Island lawmakers have made Hawaii the first state to take a stand against the controversial USA Patriot Act, passing a resolution “reaffirming the state of Hawaii’s commitment to civil liberties and the Bill of Rights.” Citing the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, the Hawai`i state legislature is now sending Senate Concurrent Resolution 18 to Hawaii’s representatives in Washington.
So far, 92 cities and counties have passed resolutions condemning the Patriot Act, according to the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, but Hawaii’s is the first at the state level. The Democrat-controlled House and Senate voted 35-12 and 21-3, respectively.
“The residents of Hawaii during World War II experienced first hand the dangers of unbalanced pursuit of security without appropriate checks and balances for the protection of basic liberties,” the resolution states. “The State of Hawaii urges its Congressional delegation to work to repeal any sections of the USA Patriot Act or recent executive orders that limit or violate fundamental rights and liberties protected by the Constitutions of Hawaii and the United States.”
Critics of the resolution blasted their colleagues for taking an obvious political jab at the Bush administration. In an interview with the Star-Bulletin, Senate Minority Leader Fred Hemmings called the resolution “overtly political and very transparent.”
“I don’t think the people in the World Trade Center are too concerned about the civil rights of the illegal aliens who dove those planes into those buildings,” Hemmings said. “We are at war.”
But Rep. Kika Bukowski of Maui, a Republican, supported the resolution, saying supports Bush but worries that the government is chipping away at the freedoms it is ostensibly at war to protect.
“States have every right to consider the concerns of the federal government and voice our opinions,” said Rep. Roy Takumi, who introduced the bill in the House. “If a number of states begin to pass similar resolutions, then it raises the bar for Congress, making them realize our concerns.”
“I hope to see what we’ve done here plays a role in mobilizing people to take action,” he said.
The resolution also pledges that, to the extent possible, the state will not direct resources toward potentially unconstitutional activities enumerated in the Patriot Act, including:
- Monitoring political and religious gatherings exercising their First Amendment Rights;
- Obtaining library records, bookstore records, and website activities without proper authorization and without notification;
- Issuing subpoenas through the United States Attorney’s Office without a court’s approval or knowledge;
- Requesting nonconsensual releases of student and faculty records from public schools and institutions of higher learning; and
- Eavesdropping on confidential communications between lawyers and their clients.
Just last week, Judith Krug who has served as director of the American Library Association‘s Office for Intellectual Freedom since it was founded in 1968 was in the islands, and urged island librarians to develop privacy policies to protect both library users and employees. For example, discarding the name of a book’s borrower after the book is returned.
Hawai`i and Kentucky have long stood out as the only states that do not have statutes specifically protecting library records. They do, however, have Attorney General opinions recognizing the confidentiality of library records.