Council pens letter decrying Patriot Act

February 05, 2004|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Chris Fewell's persistence paid off.

On Wednesday night, Fewell, 27, of 38 W. Fourth St., got what he had been seeking for much of 2003 - a letter from the Waynesboro Borough Council asking the U.S. government to take a hard look at the U.S. Patriot Act to see if it, as Fewell and critics around the nation claim, threatens freedoms guaranteed in the Bill of Rights.

The act was passed by Congress at the urging of President Bush's administration shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks

For six months last year, Fewell attended most council meetings and asked the members to join with other cities and municipalities in passing a resolution opposing the Patriot Act.


For the most part, the council ignored his requests. Fewell was told at a meeting in September by then- council President Douglas Tengler that the council would no longer hear comments on the issue.

Fewell remained undaunted.

Later that month, Councilman John Cook, chairman of the council's downtown revitalization and finance committee, met with Fewell and members of his family. Following the meeting, Cook recommended that the council send a letter on borough stationery to Pennsylvania's delegation to Congress saying the borough had concerns about the Patriot Act.

The letter, written under the borough's letterhead by Borough Manager Lloyd Hamberger, was unanimously approved by the council Wednesday.

Copies will be mailed to Bush; William G. Rehnquist, Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court; U.S. Sens. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and Rick Santorum, R-Pa.; and U.S. Rep. William Shuster, R-Pa.

Hamberger opened the letter describing Waynesboro as a rural community of 9,600 just north of the Maryland line.

"To our east lies Gettysburg, whose battlefields and tombstones provide testimony to the struggles to maintain the union envisioned in our Constitution, and the struggle to overcome the tyranny men can impose upon their fellow man."

South of Waynesboro is the Presidential Retreat at Camp David, Hamberger wrote.

"On weekends the thunder of jets in the sky reminds us the awful price that can be paid when we fail to be vigilant and strong in a world full of danger and hatred."

Hamberger mentioned that Waynesboro's Memorial Park is "dedicated to the individuals who gave that last full measure defending our nation and those rights for which our founding fathers fought and codified in the Constitution."

The Patriot Act and other laws were adopted to ensure that "other cowardly and dastardly acts shall not be perpetrated upon the innocent and unsuspecting residents of our great land," Hamberger wrote.

He wrote that some local residents are concerned that many portions of the act "may infringe upon and endanger the liberties which we hold so dear ..."

The passage of time and further reflection may show that "mistakes have been made and that those very actions instituted for our protection may cause other men of good will to become concerned about our individual liberties and rights."

The letter asks for a "thorough legislative, administrative and judicial review" of the act.

Hamberger closed with a quote from Benjamin Franklin, who said, "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

Fewell said he was satisfied with the letter.

"I'm happy to know that our council has enough courage to stand up for liberty," he said.

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