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Be Proud of These City Councils

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City Councils here, and around the nation, are acting publicly to re-assert our basic civil liberties, spelled out in the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution.

When Congress rushed the USA PATRIOT Act through its chambers shortly after 9/11, some wise members argued against its worst provisions. But the Bush Administration, with John Ashcroft as Attorney General, prevailed. Civil liberties-conscious activists in the Kansas City area and around the nation have been struggling ever since to stop the abuses to which it and other Administration orders and decisions have led.

Patriot Act info [PDF]
USA PATRIOT Act [Wikipedia]
EFF Analysis
Library signs [Librarian.net]
Be Proud of These City Councils in the Kansas City Area

Taking Action To Block Threats To Our Basic Civil Rights

November, 2004


When Congress rushed the USA PATRIOT Act through its chambers shortly after 9/11, some wise members argued against its worst provisions. But the Bush Administration, with John Ashcroft as Attorney General, prevailed. Civil liberties-conscious activists in the Kansas City area and around the nation have been struggling ever since to stop the abuses to which it and other Administration orders and decisions have led. Opponents to the act have tried court cases, sent letters and presentations to Congress, completed extensive analysis, placed articles in receptive magazines, reminded us of the national history of the misuse of such policies, and on and on.

Yet, the Administration continues pushing to broaden and make permanent so-called security provisions which threaten the way of life provided by the Bill of Rights in our Constitution. Members of Congress have proposed some constructive revisions, but they have not been successful in getting them made. An alternative source of pressure was needed.

One way to turn up the pressure on the president and the Congress is to have local officials take positions which critique and argue against the actions of the federal government on Constitutional grounds.. One way of doing this is to challenge the USA PATRIOT Act indirectly while lauding the federal Constitution at the same time.

Some good people from Massachusetts, who formed the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, came up with the idea of having local governments - cities, counties, states - pass resolutions or ordinances stating strong commitment to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and opposition to anything which might undermine them. About 350 cities, counties, and states have passed such resolutions. They are scattered around the United States. Kansas City, Missouri, passed one recently. Lawrence, Kansas, did the same.

A few weeks after the Patriot Act was passed, a group of activists in the Kansas City area, who were opposed to a number of the provisions of Patriot, formed a project called the Sanctuary for Freedom/Civil Liberties Defense Campaign. Members of that group worked with Al Brooks of the KCMo City Council in the initial formulation of, and lobbying for, the resolution which was passed by that Council.

The members of the Sanctuary project then started informing and encouraging members of other city councils and commissions in the area to consider doing the same. One local government which they chose to contact is the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kansas. In that government, the counterparts to city council members are called commissioners.

Two members of the Sanctuary project, Frank Neff (Lenexa, KS) and Jan Chapman (Kansas City, MO), decided to work with that government. They decided, based on the experience in KCMO, to identify some members of the Unified Government Commission who would be interested and could lead the work within the Commission.

After making numerous phone calls to selected commissioner and sending a number of documents about the civil liberties problems and the resolution process, Neff and Chapman concluded that a new approach was needed. They decided to ask to make a presentation to the full Commission.

As it turned out, they were directed to present to a standing committee, which recommended that a staff lawyer draw up a resolution which the committee would take to the full Commission.

A few weeks later, Neff and Chapman were advised that there would be a meeting that very evening, November 4. Chapman was not available, so Neff prepared materials and a brief presentation and went to the meeting.

As it happened, the Commission started with a motion to pass the resolution which had been drafted by the staff lawyer. After a brief discussion, in which a member objected to one paragraph (in which specific reference was made to the USA PATRIOT Act), a vote was taken. The resolution was defeated.

Then the member who, had reported the objection, moved that the paragraph be removed and the resolution passed. This resolution passed with one dissenting vote.

So now the two major cities in the Kansas City area, and nearby Lawrence, have passed resolutions which demonstrate the desire of local public officials in the Heart of America to provide sanctuary for the vital civil liberties in the Bill of Rights.

We can be proud that the members of these city councils, and of the Unified Government Commission in KCK, recognized the importance of taking a stand for civil liberties and protecting the rights of citizens in their communities.
 
 

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Update from "Democracy Now" This Week

The following is from the web address: www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=04/12/14/1458259

The [9/11] intelligence reform bill passed by Congress includes little-discussed provisions that would greatly expand the government's policing power and centralizes the intelligence community's surveillance powers which civil liberties advocates say increases the likelihood for government abuses.

In the weeks following President Bush's reelection, the White House lobbied hard to push through a sweeping bill to reform to the country's intelligence community. The legislation won congressional approval last week and is expected to be signed by the President within days.
The 9/11 intelligence bill, which creates a national intelligence director that will be in charge of the budgets of the country's 15 spy agencies, is being touted as the biggest overhaul of the country's intelligence community in half a century. Key House Republicans held up the legislation until a compromise was reached that ensured the Pentagon retained control of much its own intelligence operations including the National Security Agency which is the country's largest intelligence unit.

Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia, one of only two Senators to vote against the measure, chastised his colleagues for voting before reading the final version of the massive bill and said "no legislation alone can forestall a terrorist attack."

After the bill was approved, reports emerged that it included a number of little-noticed provisions that would greatly expand the government's policing power and in effect broaden the USA Patriot Act. The Washington Post reports that the new intelligence bill loosens standards for FBI surveillance warrants and allows the Justice Department to more easily detain people without bail. The bill will allow the FBI to obtain secret surveillance and search warrants of individuals even if the individual has no connection with a foreign government or established terrorist group.
 

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