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Council opposes 'Patriot' provisions

Islanders waved the flag in dissent Wednesday evening, giving the city council a standing ovation as it passed a resolution opposing the federal USA Patriot Act.

“At stake is what our definition of America is,” said Kathy Horsley, one of the resolution’s supporters.

Unanimous council support for a resolution introduced that evening followed often-emotional testimony by members of the Bainbridge Island Bill of Rights Defense Committee and other citizens.

Speakers decried the Patriot Act – passed by Congress in October 2001, after the terrorist attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center – for weakening civil liberties, and giving law enforcement agencies too much latitude in surveillance and information-gathering in the hunt for potential terrorists on American soil.

Several said that the goal of promoting complete national security was a fallacy.

Iver Macdougall said those responsible for the legislation showed “impatience with the wisdom of the founding fathers... (and) a lack of faith in the resilience of the American people in the face of danger.”

“Better that a few of us be the victims of terrorism, than that all of lose our freedoms,” Macdougall said.

The resolution affirmed the city’s commitment to “the protection of civil rights... for all people,” and states “strong opposition” to parts of the act “that weaken or destroy our civil rights and liberties.”

While it carries no actual legal authority, the resolution directs city employees to “choose their legal option to withhold cooperation in federal investigations, interrogations or arrest procedures...that are in violation of individuals’ civil rights...”

It further states that the city will “employ all possible leverage” to ensure that law enforcement agencies working within the city will not engage in such activities as wiretaps and securing private information in a manner that would compromise civil rights.

Passage of the resolution comes several months after the council declined to take a formal stand on the invasion of Iraq.

Wednesday, supporters presented the council with a petition signed by more than 900 islanders. Bob Burkholder called the preservation of constitutional rights “a non-partisan issue.”

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re liberal or conservative, green, black or white,” he said. “It affects all of us... Our freedom and hope rest in the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, both of which are now being compromised.”

Several cited the Bainbridge community’s stand against the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II; others likened the Patriot Act to the now-discredited hunt for Communists by Joe McCarthy in the 1950s.

“They can watch you now, legally, and not even tell you ever – support the resolution,” read a placard held by a high school student in the gallery.

Alone in opposing the resolution was Bob Gedney, who likened the United States’ war on terrorism to a prizefighter adhering to Marquis of Queensbury rules, facing an opponent with weighted gloves and the willingness to head-butt and hit below the belt.

More than 100 cities around the country have passed similar resolutions against the Patriot Act.

The Kitsap Regional Library this week formally opposed the act, because of provisions that allow the collection of information on what books patrons check out. The library board has an obligation “to defend intellectual freedom and patron privacy,” it said in a statement.

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