Speakers condemned the possibility of students being subject to residence hall room searches, record checking and curriculum changes under the PATRIOT Act at a discussion about the anti-terrorist law Tuesday.
The PATRIOT Act, which was passed after the September 11 terrorist attacks, is intended to protect the United States from future terrorist attacks by allowing the release of certain types of information about individuals. However, panelists said the legislation restricts civil liberties.
About 30 students attended the two-hour discussion in the Marvin Center Amphitheater. The event featured Matt Bowles, a September 11 organizer with the American Civil Liberties Union, and Arsalan Iftikhar, director of Legal Affairs for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Speakers said politically active Arabs or Muslims between the ages of 20 and 40 years old fit the government’s profile of a terrorist, including students active in Muslim or Arab campus groups.
“Racial profiling does not work at all. It is absurd and inefficient,” Bowles said, adding that 87,000 people have had to register with the government since the inception of the PATRIOT Act, 23,000 were deported, and none were charged with terrorism.
Panelists said that under the PATRIOT Act, the government can search students’ residence hall rooms with a “Sneak and Peek Warrant,” without giving the student prior notification. The government can also request students’ records.
“The government can demand to see the library records and transcripts of students without probable cause,” Iftikhar said. “By law librarians and registrars are not allowed to disclose to students that their records have been asked for and given.”
Bowles said the PATRIOT Act not only directly infringes on civil rights but also acts an umbrella for other controversial legislation.
Speakers said they would like to see the PATRIOT Act repealed because it was created 45 days after the September 11 attacks, when Americans were more emotional and fearful.
“It’s not a partisan issue,” Iftikhar said. “Some very conservative voices in Congress have spoken out against it, and some of the most liberal voices have voted for it.”
The Islamic Alliance for Justice and Amnesty International, which hosted the event, also tried to pass a resolution in the Student Association Senate last month, asking the SA to protect students’ rights. The resolution failed in the Senate last week.
“We are going to re-submit the resolution next year,” said Will Donovan, an event organizer and Islamic Alliance for Justice member. “I know that it is a contentious issue, but I don’t think that it is as partisan an issue as the SA believes.”