November 3, 2003
The City of Greenbelt values diversity and believes it is a key component of a communitys character. Our City has a long tradition of protecting and expanding human rights and civil liberties for all our residents, including non-citizens and immigrants. Our Community Pledge, adopted in September, 2001, specifically pledges "to foster a community which is respectful, safe and fair for all."
The United States Constitution, through the Bill of Rights, guarantees certain rights we regard as fundamental. These include: freedom of religion, speech, assembly and privacy; protection from unreasonable searches and seizures; due process and equal protection; equality before the law and presumption of innocence; access to counsel; and the right to a speedy, public trial. The Maryland Constitution states that these provisions apply both in times of peace and times of war. Anything that undermines these constitutional protections is unacceptable.
For these reasons, the City of Greenbelt has grave concerns about certain provisions of the Patriot Act (Public Law 107-56). These concerns include, but are not limited to:
Another serious concern is the speed at which this legislation was passed following the attacks of September 11, 2001. The Patriot Act is 131 pages long and, in many cases, references other Federal laws. While understanding the need to strengthen our anti-terrorism laws and respond to the tragic events of September 11, it is difficult to believe that this law was given adequate review and scrutiny.
The Patriot Act has placed us as Council Members, and particularly our law enforcement personnel, in a difficult position. We all have taken oaths to support the U.S. and State Constitutions. Provisions of the Patriot Act could force us to choose between enforcing a Federal law and defending constitutionally protected rights.
This is not the first time our City has been confronted with a situation where national security concerns seem to trump individual rights. In the 1950s during the McCarthy era, Greenbelt was unfairly labeled communistic and referred to as "Commiebelt." A prominent resident was fired from his Federal government job for being a "security risk" because of his community associations. Ultimately, the firing was reversed, thanks to legal challenges and action by our community.
We join almost 200 other U.S. cities in strongly expressing these concerns and in urging you to carefully monitor the Patriot Act and the Executive Orders which implement it. We understand that efforts are underway to amend the Patriot Act and ask that you aggressively work to repeal those sections of the Patriot Act which violate and threaten the fundamental rights and liberties which are guaranteed by the United States Constitution. We also ask that you not enact any similar legislation without careful and deliberate investigation and open discussion.
Judith F. Davis, Mayor
Rodney M. Roberts, Mayor Pro-Tem Edward V. J. Putens, City Council
Alan Turnbull, City Council Thomas X. White, City Council
cc: 22nd District Delegation
The Honorable Douglas J.J. Peters
The Honorable Peter A. Shapiro
City Department Heads