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Town meeting to discuss privacy rights - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Town meeting to discuss privacy rights

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MONTPELIER, Vt. -

Vermonters from across the state came out to hear speakers discuss what they call attacks against citizens' constitutional rights and rights to privacy.

Barre Resident Wendy Rieger said Saturday, "You can disagree but it's time that we come together as a nation we're really split and that's rather pernicious for our country."

"Bernie hammered home several times in regard to our freedoms. We need to defend them. We need more attention brought to this issue," said Duke Forcier of Montpelier.

Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, addressed the crowd, "If you believe in limited government, my god, how can you not be in opposition?" 

Concerns were expressed about the fight on terrorism and advances in technology blurring the lines between what the government should know, and what they shouldn't.

"How do we in fact protect the American people from a terrorist attacks, but do it in a way that does not undermine the constitutional rights and the civil liberties and the privacy rights that make us a free country," said Sanders.

The phone Meta Data surveillance program exposed by Edward Snowden was referred to as one of the ways government has violated privacy. It's a system used by the NSA to track billions of cell phones and keep record of millions of text messages.

David Cole, Georgetown Law Professor, said, "When our government is adopting programs as broad as this, which affect every last one of us, and doing it in secret and lying to keep it secret, we have frustrated the process of democracy."

As the problem was made clear, the solution is more of a challenge. But with 30 bills now pending in congress addressing privacy concerns, the panel did suggest a starting point.

"Ultimately it's about public education, its a culture to recognize that while the Internet age has given us lots of great benefits, we are also at risk of loosing some of our most fundamental values unless we pay attention," said Cole.

The need for more public discussion was also addressed. But as Vermont's elected officials join others in the fight to create more transparency, the fight to find balance continues.

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