AskWHYBlog: Carol Harvey In San Francisco

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Friday, January 28, 2005


There he is with his shock of white hair, the 64-year old Independent Vermont Representative, still stumping his small state from stem to stern to keep his seat in Congress! He does this even though polls show him far ahead of all comers.

Vermonters know him as simply "Bernie."

Born in Brooklyn, educated in Chicago, Bernie Sanders became Burlington's first socialist Mayor in 1981. His website touts Bernie as the "champion of the forgotten people --- seniors, veterans, and farmers."

Sanders works in a strong coalition with Vermont Senators, Patrick Leahy and Jim Jeffords.

His causes are the class war of rich on poor, globalization and loss of jobs, inability of fixed income seniors to purchase prescription medications, the destruction of social security, media consolidation, and loss of Constitutional Rights specifically through the Patriot Act's Section 215.

Since 2003, Bernie has worked hard, in particular, to undo the corrosive effects of Section 215 on private citizens' rights to check out books from the local library free from the fear that the FBI can confiscate records to scrutinize their reading habits. Under this Act, your very thoughts can be monitored. If, for example, you withdraw a book to understand how Al Kaida operates, you risk being investigated as a suspected terrorist.

In an article, first published by the Los Angeles Times Thursday May 8, 2003,'Pulling FBI's Nose Out of Your Books,' Bernie pointed out the "chilling effect" such unfettered snooping can have on the creative thinking of Americans.

Under Section 215 of The Patriot Act, The FBI can:

1. Seize circulation, purchasing and other records of library users and bookstores.
2. For no other reason than the records are part of a terrorism investigation.

In the past, the FBI could seize records but had to prove the people whose records they took were involved in terrorist activities.

The Patriot Act swore to secrecy the institutions that the FBI forced to hand over the information. This allowed the U.S. Government to violate a citizen’s Constitutional Right of Free Speech without their knowledge or consent.

Bernie Sanders understands the real threat posed by terrorism, but he does not believe we can fight it by depriving ourselves of the Constitutionally guaranteed freedoms that define our Country.

Rep. Sanders voted against the Patriot Act.

Then he introduced "The Freedom To Read Act," an effort to repeal Section 215. For this, the American Librarian Association's Library Journal conferred on him the award of Politician of the Year for 2003.

Later, Bernie introduced a similar measure to exempt libraries and bookstores from Section 215. Over 140 members of the U.S. House of Representatives sponsored this legislation.

Currently, Rep. Sanders is working with sympathetic Senators to see this Bill signed into law.

This is a Congressman who has not only read the fine print in The Patriot Act. He has spoken out against it and taken assertive action to protect our freedoms under the Constitution and Bill of Rights.