Santa Clara opposes Patriot Act
By Brendan Marten
Summer Managing Editor
Thursday, August 21, 2003
The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution opposing the U.S. Patriot Act in a four-to-one vote on Tuesday. By doing so, the county has joined 150 other communities across the country in opposing the government’s policies resulting from the controversial Patriot legislation.
The Patriot Act, passed by the U.S. Congress on Oct. 24, 2001, shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, has been assailed by critics as compromising critical civil liberties granted to Americans in the Bill of Rights. Proponents, on the other hand, argue that the measures are necessary and appropriate to ensure homeland security.
The effort to obtain the resolution’s approval was spearheaded by a coalition group called Silicon Valley for Civil Rights, in addition to assistance provided by organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union, SEIU Local 715, South Bay Mobilization and others.
“I truly believe that our fellow Americans are open-minded, kind, generous and fair people,” said Samina Faheem, executive director of American Muslim Voice and a member of the Silicon Valley for Civil Rights Coalition. “They would not stand for unjust treatment of anybody in our country. Together we can build the most beautiful diverse human wall of resistance and support, one that can’t be shaken. My dream is to help America remain a country where all of us feel at home.”
However, some maintain that laws like the Patriot Act are exactly what is needed to provide a sense of comfort in the less predictable contemporary global environment.
“How are you going to crack down on terrorists when investigators can’t even read their e-mails planning new attacks?” asked Adam Haas, a rising junior. “Everyone makes these anti-terrorism laws out to be so horrible, but if you read the fine print, there are only select situations under which these extended powers can be utilized by government offices. It is all really much ado about nothing.”
According to the Coalition, it is currently making efforts to have a similar resolution passed in San Jose. The city of Palo Alto already took a stand against the Patriot Act in early June.
Faheem explained that she worked as part of the group that helped bring the matter to the Palo Alto City Council’s attention.
“We really worked hard in Palo Alto,” she said. “We talked to city council members, we talked with the police chief, we talked with the mayor — finally, when it did pass, it is now one of the toughest resolutions that has been passed in the country.”
She stated that while there is a need to prevent future terrorist attacks, she thinks legislation like the Patriot Act is the wrong way to achieve this goal.
“Since 9 / 11, we spent billions of dollars on all these special programs,” she said. “I don’t think any of us feel any safer since we did then. It was the worst tragedy of our country. But making someone else pay for that will not increase our security.”