Local Resolution Movement Goes Statewide: Alaska State Legislature Considering Civil Liberties Protection Measure

Affiliate: ACLU of Alaska
April 3, 2003 12:00 am

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ANCHORAGE – The Alaska Civil Liberties Union (AkCLU) today urged the State Legislature to pass a joint resolution that affirms the individual rights and liberties of all Alaskans and calls for the repeal of the most egregious provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act.

“”Alaska has a long tradition of respecting the right to privacy and upholding individual liberties,”” said Jennifer Rudinger, Executive Director of the AkCLU. “”Already, Fairbanks and Gustavus have passed strong resolutions, and the cities of Juneau and Anchorage are considering similar measures. This issue concerns people from all points on the political spectrum, and liberals and conservatives alike agree that we need to make some corrections to the USA PATRIOT Act in defense of the Bill of Rights. Alaskans want to see that our state government ensures we remain both safe and free.””

On Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Johnny Ellis (D-Anchorage) introduced Senate Joint Resolution 15 and Representative David Guttenberg (D-Fairbanks) introduced the House counterpart, House Joint Resolution 22. The resolutions reaffirm Alaska’s commitment to protecting the civil liberties of Alaskans, including the right to engage in political activities without fear of government spying.

The resolutions also raise serious concerns with certain provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act, enacted only a few weeks after the tragic terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. In particular, the Alaska resolutions urge that law enforcement agencies within the state refrain from engaging in certain invasive powers granted by the USA PATRIOT Act, such as collecting personal information, including library, medical, student and financial records; maintaining files on the political and religious affiliations of Alaskans; profiling based solely on ethnicity, race, citizenship, religion or political views; conducting unnecessary investigations, interrogations, surveillance or detentions; and enforcing immigration matters by local and state law enforcement.

The resolutions further call on the Alaskan Congressional delegation to work toward the passage of legislation to correct portions of the USA PATRIOT Act and any other measures that excessively infringe on civil liberties, and for them to oppose a sweeping new measure called the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003 that reportedly is under development by the U.S. Department of Justice.

“”We now know that the USA PATRIOT Act granted the government too many powers; it went too far too fast,”” the AkCLU’s Rudinger said. “”In a recent radio interview, Congressman Don Young called it the ‘worst piece of legislation we’ve ever passed.’ We now see communities across the country passing similar resolutions. Liberals and conservatives alike are concerned that their fundamental rights may be taken away from them under the guise of national security.””

A similar resolution opposing the USA PATRIOT Act is pending in the Hawaii Senate, after having passed overwhelmingly in the state House. In New Mexico, another similar resolution was adopted with strong bipartisan support in the New Mexico House of Representatives, although it failed to reach the Senate floor in time for a vote before the end of the legislative term. To date, eighty communities across the country have enacted local resolutions calling for protection of civil liberties. Conservative organizations including the Eagle Forum, Gun Owners of America and the American Conservative Union have joined the ACLU, People for the American Way, the American Library Association, and many, many other organizations in calling on government to respect Americans’ civil liberties.

The text of the proposed Alaska state resolutions can be found at:
http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_bill_text.asp?hsid=SJR015A&session=23

http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_bill_text.asp?hsid=HJR022A&session=23

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