PATRIOT Act stirs passionate debate

The name alone grabs people’s attention and creates passionate dialogue between supporters and critics: The US Patriot Act. Friday afternoon friends, foes, and political novices met in the Main Building to hear from a panel of experts debating the controversial law. This panel of speakers ranged from professors from St. Mary’s University, UT School of Law, Thurgood Marshall School of Law, the US Attorney’s Office as well as an attorney from the American Civil Liberties Union.

Over 300 students attended the seminar, which was sponsored by the UTSA’s Graduate Political Science Association (GPSA), Political Science Department, and Americans for Informed Democracy.

“I believe this event was remarkably successful in providing a forum for an open and transparent debate regarding the Patriot Act.

“Two of our main goals as an organization are to advance students’ awareness of public policy and to promote civic awareness, and I truly believe we succeeded in achieving both of these objectives today,” organizer and president of GPSA Leo Casanova said.

Dr.. Milo Colton of St. Mary’s University also raised eyebrows of some by arguing that Americans should look at their government’s actions to understand the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the Muslim view towards America.

Near the end of the debate passions flared as Lino Graglia of UT School of Law was challenged by political science professor Mansour El-Kikhia regarding the detention of suspected terrorist Jose Padilla. Padilla has been held for nearly three years without trial under the authority granted by the Patriot Act. Graglia defend government saying it was an isolated case.

Dr. Graglia later made a statement describing Arabs prior to western advancements that some found offensive. El-Kikhia, who hails from Libya, later responded by shouting “you’re full of it.”

Attendees included students and faculty curious to hear various viewpoints. Political science professor Stephen Amberg, who was in attendance, said “this is a subject that needs to be addressed, whether we realize it or not it affects us all, and where better to have it than at a university.” Graduate student Matthew McCarty who attended the discussion said “overall I think the Patriot Act is necessary, but there are still portions that I feel need to be looked at and addressed.”

The Patriot Act was passed by congress and signed into law by President Bush, just six weeks after the September 11th terrorist attacks. Opponents argue that it gives the government too much power in monitoring citizens and violates the constitution, while supporters say it is necessary to prevent another 9/11 and uncover terrorist cells. “American government has a history filled with limiting the rights of its citizens,” said Patrick Filyk Vice of the San Antonio Chapter of the ACLU.

In October of last year UTSA’s Student Government Association narrowly passed a resolution condemning the Patriot Act, stating that it violated the constitutional rights of students.