Anchorage Assembly protests Patriot Act

Posted: Wednesday, July 16, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) Anchorage's governing body on Tuesday joined the state and other Alaska communities in formally protesting the USA Patriot Act.

The wide-ranging law grants federal authorities new powers to peer into people's personal lives. Congress passed it after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.

The Anchorage Assembly approved member Allan Tesche's resolution, 6-3. Tesche's resolution requests that Anchorage police and other city agencies refuse to help federal agents acting under the Patriot Act in ways that violate ''the rights and liberties guaranteed equally under the state and federal constitutions.'' The act could demand that local police initiate or help with immigration investigations and surveillance, which Anchorage police are not trained for and do not have time for, Tesche said.

''I do think it's time for Anchorage to weigh in on this and rule caution,'' said Tesche, who represents downtown.

The law lowers legal standards that federal agents must meet to secure wiretaps or search homes and grants them broader access to personal medical, financial and school records, library records and bookstore purchases.

Nationwide, more than 150 state and local governments have adopted resolutions criticizing the act. Municipal bodies in Fairbanks, Juneau, Kenai, North Pole, Skagway and Gustavus have questioned the law. In May, Alaska's Republican-dominated Legislature voted nearly unanimously to oppose it.

Some Assembly members said Tesche's resolution went too far.

''The problem I have with this resolution is, it basically instructs our local law enforcement agencies not to follow the law,'' said Dan Sullivan, who represents West Anchorage. ''I think this goes too far.''

Tim Burgess, U.S. Attorney for Alaska, told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner earlier this year that criticisms of the act have been overstated. He also said he had no problem with Fairbanks approving its ordinance, which essentially said the government should not combat terrorism at the expense of civil liberties.

Sullivan tried to amend Tesche's resolution by removing all directives to local authorities to ignore the Patriot Act's demands.

''It takes the entire meaning of the resolution right out of the document,'' said Doug Van Etten, a co-sponsor. The amendment failed.

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