Vermont Continues the Trend: Becomes Third State to Speak Out Against Federal Abuses Under USA PATRIOT Act

Affiliate: ACLU of Vermont
May 29, 2003 12:00 am

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MONTPELIER – The Vermont State Legislature yesterday gave final passage to the nation’s third statewide resolution calling for the protection of individual liberties in the face of intrusive federal actions taken since 9/11.

The passage of the Vermont resolution brings the nationwide tally to 117 entities that have taken action on city, county or state resolutions around the country. More than 13 million Americans are now living in communities that have chosen to stand up and demand that their freedom not be sacrificed for a false sense of security.

“With the passage of this resolution, Vermont now joins with others around the country in reminding Congress and the President that they — as well as the courts — must be protectors of the Constitution as well as guardians of our safety and security,” said Benson Scotch, Executive Director of the ACLU of Vermont. “Our Legislature has affirmed Vermont’s commitment to protecting the individual freedoms of people everywhere in America and our deep-seated belief that Vermont – and America – can be both safe and free.”

The Vermont Senate adopted the resolution unanimously Wednesday afternoon. The Vermont House of Representatives approved the measure last Friday by a vote of 101 to 23. Democrats control the Senate, while Republicans control the State House.

The resolution is a response to the USA PATRIOT Act, the federal anti-terrorism bill rushed through Congress with little deliberation in the immediate aftermath of September 11. The broad and overreaching bill contains many provisions that erode checks and balances on law enforcement and threaten personal privacy and civil liberties.

Some of the most controversial provisions of the PATRIOT Act lower the standard for the government to access personal records. For example, Section 215 relaxes the criterion for the government to review personal, business and library records. According to Department of Justice (DoJ) testimony, officials from DoJ have visited at least 50 libraries. In response, libraries across the country have been shredding records and posting signs warning patrons that the government can monitor their reading habits. The state legislature via the resolution calls upon Congress to work to correct sections of the USA PATRIOT Act and other measures that unduly restrict personal freedoms.

Vermont’s Congressman Bernie Sanders has introduced legislation that would protect personal library records and bookseller information – information that is accessible to government without adequate safeguards under the USA PATRIOT Act. In the name of protecting freedom, the federal government has taken many steps to curtail it. This resolution affirms Vermont’s bipartisan commitment to protecting civil liberties as we work to make our homes and workplaces the safest in the world.”

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