The American Civil Liberties Union has embarked on a campaign to educate the public about the USA Patriot Act and other new policies, which the ACLU says, nullify many provisions in the Bill of Rights and the US Constitution. ACLU representatives were in Tampa today to discuss how the Patriot Act affects immigrants, Americans, and Floridians. WMNF’s Amy Snider files this report:

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That was Dalia Hashad, an attorney for the ACLU’s racial profiling division from Washington, DC, who was at the John German Public Library in Tampa to discuss the USA Patriot Act. The Patriot Act was quickly passed by Congress, and signed into law by President Bush, on October 26, 2001, in response to the terrorist acts of September 11, 2001. The Act’s goal is to intercept and obstruct terrorism.

ACLU spokespeople say that it is the government’s duty to protect residents. However, they say that the Patriot act, and other measures which are supposed to prevent terrorism, are ineffective and have stripped away Constitutional checks and balances, and Bill of Rights Protections. Particularly hard hit by the Patriot act are men of Arab descent who are Muslims.

In addition to the Patriot Act, Operation Liberty Shield is hurting many non-citizens:

Hashad actuality

The Patriot act required men from 33 mostly Arab countries to report to immigration officials. While thousands of Arab and Muslim men have been detained in jails throughout the country, including Bradenton, ACLU representatives say that no terrorists have been caught as a result of the roundup, as, they say, a terrorist is not likely to report to Immigration officials. It is law abiding men, and their families, they say, who are suffering.

Carol Mehlman is a former Tampa city council candidate, and, an immigration lawyer. She discusses the fate of her clients:


Dalia Hashad of the ACLU bellieves that the Bush administration is targeting the entire Muslim religion, however, she said, the Patriot Act affects everyone. Patrice Webb is a 9/11 field organizer with the ACLU:

Webb re:free speech

Attorney Hashad discusses the Patriot Act’s “sneak and peek� search warrants:

Hashad actuality

The ACLU’s Patrice Webb expands on the Patriot Act’s invasion of privacy:

Webb re:libraries

Webb stated that under the Patriot Act, doctors might be required to give medical record to government officials, without the patient’s consent or knowledge.

Attorney Hashad discusses how the Patriot act affects air travel:


The Patriot Act’s possible successor, the Patriot Act 2, contains even more violations of privacy rights, says the ACLU. Attorney Hashad:


The ACLU explained that conditions in Florida are actually more onerous than in other states. Florida, they say, has been used as a guinea pig to test several law enforcement initiatives, spearheaded by Governor Bush. These including having local police working with the Department of Justice to create a database of suspected terrorist activity, tying drivers’ licenses to immigration status, and Operation On Guard, in which boaters and fisherman have been told to report any suspicious activity on the waterways to the Coast Guard. Face scanning technology, used at the Super bowl and in YBOR city, may now be used on Ocean Drive in Miami.

The good news, says the ACLU, is that 102 resolutions have been passed in 23 areas of the country to strongly oppose the Patriot Act. The state of Hawaii passed an anti-patriot act resolution, and Broward County followed suit just yesterday. Meredith Tupper is working to have the Hillsborough County Commission pass an anti-Patriot act resolution, but says that she needs a great deal more public support to make that happen.

The ACLU is holding another public information forum on the USA Patriot Act Friday night at the New College in Sarasota. The event will be held at the Sudikoff Center from 7 to 9 pm. For WMNF news, this is Amy Snider.

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