Implications and Applications of the U.S.A.P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act Will Be Explored by Experts during April 29 Seminar at UB

Legal, security, information specialists to explore act's consequences

Release Date: April 20, 2004 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Experts with differing points of view from the fields of law, national security and information dissemination will participate in a public seminar at the University at Buffalo to explore the impact of the U.S.A.P.A.T.RI.O.T. Act on the country, its laws and institutions.

The UB School of Informatics and the Western New York Library Resources Council (WNYLRC) will hold the seminar from 1:30-4:30 p.m. April 29 in the Center for Tomorrow on the UB North (Amherst) Campus.

The seminar's featured speaker will be Tracy Mitrano, Ph.D., J.D, a former UB faculty member who is a policy advisor and director of the University Computer Policy and Law Program for the Office of Information Technologies at Cornell University and co-director of the EDUCAUSE/Cornell Institute for Computer Policy and Law.

The U.S.A.P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act -- an acronym for The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act -- has excited enthusiastic support, controversy, debate and outrage in many quarters since its passage in 2001.

David Penniman, Ph.D., dean of the UB School of Informatics, says it is very important for the public to continue to scrutinize all laws like the U.S.A.P.A.T.RI.O.T. Act -- laws that are passed quickly in an atmosphere of fear and purport to insure security at the cost of liberties.

"The U.S.A.P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act, which was 100 pages long, was passed very, very fast shortly after 9/11," he notes. "The nation was terrified and many of those who voted for it admit to not having read it closely or completely. Since then, the act has provoked many political and social concerns and now even more laws offering security for the price of curtailments of civil liberty are on our books.

"Among them," Penniman says, "are the Security and Liberty Preservation Act, the Homeland Security Act and even the peer-to-peer piracy law known as the ACCOPS Act of 2003. While it ostensibly has to do with music piracy, ACCOPS has become very controversial because it appears to permit serious invasions of personal privacy in support of commerce. The methods approved are bad enough in and of themselves, opponents say, but they also could easily be abused by business and government.

"The concern is that if we had another terrorist strike, we would give up even more civil liberties in order to feel a little safer," he says. "So we need to be very careful and not make serious decisions about our civil liberties while riding a wave of emotion. We need to think about these laws we have passed under those circumstances," he says.

"Although this panel will offer opinions from both sides of the political, legal and civil liberties spectrum, my personal opinion is that we should always be suspicious of a law whose acronym suggests support of Mom and apple pie.

Penniman adds, "As Ben Franklin is increasingly quoted as saying, 'They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.'"

An early supporter of the act, featured speaker Tracy Mitrano writes and lectures extensively about the importance of taking the mystique out of it by disseminating accurate information about the act itself and about the legal process and protocol upon which it has an actual or potential impact.

She will discuss the effect she thinks the U.S.A.P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act has had on civil privacy, colleges, universities and libraries; comment on her often-stated argument that, in the case of abuse, the act should be revisited in the name of the constitution, and discuss whether or not she thinks that time has come.

Mitrano's talk will be followed by a panel discussion moderated by Gabe DiMaio, of WBFO 88.7 FM, the National Public Radio affiliate operated by UB. Panelists will be Lee Albert, J.D., professor of constitutional law, UB Law School, a critic of the act; Albert Michaels, Ph.D., professor of history at UB and adjunct professor of communication, who supports the act; Michael Mahaney, director of the Buffalo/Erie County Public Libraries, and Paul Mark Moskal, supervisory special agent, Chief Division Council, Federal Bureau of Investigation in Buffalo.

Seminar registration is $25 (general public), $20 (members of the WNYLRC) and $10 (UB students). Checks should be made payable to the WNYLRC and received no later than April 27 by Jessica Tamburlin, WNYLRC, P.O. Box 400, Buffalo, NY 14225-0400.

Questions may be addressed to the Kristen Brill in the UB School of Informatics, 716-645-6481, ext. 1210.

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