On November 14, 2003-The ACLU issued a Press Release that the Sacramento City Council, voted 8-1 to oppose the controversial Patriot Act before an overflow of community groups.
The reaction to this type of legislation sparked intense debate with more than a hundred people lined up outside the chambers. The vote came quickly after two hours of comments from a wide range of groups and local residents opposing the Patriot Act. The overwhelming support of the City Council is reminiscent of the 1960s political movement and makes Sacramento the 212th community to pass such legislation in the U.S.
On October 26, 2001, just six weeks after the devastation on September 11, Congress passed the USA Patriot Act. The Patriot Act broadens terrorism to include “domestic terrorism” which could possibly be used to attack activist groups within the country. The F.B.I. can now wiretap phones; break into homes and offices, and access financial records without probable cause; it allows the F.B.I. to monitor everything from email to medical records to library records, providing access to once private information.
Sanjeev Bery, organizer for the ACLU of Northern California said, “With California being the capitol of the largest state in the nation, this sends a clear message to Attorney General John Ashcroft-Californians will not stand by and see the Constitution eroded by the USA Patriot Act. This is a real victory for all those who believe and treasure the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.”
Sixty-groups that opposed the Patriot Act were present and scheduled to speak. However, they were cut short part way through a presentation when Councilperson Jimmy Yee said, “I’m ready.”
Senators Larry Craig (R-ID) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) recently introduced bi-partisan legislation to fix the USA Patriot Act, that would roll back some of the worse excesses against the Constitution.The Congress is reviewing the bills entitled -the Security and Freedom Ensured (Safe) Act of 2003. In the house, Representative Butch Otter (R-ID) has introduced a companion Bill.
Under the Safe Act intelligence agents cannot search library records unless an individual is under suspicion of illegal activities with a foreign power. Sneak and peak searches by government agents would be limited; also wide spread searches of personal information without probable cause would be forbidden.
“The Safe Act would not hinder law enforcement agencies need to keep us safe, but would instead insure proper checks and balances on these powers to keep us free,” said Bery. “The movement to fix the Patriot Act is gaining incredible momentum in the Congress and in towns and cities across the nation.”