March 10, 2004

Panelists view and discuss film, answer questions

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Last night, three expert panelists put the Patriot Act under the microscope. Prof. Stephen P. Garvey, law and Caroline Lee, Immigration Attorney for True, Walsh, & Miller, LLP, spoke in-depth on how the Patriot Act has enhanced federal surveillance and immigration procedures. These lectures were followed by a question-and-answer session with Greg West, assistant U.S. attorney with 23 years experience in the criminal justice system, on the Patriot Act and the protection of civil rights.

The conference was initiated with the showing of Of Right and Wrong, a movie produced by the Alliance for Justice two years ago. The movie started with an introduction by Susan Sarandon and continued with interviews with college professors and students about their thoughts on the Patriot Act and its effect on civil liberties. Further, comparisons were made between the alleged government persecution of Muslims in response to September 11th and past government actions such as the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

“One of the underlying themes of the movie was that the Patriot Act promotes racism,” said West.

“The interest, concerns, and questions [on the Patriot Act] remain to be significant to all of American society, for Cornell, and for higher education, in particular. Given that the University has a mission for teaching research and outreach, it is imminently appropriate that we ask these questions and discuss these concerns in the spirit at open inquiry,” said Tracy Mitrano, director of the University Computer Policy and Law Program.

Garvey spoke on Title II of the Patriot Act — Enhancing Surveillance Procedure. He explained past investigative procedures, changes under the Patriot Act, and addressed the Constitutionality of such changes. He cited several expansions in the ability of investigators to search property and tap phones.

Under previous law, Garvey said that investigators had to leave notice of a search. The Patriot Act “permits delayed notice of search warrants where court determines that immediate notice would have an “adverse result”. These have been termed “sneak-and-peek” warrants and apply only to investigations that deal with foreign intelligence.

“Sneak-and-peek warrants allow the government to search without providing notice immediately,” said Garvey. “There was authority prior to the Patriot Act for courts to issue these kinds of warrants.”

On the legality of these searches Garvey concluded, “These warrants will survive constitutional review.”

Later in the conference, West said, “We have used sneak-and-peek warrants with the authorization of the courts for a long time.”

Peter Hirtle, a Cornell staff member, expressed his view that “There should be some way of opening up the FISA court information to the public,” referring to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act which prevents disclosure of wire taps and searches on the grounds that terrorist could take advantage of such information.

Garvey then talked of the expanded use of pen registers — devices that collect numbers dialed in and out of telephones.

“The Patriot Act changes the definition of a pen register … the government can now use pen registers in order to capture electronic info, such as the websites you visit,” Garvey said.

“I think a lot of the public reaction to the Patriot Act might be the reaction to the realization of what the government can already do.” Garvey said.

Lee discussed Title IV of the Patriot Act on Immigration. “The Patriot Act is not the source of authority for detaining individuals in Guantanamo Bay,” Lee said.

According to Lee, the Patriot Act only deals with non-U.S. citizens and aims to identify and detain terrorists before they enter the United States. Additionally, it only regulates the profiling of people trying to enter the country legally. She discussed the implementation of the US-VISIT program, which uses biometric technology as part of a new set of procedures for entering and exiting the country. US-VISIT was installed on Jan. 5 at 115 airports and 14 seaports across the country. Lee claimed US-VISIT should detect individuals who have stayed in the country beyond their allotted time.

West then answered questions with audience members in a discussion format.

Regarding the attorney general, West stated “I wish Ashcroft had the opportunity to get around and talk to more people the way I do,” said West “He would defend to the death our right as Americans to discuss [the Patriot Act].”

West finished the conference with a final note: “Don’t give up everything you stand for … because we have to pass this on to those who follow.”

The audience was held in RPCC auditorium and attended by approximately 40 people. The event was the conclusion to a three part series on the Patriot Act presented by the Office of Information Technologies.

Archived article by Casey Holmes