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Old 02-20-2003, 12:00 PM   #1
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NM Lawmakers Take Aim at Patriot Act

Lawmakers Take Aim at Patriot Act
By STEVE TERRELL | The New Mexican 02/18/2003

Meaures proposed in both houses would put the New Mexico Legislature on record as opposing the U.S. Patriot Act and direct state police not to aid federal authorities in actions infringing on civil liberties.

House Joint Memorial 40, sponsored by Rep. Max Coll, D-Santa Fe, and the identical Senate Joint Memorial 30, sponsored by Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque, would bar state police from conducting surveillance of people or groups for activities - such as political or religious activities - protected by the First Amendment.

Among other things, the memorials call for libraries to post a prominent notice to patrons that records of books they check out could be provided to federal agents and that, under the Patriot Act, librarians are forbidden to inform patrons when this happens.

The memorials also would direct state police not to participate in enforcing federal immigration laws.

"That Patriot Act got a little bit too close for comfort on some things that are guaranteed in the First Amendment," Coll said Monday of the federal law.

"This memorial identifies places where (the Patriot Act) gets to trampling on some of these basic guarantees," Coll said. "We need to take a deep breath. We can have a safe nation and yet not tramp on the civil rights and civil liberties of the American people or anyone else."

The Patriot Act was passed by Congress shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Northern New Mexico Congressman Tom Udall, a Democrat, was the only member of New Mexico's congressional delegation to vote against it.

The act greatly expanded surveillance powers of the federal government and greatly reduced court oversight.

"Pure and simple, this is the beginning of the end of our constitutional liberties," McSorley said Monday of the Patriot Act. "It's a sad day when you have an administration (that) would enforce these laws. ... It is clear to me that people in the government have no love of liberty or understanding of history."

Although both sponsors of the memorials in the Legislature are Democrats, there is some Republican support for the measures.

House Minority Whip Joe Thompson of Albuquerque said he thinks some of the language in the measure is partisan in its criticism of U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft. However, he said supports Coll's memorial.

"I'm supportive of our government's intention of keeping people safe," Thompson said. "But I think it's responsible to make sure that the rights of our citizens are protected. There are things that have happened in the last year and a half that have threatened our personal freedoms."

Although memorials don't carry the force of law, "they are a statement of our intent and desires," Thompson said.

Support, however, is not unanimous.

Rep. Ron Godbey, R-Cedar Crest, said he doesn't support the memorials.

"Under this situation and these times, sometimes we are called upon to give up some of our so-called civil rights," Godbey said. "I certainly don't object when the tradeoff is safety for the public in general and my family in particular."

The memorials would direct state police to:

Seek written assurances from federal authorities that people taken into custody by federal agents "will not be subjected to military or secret detention or secret immigration proceedings without access to lawyers. If the federal government does not give such written assurance, state police should not assist federal authorities."

Not use race, religion, ethnicity or national origin to select who is subject to an investigation - unless those characteristics are part of the description of a specific suspect to be apprehended.

Not collect or maintain information about the political or religious beliefs of people or groups, unless such information has direct bearing on an investigation of criminal conduct.

Report to the Legislature any request from the federal government that would result in a violation of state or local law or constitutional right.

The memorials also would call for schools to provide notice to those whose education records have been obtained by federal agents under the Patriot Act.

Since Sept. 11, the government has detained hundreds of people without charging them with crimes and without releasing their names.

The U.S. Justice Department reportedly is working on what has been dubbed "Patriot Act II," which would further expand federal powers and - civil libertarians say - further infringe on civil liberties.

Santa Fe apparently got a glimpse last week of some of the new federal powers when federal agents took a man into custody at the St. John's College library.

Andrew O'Connor later told The New Mexican he was questioned for five hours by the Secret Service over alleged threats to President Bush.

He said the government apparently had been monitoring his participation in an Internet chat room.

O'Connor denied that he ever threatened Bush.

Authorities have refused to comment on the incident, saying the matter is "classified."
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Old 02-20-2003, 12:07 PM   #2
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Quote:
"This memorial identifies places where (the Patriot Act) gets to trampling on some of these basic guarantees," Coll said. "We need to take a deep breath. We can have a safe nation and yet not tramp on the civil rights and civil liberties of the American people or anyone else."
AMEN! I'm glad we still have some politicians that believe in the constitution and have balls to do something about it.
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Old 02-20-2003, 12:11 PM   #3
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Re: NM Lawmakers Take Aim at Patriot Act

Quote:
Santa Fe apparently got a glimpse last week of some of the new federal powers when federal agents took a man into custody at the St. John's College library.

Andrew O'Connor later told The New Mexican he was questioned for five hours by the Secret Service over alleged threats to President Bush.

He said the government apparently had been monitoring his participation in an Internet chat room.

O'Connor denied that he ever threatened Bush.

Authorities have refused to comment on the incident, saying the matter is "classified."
This incident hit pretty close to home for us, don't you think?
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