INTRO: On Saturday afternoon, in a speech co-sponsored by WMNF along with the Tampa ACLU and a group called Tampa Safe AND Free, Washington DC based Constitutional Attorney David Cole spoke to a crowd estimated around 150 people regarding civil liberties in America post 9/11.

Many Tampa citizens are already familiar with Cole, who was one of several immigration and constitutional attorneys who defended fromer USF instructor Mazen Al-Najjar, who was held in Florida jails for over 3 ½ years under Secret Evidence...Cole said that Al-Najjar's release in December of 2000 was one of the highlight's of his legal career, though Al-Najaar was subsequently imprisoned again before he was deported over a year ago.

The theme of Cole's hour long speech was that though there has been fear and anger at the implementation of the USA Patriot Act, MOST Americans have NOT suffered any loss to their civil liberties since September 11th.

Instead, he said, it has been Arabs and Muslims that have felt the brunt of the crackdowns (roll tape#1 o.q."who cannot vote")

As noted by Professor Cole, the U.S. Senate approved the USA Patriot Act in October of 2001 by a 98-1 vote. And since that time over 270 cities, counties or government municipalities have passed resolutions criticizing at least portions of that controversial law.....But Cole said that some of the most discussed provisions - such the government's ability to access Library records - are NOT the worst parts of that bill (roll tape#2 o.q."immigration provisions")

In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, The Justice Department, led by Attorney General John Ashcroft, locked up over 5,000 foreign nationals- mostly Arabs and or/Muslims......Cole said NOT 1 of them has been charged with being associated with Al Queda or the 9/11 attacks.

Cole said he is involved in the legal case of Mahar Arar, whose tale appears to be one of the most shameful committed by the US in the past couple of years.....Arar is a Canadian who was deported by the US to Syria where he was held on terror charges until he was released after a year in jail Cole says that Arar was traveling back from abroad to Canada when he changed planes at JFK Airport in New York City . (roll tape#3 o.q."any type of terrorism")

Although David Cole is not involved in former USF professor Sami Al-Arian's legal case, he is quite familiar with Al-Arian's situation. Al-Arian was a large presence in the various immigration hearings for his brother-in law, Mazen Al-Najjar. Much has been written that the passage of the USA Patriot Act broke down "the wall" separating intelligence between law enforcement intelligence...But David Cole doesn't agree (roll tape#1 o.q."on terrorism")

Cole said that a lot of progress HAS been made in that more Americans are concerned about Civil Liberties over the past couple of years - and that's encouraging (roll tape#5 o.q."that are speaking out")

Although 270 cities and municipalties have passed Anti-Patriot Act resolutions, Tampa is not one of them. But now the Tampa ACLU and the group Tampa:Safe AND Free is working to get such a resolution passed at the Tampa City Council.

Tampa Attorney Shelley Reback is from Tampa Safe and Free (roll tape#6 o.q."Tampa Safe and Free Website")

OUTRO: Tampa Safe and Free will go before the Tampa City Council on Thursday night, April 15th at 5:30 PM.

comments powered by Disqus