Saturday, February 22, 2003
Civil Rights Measure Shelved
The Associated Press
SANTA FE A Senate committee has shelved a measure opposing infringements on civil liberties, despite a plea from a man who says he was wrongly detained recently in Santa Fe.
The Rules Committee tabled the measure opposing the USA Patriot Act, which was sponsored by Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque.
"Are we going to stand up for our fellow citizens' liberties and rights, or are we going to cower?" McSorley asked his colleagues.
The Patriot Act gives the federal government broad powers to use wiretaps, eavesdropping, searching and a range of other information-gathering techniques in the fight against terrorism.
The non-binding measure, which could be revived by the committee, urged the State Police not to conduct surveillance of people or groups for activities that are protected by the First Amendment.
McSorley said under the Patriot Act, U.S. residents are giving up their freedoms in what will prove to be an unsuccessful bid for security.
Testifying in favor of the measure was Andrew O'Connor, a former public defender, who said he was handcuffed and removed from the St. John's College library in Santa Fe a week ago and interrogated for several hours by Secret Service agents.
O'Connor said he had been using a computer at the library to look for a job when he was taken away by two Santa Fe police officers.
O'Connor told the committee he has been unable to get answers from authorities about the incident, but he believes his participation in peace and pro-Palestinian groups in Boulder, Colo., where he used to live, had made him a target.
Committee members said the memorial went too far.
It also asked State Police:
To seek assurances from federal authorities that New Mexico detainees would not be subject to military or secret detention, or secret immigration proceedings, without access to lawyers.
To 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 person to be apprehended.
To not collect or maintain information about the political or religious beliefs of people or groups, unless such information has a direct bearing on a criminal investigation.
To report to the Legislature any request from the federal government that would result in a violation of state or local law or constitutional right.
To not participate in enforcing federal immigration laws.