolution Addressing the Preservation of Civil Liberties and Civil Rights of All Individuals Living in Syracuse, NY in Response to the USA PATRIOT Act
NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED That THE COMMON COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF SYRACUSE:
Joins communities across the nation in expressing concerns regarding provisions in the USA PATRIOT Act (Public Law 107-56), related executive orders, regulations, and actions that threaten fundamental rights and liberties guaranteed under the United States Constitution
Asks the Common Council President on behalf of the Common Council to seek annually no later than January 31st from federal authorities the following information
The names of all residents of Syracuse who have been arrested or otherwise detained by federal authorities as a result of investigations into either domestic or international terrorism since September 11, 2001;
The nature and scope of federal monitoring of political meetings, religious gatherings or other activities in Syracuse protected by the First Amendment;
The number of times education records have been obtained from schools and institutions of higher learning in Syracuse under Section 507 of the USA PATRIOT ACT;
The number of times public or academic library records have been obtained from libraries in Syracuse under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT ACT;
The number of times that records of books purchased by store patrons have been obtained from bookstores in Syracuse under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act;
To read the complete text of the resolution visit: <http://www.bordc .org/Syracuse-res.htm>