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ISSUE 116 VOL 15 PUBLISHED 3/21/2003

Civil liberties questioned

By Julie Gunderson
News Editor

Friday, March 21, 2003

Moments after President Bush concluded his address to the nation on Monday night, students, facult, and community members gathered to hear Minnesota U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger and former Minnesota U.S. Attorney David Lillehaug talk on the topic of "Civil Liberties During Wartime."

Heffelfinger, who served under the former Bush administration and then was later appointed by the current Bush administration, defended the government’s actions in the current war on terrorism. Lillehaug, who served under the Clinton administration, argued that citizens should be vigilant in what is happening to their civil liberties during this important time in our country’s history.

Heffelfinger reiterated that law enforcement has changed dramatically in the face of Sept. 11. He defended the Patriot Act against those that call it a violation of our civil liberties, saying that the act passed overwhelmingly by Congress and is a useful tool for law enforcement facing an increasing complex network of terrorists.

"It gives us updated laws," Heffelfinger said. "We now are working with technology that can enable our agents to deal with these people. And, all components of the act provide for judiciary overview."

Lillehaug pointed out the history the U.S. has when it comes to suspending certain civil liberties during wartime. Lillehaug cited numerous examples, such as Abraham Lincoln’s suspension of the Writ of Habeas Corpus during the Civil War and the government’s internment of Japanese-American citizens during World War II.

Lillehaug also warned of the advancing technology and its possibility of invading and infringing upon our rights.

"Technology can lead to much more intrusiveness by our federal government," Lillehaug said. "We have to pay attention to how these things are being used and implemented into law enforcement."

Lillehaug also looked to the future and the continuing war on terrorism. He said that he was fearful of what could be coming. Lillehaug eluded to a Patriot Act II that could enforce such matters as stripping U.S. citizens who aid terrorist organizations of their U.S. citizenship.

"How are we going to know when this war is over? What’s going to determine when we are victorious? We just don’t know how long some of these things will stay with us," Lillehaug said.

Heffelfinger agreed that the ongoing effort against terrorism was going to be a lengthy battle; however, the United States’ aggressive stance to combat was making the United States and the world a safer place.

"We, for the first time, are taking the battle to someone else’s shores," Heffelfinger said. "This is a new enemy. It is an enemy that is willing to die to score a philosophical point. We are having to learn to new ways to address this enemy."

Heffelfinger called the administration and U.S. law enforcement’s address of the problem effective.

"You can’t crash airplanes into buildings if you can’t get out of your encampments," Heffelfinger said. "We are addressing the threats posed on this nation by thinking outside of the box, but not outside of the Constitution."

The St. Olaf chapter of the political science honor society, Pi Sigma Alpha, hosted the talk as part of their annual spring forum. The event was also co-sponsored by college’s pre-law society.

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