So there you are, stuck between the musty shelves in the library, digging for a journal that holds that last bit of information you need to complete your final essay. Suddenly, an FBI agent snakes his way next to you, and breaks the silence with a barrage of questions about what you’re pulling off the shelf and why.
Sound’s ridiculous; why would he care about your research paper? In fact, due to one of the provisions in the USA PATRIOT Act allowing the government to access your library records, this could happen to you. This is not just a hypothetical situation; it actually did happen to a graduate student in the United States.
If you don’t know much about the USA PATRIOT Act, it’s time you got informed. Western’s American Civil Liberties Union is putting on an event called “The Patriot Acts.” There will be a series of short skits that play out actual circumstances that resulted from provisions in the PATRIOT Act. After each scene, a facilitator will involve the audience in a discussion on what exactly happened and why. There will be a local ACLU member present to answer questions and provide factual information.
But what if you’re just not a Poly Sci major, and this stuff seems a bit dense or boring? Dan Larner, the advisor of Western’s ACLU-WA chapter, thinks that you probably should be interested, saying that someone who would be roused by the event would be “anybody who cares about whether or not American citizens are giving away something essential that they’ll never get back.”
The overarching issue that concerns Dr. Larner the most is the conflict that results from trying to preserve national security while also keeping our fundamental freedoms. “Aren’t they surrendering to the terrorists by destroying democracy to be more secure?” he commented.
Are you intrigued, but also a little afraid that you’ll be lost in the torrential flood of information? Although it probably would “help to know basics [about the PATRIOT Act], without prior knowledge, it’s still fascinating because it’s such an important development in history of the government and constitutional ability to respond to situations,” said Larner.
This free event will take place Thursday, October 27 at 7:00 p.m. in the Fairhaven Auditorium. For more information, contact Daniel Larner at 650-4908 or Daniel.Larner@wwu.edu.
If you’re interested in getting involved in more issues that directly affect you (or perhaps need to assuage the guilt brought about by the AS Review’s recent editorial on student apathy), you can easily get involved with Western’s ACLU. A once defunct club on campus, last year brought a crop of students, such as current president Alex Hudson, who breathed life back into the important group. Now they are officially established with both the school and the state ACLU. If you are interested in attending a meeting, you can drop by VU 460 at 6:30 p.m. on any Monday.