Panelists: Ben Scotch, Executive Director of ACLU; Trina Magi, past President of the Vermont Library Association; and Michael Katzenberg, owner of Bear Pond Books, Montpelier, Vermont.

On October 25, 2001, Congress passed the "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act" (USA PATRIOT Act). This law broadly expands the powers of federal law enforcement agencies investigating cases involving foreign intelligence and international terrorism. Various advocacy groups and individuals have responded with concern about the government's enhanced ability to access information about individuals, even if they are not suspected of committing a crime, much less a terrorist act. Others support this expanded role for government, seeing it as a necessary investigative tool, given the very real threats posed to our citizens in light of the unprecedented attack on US citizens on September 11, 2001.

Because a resolution will appear on March town meetings ballots in various communities throughout Vermont (including Warren and Montpelier), we felt a public forum on the PATRIOT and the Homeland Security Act would be in order. Each panelist will make brief remarks on various aspects of the USA PATRIOT Act, and will then lead a “town hall” style meeting to discuss the issue.