State College residents have drafted a resolution concerning the recently passed USA Patriot and Homeland Security acts in an effort to minimize government surveillance.
Residents, including members of the Congregation Brit Shalom, the Society of Friends and the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, drafted the resolution in defense of the civil liberties they feel are compromised by the acts.
The acts allow the government to investigate credit card purchases, education records, e-mail messages and library records, said Ted Vallance, president of the board of directors for the Central Pennsylvania chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Students’ educational records can also be investigated for any disciplinary action schools have taken against them.
“The acts make it easier for [the government] to investigate you as a threat to security, even with little or no evidence,” Vallance said.
Mark Hayes, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship congregation in State College, said civil liberties have been a concern for his organization.
“A lot of individuals within the congregation are concerned about civil liberties on a federal level,” Hayes said. “It’s actually an issue across the country for us.”
State College has joined Madison, Wis., Ann Arbor, Mich. — where the University of Wisconsin and University of Michigan are located — and about 21 other municipalities in supporting similar resolutions to reduce the legal amount of surveillance in their communities.
“The concern with Homeland Security is that our agencies Ã~ the CIA, FBI, police and so on Ã~ can investigate and look at people to see if they have any connection with terrorism or support terrorists,” State College Borough Council President Richard McCarl said. “The worry is that the new securities would infringe on individual rights and that there would be investigations into a person’s life without that person knowing.”
Andrew Shubin, a member of the board of directors for the Central Pennsylvania ACLU, said communities allocate their resources into different avenues, allowing them to focus on problems they believe to be pertinent to their areas.
“In State College, we value diversity. It doesn’t scare us, it makes us a better place,” Shubin said. “We don’t agree with monitoring people based on their national origin.”
The resolution would encourage the council to refrain from allocating funds for such surveillance.
“A lot of people are interested in protecting the Bill of Rights,” Vallance said.
“And we basically want to urge the government to make these new laws less risky.”
The Borough Council legal team will review the resolution for discussion at the Jan. 24 work session.
“We don’t doubt them, we just need to look into it further,” McCarl said.
By Lauren Plattner
Collegian Staff Writer