Council Challenges PATRIOT Act
The Raleigh City Council debates the constitutionality
of the USA Patriot Act.
James Sellers (Technician Article )
City Council passed a resolution, 5-3, encouraging Congress to
uphold the Constitution where it conflicts with the USA Patriot
Act and to revise portions of the Act that may conflict with the
Constitution after a public hearing Tuesday.
The resolution was originally introduced
by a Wake County branch of the American Civil Liberties Union
and involved several campus groups. The City Council sent the
resolution to the Human Relations Committee for revisions. The
final version of the resolution stats that “Whereas the
provisions of the Constitution apply in wartime as in peace; and
to violate or depart from them under the plea of necessity or
any other plea is subversive of good government. Therefore be
it resolved: the City Council of Raleigh: maintains that the constitution,
including the Bill of Rights, is the ultimate legal authority
whenever its provisions conflict with those of the USA PATRIOT
Act or other federal executive orders.”
Much of the public debate was dominated
by the U.S. Attorney General’s office.
The council allocated 15 minutes each
for both proponents and opponents of the resolution to address
the council. Due to an overwhelming amount of people in support
of the resolution, the council extended that time to 25 minutes.
Only one Raleigh citizen spoke in favor of the resolution, essentially
limiting that side of the argument to the U.S. Attorney General’s
Thomas Crowder, city council representative
for District D, voted to pass the city council’s revised
resolution, although he voiced opposition to the Human Relations
Committee’s version based on his lack of knowledge of specific
instances of civil liberty violations cited in the resolution.
“I think for us to sit here and
say that in the 45 days, the time that Congress looked at this
in the heat of 9/11, that all decisions were made very carefully
and every potential conflict was seen at that time, to say that
everything in this document is constitutional is not necessarily
safe.” Crowder said.
In response to Philip
Isley’s voiced opposition to city involvement in federal
West commented on the responsibility of City
Council to the citizens of Raleigh.
“ I think that this discussion is
citizenship in action, I have heard some compelling statements
on both sides and I think that we have had a very good process
because it was educational and helps all of us to be better citizens.”
According to the ACLU, “just 45
days after the Sept. 11 attacks, with virtually no debate, Congress
passed the USA PATRIOT Act. Many parts of this
opposed the resolution
sweeping legislation take away checks
on law enforcement and threaten the very rights and freedoms that
we are Struggling to protect.”
The Coalition USA
PATRIOT Act Resolution opposes these dubious portions of the USA
Councilor Neal Hunt opposed the resolution
stating that the council does not have time to be involved in
“Theses folks out there are trying
to kill us, they want us dead, we need to do whatever we can to
protect ourselves.” Hunt said.
The resolution is also a waste of time
for an already busy city council, according to Hunt.
Following the passage of the resolution,
Councilor Isley challenged a point of order, stating that the
resolution had been fundamentally changed and constituted a new
resolution which would therefore need two weeks deliberation,
which Hunt supported. The council voted against his challenge
in a 4-4 vote, after testimony from the city attorney concerning
city council policy towards amendments to resolutions before the
original resolution was altered after the public hearing in the
substitution motion by Cowell. The alteration concerned specific
accusations of civil liberty violation that the city council
did not feel knowledgeable enough to address.
The resolution was originally introduced
to the City Council by a broad citizen coalition instigated by
the Wake County American Civil Liberties Union and including the
American Civil Liberties Union at NCSU and Peggy E. Hoon, NCSU
Libraries Scholarly Communication Librarian.
It has been supported via physical presence
at crucial city county meetings by many campus organizations,
including the ACLU at NCSU, Campus Greens, the Linux User Group
and the Student Peace Action Network.
At the June 1 City Council meeting, the
Human Relations committee introduced its revisions to the original
coalition backed resolution.
According to the Wake ACLU Web site, the
coalition supports the Human Relations committee’s changes.
At the June 1 meeting Councilor Isley opposed a vote on the resolution.
The Wake ACLU points out, however, that “Both the Assistant
U.S. Attorney and Coalition representatives were present May 25th
when the HRC finalized their revisions and stated the revisions
would be presented to the Council on June 1.”