On a 5-2 vote, Alexandria City Council expressed support for a resolution in opposition to many items contained in the U.S.A. Patriot Act. The resolution was sponsored by Councilwoman Joyce Woodson and Councilman Rob Krupicka.
“We believe in an America that is safe and free and in an Alexandria that is safe and free,” Woodson said at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. “It is not my intention to try and overturn the U.S.A. Patriot Act. I have no illusion that this is possible. However, I believe that it is our responsibility to join with more than 200 municipalities and even state governments to send a message that this act goes too far.
“The Fourth Amendment is very important and remains very important despite the heightened awareness of the need for security. It is possible to be secure and retain our freedoms,” she said.
Krupicka agreed, saying, “I was in New York on Sept. 11 and saw the towers fall. ... As a relatively young American, I believe that history will judge my generation on how we react to Sept. 11. It is particularly important that we here, in Alexandria and in Virginia, express our support for the very freedoms that our founding fathers believed in and fought to obtain,” he said.
“Although we have received some correspondence from citizens who do not believe that this is an appropriate topic for us to consider, I will be supporting the resolution,” said Mayor William D. Euille. “We must let our congressional delegation know that we are concerned about the U.S.A. Patriotic Act.”
COUNCILMAN Andrew Macdonald expressed his concern in another manner. “Presidents of the United States have been invoking the war powers since the First World War, and this president and this executive branch are trying to circumvent the judicial system and the courts through this act,” he said. “However, I have grave reservations about this resolution and will not be supporting it.”
Councilman Paul Smedberg agreed with Macdonald. “I, too, have concerns about this resolution,” he said. “I am not sure that this is properly before us and, though I do not support everything in the U.S.A. Patriot Act, I think that we should encourage citizens to write to their congressional representatives. I will not be supporting the resolution.”
THE U.S.A. Patriot Act allows for law-enforcement agencies to use wire taps and other types of electronic surveillance on suspected terrorists. It also allows for those same agencies to request information about suspected terrorists from doctors, financial institutions, libraries and others about the personal habits of suspected terrorists. These suspects may not be notified that these requests have been made and may not be aware that they are suspects.
The Act also provides funding for the protection of infrastructure and places of national importance that are related to national security, among other things.
The resolution City Council passed states in part, that:
“The Alexandria City Council is committed to upholding the United States Constitution and its Bill of Rights … and that the City of Alexandria has a long history of working to obtain and preserve the civil rights and liberties of its residents … and that the city has a diverse and multiethnic population. … The city has among its residents many who were affected directly and many who were affected indirectly by the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001. … The [fact that] the nation needs to respond to those terrible events and protect itself from future acts of terrorism does not diminish the commitment of the City or of its residents regardless of their personal circumstances to the constitutional rights and liberties. … The Alexandria City Council believes that there is no inherent conflict between the national security and the preservation of liberty that Americans can be both safe and free. … The Alexandria City Council is proud, too, of the cooperative work among the federal, state and local law-enforcement officials to protect the safety of Alexandrians. … Federal, state and local government actions designed to protect the public from terrorist attacks, such as those that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, must be taken in a rational and deliberative fashion to ensure that any new security measure intended to enhance public safety does not impair constitutional rights or infringe on the civil liberties. … Federal laws, regulations, policies and practices adopted since Sept. 11, including provisions of the Public Law 107-56 (The U.S.A. Patriot Act) and related executive orders, regulations and actions authorizing the indefinite incarceration of non-citizens to solitary confinement based upon mere suspicion without being charged with any crime, without counsel and without a right to be heard, authorize the indefinite incarceration of citizens designated by the president based upon unspecified standards as enemy combatants to solitary confinement without being charged with a crime, without counsel and without a right to be heard; limit the traditional authority of the federal courts to curb law-enforcement abuses including electronic surveillance; limit judicial oversight of federal sneak-and-peek searches and eliminate timely notice to the person who is the subject of the search that his or her property has been searched; grant broad governmental access to personal, medical, financial, library and educational records without judicial oversight; inhibit free speech and free association by defining any person or group as a terrorist or an act of terrorism without articulating the basis for the characterization or giving the person or group so characterized a right to be heard; encourage local and state law-enforcement personnel to enforce federal immigration laws and to use those laws as a pretext for detention of and denial of due process to persons who are not reasonably suspected of criminal behavior; permit government surveillance of public meetings including religious services, Internet chat rooms, holiday gatherings and political rallies without judicial oversight.”
The full text of the resolution is available on the city’s Web site at www.ci.alexandria.va.us. Euille said that a copy of the resolution will be sent to the city’s congressional delegation.