The Patriot Act was passed on October 26, 2001 in an attempt to eliminate terrorism, and was influenced by 9/11. However, it was agreed upon by officials and citizens that security did indeed need to be increased, but the intensity of the act was intended to be temporary. According to Stacey Schlau, a faculty member of West Chester University “Two hundred and sixty communities in 37 states in the U.S., including three states, have passed resolutions urging curbs on the Patriot Act. Four out of five largest cities, including Philadelphia, have done so.” Initially, many viewed the Patriot Act as a positive contract, which ensured the security of the States. Later, it became known that this act enabled officials to invade the privacy and confidentiality of citizens, in the name of “terrorism.”
Schlau, on April 9, 2004, proposed a resolution to the Senate prompted by other colleges and universities that were proposing the same ideas. The Patriot Act allows officials to ignore citizens’ rights, granted to them by the Bill of Rights. The first and fourth amendments are ones that seem to be especially ignored, according to Schlau, who says, “In terms of surveillance, the law vastly expands the government’s authority to spy on its own citizens, while simultaneously reducing checks and balancing powers like judicial oversight…and the ability to challenge government searches in courts. She elaborates that these have been demonstrated in four aspects, the first being records searches, which “expands the governments ability to look at records on an activity held by third parties.” The second consists of Secret Searches, which enables the government to “search private property” without notifying the owners. The third aspect is intelligence searches, of which Schlau states: “They expand a narrow exception of the fourth amendment that had been created for the collection of foreign intelligence information.”
And the fourth aspect, trap and trace searches, allows for an agency that collects addressing information about the origin and destination of communication, rather than the content.
The main reason that these have become major issues is that persons who simply look suspicious are targeted. According to Schlau, a person may be a target, without even being aware, of a private investigation. She gave such possible examples as a person being targeted because their physical appearance does not match their choice of hobbies, or simply because they [government] do not like the books the person reads, or the Web sites that they visit.
She continued by relating that people are responding in a variety of ways to retain the rights granted to them by the Constitution. For example, says Schlau, “Librarians have refused to turn over lending records to federal agents.” Instead, at times they omit the information when the books are returned. In addition, there are five universities that have passed a similar resolution. These other universities, says Schlau, are Appalachia State, California state, Muhlenberg, and the University of California.
Stephen Marvin, a librarian at West Chester University relates his current involvement with the resolution. He states that his interest is a “personal” one. He believes that the Patriot Act exceeded its limits, infringing on citizens’ rights. Marvin is the current president of the Philadelphia Chapter of the Special Libraries Association. He explained that they support the resolution, and that he credits Schlau for proposing it, and getting the ball rolling for West Chester. He continued that it is not that they want the Patriot Act completely abolished, but simply the opportunity to maintain the same rights as before without being treated as a suspect.
The Borough mayor, Dick Yoder, in an e-mail to Stephen Marvin admitted that, so far, ” The West Chester Police Department received no complaints concerning the violation of civil rights or liberties as a result of the current Patriot Act.” Despite this, Yoder states, “I cannot support the current effort of the resolution.” He concludes that he cannot endorse the faculty Senate resolution, and requests that his name, as well as the West Chester Police Department, be removed from the resolution. Marvin states that they have hopes of the “U.S. Patriot Act becoming expired without renewal after December,” simply because with it rights are taken away, and as long as it is in place, a curb will never be allowed. Schlau concludes, “We, as academics, need to be afraid that the extraordinary power granted in the Patriot Act severely threatens civil liberties.”