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Publication Date: Friday, September 19, 2003

Council opposes Patriot Act provisions Council opposes Patriot Act provisions (September 19, 2003)

By Candice Shih

Concluding a discussion that began two weeks ago, the Mountain View City Council made a formal response Tuesday to the controversial U.S. Patriot Act.

The council voted unanimously to oppose several measures that would impact the police, library and city attorney departments, and will send a letter outlining the city stances to U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft.

The letter, which will also be sent to all California congress representatives, states that Mountain View would like to see certain sections of the Act amended or repealed. Portions that were of most concern deal with federal search authority, freedom of expression, banking and financial privacy, surveillance, resident aliens' rights, and the role of local police.

In addition, under its new direction Mountain View police will report to the city when they participate in foreign counterintelligence cases initiated by federal law enforcement agencies.

Although local anti-Patriot Act activists had asked that the police not participate in searches conducted under the Act, Police Chief Scott Vermeer said police officers are not told if the Act is being invoked and have not had experience deciding whether a search is constitutional.

However, the council was split on the purpose and expectations of requiring regular police reports on all federal searches, not just those on foreign counterintelligence.

"I feel it doesn't accomplish anything significant," said Council member Nick Galiotto, who is a retired Mountain View police captain. "It just creates another cycle of paperwork."

Council member Rosemary Stasek said she plans to ask for full reports anyway. "I feel it's important information for me to have," she said. "I never felt that way before, but I do now."

Furthermore, in defiance of the Act's section on providing individuals' reading records, library personnel and other city staff are now directed not to voluntarily supply such records to federal officials and inform the city attorney if they are asked to do so.

In addition, the council agreed that City Attorney Michael Martello should challenge any request to comply with the Act that involves unconstitutional searches and seizures.

Vermeer and Galiotto said they had no knowledge of any foreign counterintelligence cases in their combined 28 years of experience with the Mountain View Police Department. Vermeer also learned from a federal official that only two library searches under the Act have been conducted nationwide.

The recent discussion of the Act was a continuation of one that began at the Sept. 2 council meeting. The council heard from about 20 speakers, mostly from Mountain View Voices for Peace, and agreed to toughen the language in the draft letter addressed to Ashcroft.

The issue was put on hold until Tuesday because the Sept. 2 meeting was beginning to run late into the night.

Council member Matt Neely, who initiated the council's discussion of the Act, was absent from the meeting for health reasons.

E-mail Candice Shih at cshih@mv-voice.com


 

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