Patriot Act Erodes Freedom, Activists Say

Article excerpt

Byline: Jim Feehan The Register-Guard

An anti-terrorism law passed in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks continues to threaten democracy in the United States, civil liberties leaders and activists said at a Thursday forum that looked at the effects of the measure on personal freedoms.

Citizen groups have become increasingly organized and forceful in condemning the Patriot Act and the Homeland Security Act for giving the federal government too much power, said Dave Fidanque of the American Civil Liberties of Oregon.

That's especially true of a draft of the Justice Department's proposed sequel to the Patriot Act, dubbed Patriot II, he said, adding that such public policy has been shrouded in secrecy.

"The use of federal statute is symptomatic of (Attorney General John) Ashcroft and the Bush administration," he said. "The secrecy, the surveillance ... the closed court proceedings - these steps run counter to our Constitution."

Eugene became the 15th city in the nation last November to pass an ordinance seeking reform or repeal of the Patriot Act. Efforts are also under way for a countywide ordinance along the same lines.

Government watchdog groups have accused the federal government of trying to compile information on political dissidents, pry into people's library and bookstore records, and turn neighbor against neighbor.

Guadalupe Quinn, Lane County regional coordinator of CAUSA, an immigrant rights group, said the Patriot Act and the Homeland Security Act have set immigration reform back 10 years. …