A roundtable discussion designed to critically examine the USA PATRIOT ACT and City Council RESOLUTION 909, which proposed that New York join 155 cities and 3 states in declaring itself a “Patriot Act Free Zone.” This roundtable explored the effects of The Patriot Act on the fabric and evolution of our culture and, of course, their influence on the state of war and diminishing civil liberties.
“The question always posed is liberty vs. security. But the real question is whose liberty, and whose security?” –Saurav Sarkar
A Brief History of the Patriot Act—
On October 25th, 2001, the US congress passed HR bill 3162, “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism”- AKA the USA PATRIOT ACT. This new package of legislation expanded the powers and rights of law enforcement in the pursuit of suspected terrorists. The 131-page act was passed, with few amendments, in a mere 20 days, suggesting that perhaps in those furious fearful times, many in congress never actually read the entire document.
Overview of Changes to Legal Rights—
Bush proclaimed in response to Sept. 11: “We will find those who did it; we will smoke them out of their holes; we will get them running and we’ll bring them to justice.”
Unfortunately, when the smoke clears, the Constitution will emerge as a badly burned document, and the damage to the nation could be irreparable… (David A. Love)
Some of the fundamental changes to Americans’ legal rights by the Bush administration and the USA Patriot Act following the terror attacks:
FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION
Government may monitor religious and political institutions, without suspecting criminal activity to assist terror investigation.
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION
Government has closed once-public immigration hearings, secretly detained hundreds of people without charges, and encouraged bureaucrats to resist public records requests.
FREEDOM OF SPEECH
Government may prosecute librarians or keepers of any other records if they tell anyone that the government subpoenaed information related to a terror investigation.
RIGHT TO LEGAL REPRESENTATION
Government may monitor federal prison jailhouse conversations between attorneys and clients and deny lawyers to Americans accused of crimes.
FREEDOM FROM UNREASONABLE SEARCHES
Government may search and seize Americans’ papers and effects, without probable cause, to assist terror investigation.
RIGHT TO A SPEEDY AND PUBLIC TRIAL
Government may jail Americans indefinitely without a trial.
RIGHT TO LIBERTY
Americans may be jailed without being charged or being able to confront witnesses against them.
Saurav Sarkar has worked as a Community Organizer on post 9-11 immigration issues at Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) since May of 2002. His work at AALDEF consists primarily of paralegal support, community outreach, advocacy, communications, and grassroots organizing. He has dealt most closely with Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Indonesian communities and focused extensively on the issue of Special Registrations in the overall anti-immigrant climate since 1996 and especially 9-11.
Bill Perkins is a graduate of the Collegiate School in Manhattan and Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island and is a dedicated, outspoken and active participant in many community and political organizations including the NAACP New York Branch Executive Board and Democratic State Committee Member. Currently, he is the Deputy Majority Leader for the New York City Council, representing the Ninth District of Central Harlem, East Harlem, Morningside Heights and the Upper West Side in Manhattan, where he served his community as District Leader for over 20 years. He continues to be effective in raising the public consciousness around HIV/AIDS, rodent and pest management, infant mortality and other important human and civil rights issues.
Michael Ratner – After a clerkship with Judge Constance Baker Motley, Michaelheal Ratner went to work for the Center for Constitutional Rights, where he has served as Legal Director, Vice-president and currently serves as President. Other work includes: Lecturer at the Yale Law School where he taught international human rights litigation, and at The Columbia Law School where he currently teaches; President of the National Lawyers Guild; Special Counsel to Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to assist in the prosecution of human rights crimes; Author and co-author of several books and numerous articles. Among his many honors are: Trial Lawyer of the Year from the Trial lawyers for Public Justice, The Columbia Law School Public Interest Law Foundation Award, and the North Star Community Frederick Douglass Award.