Extraordinary: The city most wounded by the Sept. 11 attacks makes a powerful statement about the Patriot Act: No thanks. The City Council has passed a resolution affirming the US Constitution and rejecting the bill, which was run through Congress in the wake of 9/11 with little debate. Some excerpts:
Whereas, The City of New York has a diverse population, including immigrants and students, whose contributions to the city are vital to its economy, culture and civic character; and
Whereas, The members of the Council of the City of New York believe that there is no inherent conflict between national security and the preservation of liberty — Americans can be both safe and free; and
Whereas, Government security measures that undermine fundamental rights do damage to the American institutions and values that the residents of the City of New York hold dear; and
Whereas, Federal, state and local governments should protect the public from terrorist attacks, such as those that occurred on September 11, 2001, but should do so in a rational and deliberative fashion in order to ensure that security measures enhance the public safety without impairing constitutional rights or infringing on civil liberties….
….Resolved, That the Council of the City of New York opposes requests by federal authorities that, if granted, would cause agencies of the City of New York to exercise powers or cooperate in the exercise of powers in apparent violation of any city ordinance or the laws or Constitution of this State or the United States; and be it further
Resolved, That the Council of the City of New York urges each of the City’s public libraries to inform library patrons that Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act gives the government new authority to monitor book-borrowing and Internet activities without patrons’ knowledge or consent and that this law prohibits library staff from informing patrons if federal agents have requested patrons’ library records….
The resolution makes for great reading, and a powerful statement. It goes on to demand that Federal officials who make information requests under the Patriot Act’s veil of secrecy be held accountable, and that citizens who have been investigated without their knowledge be informed. (One of the Patriot Act’s most frightening aspects is the government’s ability to demand the records of businesses and libraries, and force those who give up those records to remain silent about it). Bravo, New York City. If only the private sector had the same courage …