The U.S. Senate is expected to vote this week on the “Uniting and Strengthening America Act” (S. 1510), an anti-terrorism bill that grossly strengthens the federal government?s ability to investigate students.
The bill, while proposed with the best of intentions, is precisely the overbearing and knee-jerk federal reaction we feared after the Sept. 11 attacks.
The legislation irresponsibly expands the legal definition of ?terrorism? to include potentially violent civil demonstrations like the World Trade Organization protests some UW students planned on attending last month. Defining such civic action, however wrongheaded it may be, as ?terrorism? is wrong and an affront to our right to dissent.
The bill also gives the federal government sweeping new rights to access our academic records. Under the legislation, U.S. Justice Department officials could demand educational institutions like UW-Madison turn over students? academic and financial applications, transcripts and records by showing a judge that a student may be breaching the new, overarching definition of ?terrorism.? Hence, the UW students who traveled to D.C. last month to protest the war could have their academic records turned over to curious prosecutors.
It was only 50 years ago McCarthy witch hunts terrorized the country, all in the name of national security. Yet these atrocious violations of civil liberties accomplished nothing in the war on Communism.
Similarly, it is difficult to understand how revealing students? academic transcripts or classifying protesters as terrorists will aid this new war.
Rather, this bill is a victory for the terrorists by way of a self-inflicted wound on the freedom upon which our country was founded.