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‘Unconstitutional’ for Constitution Day

September 23, 2011

Justin Frye/The Courier - Political science professors Ira Smolensky and Farhat Haq discuss the Patriot Act with students.

“Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001.” 

That is the official title of the more commonly known “Patriot Act,” and the opening screen of the film “Unconstitutional.” On Sept. 19, a group of approximately 20 students and professors crammed into Wallace Hall in observance of the nation-wide Constitution Day or “Citizen Day” as some know it. The purpose of the gathering was to in some way address a topic regarding the Constitution.  Although it is required in institutions supported by public funding to observe this day, professor Annika Hagley simply decided to hold the meeting after recently showing the same film in one of her introduction courses.

“Have we really thought about what happened that day?” said Hagley, referring to the 9/11 attacks. “Now that the strong emotions have died down, I believe that we are ready to dissect this.” 

  The movie, titled “Unconstitutional,” is a documentary filmed in 2004 that explores the negative aspects of the Patriot Act following its passing after the September 11th terrorist attacks. The bill, which was first conceived in response to the first World Trade Center attack in 1993, was quickly pushed into effect without public exposure or a unanimous vote in Congress shortly after September 11th, 2001. 

The goal of the act, as stated in the official title, is to give the government the tools necessary to intercept terrorists and those involved with them. 

Although it has a good intention, the film revealed the darker aspect of the act, showing emotional interviews with the families of U.S. citizens and immigrants who had been taken by secret service agents and detained in prison facilities, often without solid evidence of their guilt or innocence. 

Many of the people taken by the U.S. government were actually brought into custody based on race alone, causing many citizens to question the strength of a system built upon stereotypes.  Under the Patriot Act, the government has the right to access anyone’s phone calls, email and even visited websites. Businesses and libraries can no longer guarantee privacy to their visitors, for the government can at any time obtain the records for every customer and see what items they had purchased or what books they had checked out.

During the question and answer session following the film Hagley, along with professors Farhat Haq and Ira Smolensky, addressed comments by the students.

During the discussion, junior Kady Patterson  voiced her disappointment with her classmates. 

“I get frustrated with the lack of political awareness around campus. There are not real discussions about the topic.  Many students are apathetic and I feel that they don’t fully understand their stance politically,”  said Patterson. 

“People don’t know who we’re fighting, and who we’re killing.  We’ve been spoon fed our whole lives,”  she said, discussing the war in Iraq. 

Although the room was cramped, it didn’t seem to dampen anyone’s interest in the matter and among the most discussed topics was the question of what the future holds for this Patriot Act. 

Nick Olson
Contributing Writer

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