Red State of Montana Repudiates PATRIOT Act
By Hazem I. Kira

Helena, Montana: The state of Montana has overwhelmingly passed a bill that many are calling the strongest-worded censure of the USA PATRIOT Act to date, once again demonstrating the conviction strongly in the heartland of the United States that “the states are the true protectors of liberty, and it has the obligation to tell the federal government when it has gone too far”.
The recent action by the Montana state legislature brings the total of anti-PATRIOT Act resolutions to six states and 373 cities, counties and municipalities from around the country.
“When independent of each other, many individuals and groups arrive at the same conclusion, that is the beginning of a movement,” says AMA Chair and co-founder of the California Civil Rights Alliance (CCRA) Dr Agha Saeed. “Montana is one more proof of a spontaneous civil rights movement sweeping across the United States”,
Considered a ‘Red’ state during the 2004 presidential election, Montana issued a stringent statement, which was approved in bipartisan fashion by both houses. Out of a total of 50 House Republicans, 12 voted against the resolution, while 38 voted for it.
The joint resolution (SJR 19) sponsored by Sen. Jim Elliott, D-Trout Creek, and Jim Shockley, R- Victor, said that while the 2005 Legislature supports the federal government's fight against terrorism, the USA PATRIOT ACT and subsequent legislation has given federal authorities broad powers that many Montanans believe violate citizens' rights enshrined in both the US and state constitutions.
“It is the right and responsibility of the state to tell the Federal government when they have gone too far,” Senator Ellis, co-sponsor of the bill, told this author in an exclusive interview.

Jim Shockley
Montana State Legislature

Even though the USA PATRIOT Act is federal legislation, said Sen. Elliot, “In Montana” we still believe in what Thomas Jefferson said… that the states are the true protectors of liberty, and it has the obligation to tell the federal government when it has gone too far. With the passage of this bipartisan resolution, the message was sent loud and clear!”
“Strong Republican support in Montana for the anti-Patriot Act Resolution should be no surprise,” said Republican Senator Jim Shockley. “It’s simple, Republicans are conservative…we don’t like (any level of) government with too much power…this anti-USA PATRIOT Act Resolution was very, very popular among Republicans…while the USA PATRIOT Act is not!”
National Co-Chair of the Green Party, and co-founder of CCRA, Jo Chamberlain said she is not surprised by strong Republican support. “I think they are going back to their platform, the real Republicans believe in the constitution, while many of the Neo-Conservative do not. I think the real Republicans are stepping forward, and the country applauds them for that. This is something which I believe is pulling the country together, and uniting us.”
Mark Hinkle, Libertarian Party of California leader and also a co-founder of CCRA, agrees. “To me, the surprise is it has taken this long for the Red States to vocalize their opposition to the Act, but typically, in an open society the truth wins out in the long run.”
“But this is not merely a bipartisan issue,” continued Mr. Hinkle, but a quad partisan or multi-partisan issue, with Libertarians, Greens and other groups on board as well…there is a chorus of opposition to the PATRIOT Act!”
Republican vocal opposition has steadily increased since the Act passed in 2001, immediately following the September 11th attacks. A number of prominent Republicans have joined the bandwagon, including archconservative Georgia Congressman Bob Barr.
“I think,” said Barr, “the preservation of liberty, is one area where conservatives, libertarians and liberals should join forces.” The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the American Conservative Union (ACU), generally considered rivals on many issues, agree that the Act needs to be amended.
The action by the Montana state legislature comes in the wake of debates which began early April in the Senate and House Judiciary Committees on whether or not to reauthorize sunset provisions in the USA PATRIOT Act. “It became immediately clear,” said the Bill or Rights Defense Committee in its April 2005 newsletter, “that the legal, legislative, and grassroots efforts to prevent the loss of civil liberties have had an impact.”
At both meetings in the Senate and House Judiciary committees, “Attorney General Alberto Gonzales stated his willingness to make minor changes to the USA PATRIOT Act, and committee members asked pressing questions, reflecting marked differences in their attitudes from October 2001, when they overwhelmingly passed the USA PATRIOT Act”
When asked what advice Senator Ellis would give the 14 other states and hundreds of municipalities in the process of passing similar resolutions, he replied emphatically, “Make it strong! Montana has demonstrated that both sides of the political aisle are strongly opposed to any legislation that strips away civil liberties! “
The Montana resolution encourages Montana’s Congressional Delegation to support and ensure the civil rights of Montanans and all US citizens, “which includes allowing the USA PATRIOT Act to expire.”
It encourages Montana ‘s law enforcement agencies to not participate in investigations authorized under the Patriot Act that violate Montanans' constitutional rights, and further requests Montana's Attorney General to review any state intelligence information and destroy it if is not tied directly to suspected criminals. It also asks him to find out how many Montanans have been arrested and subject to professed "sneak and peaks” government searches. Such searches are done on a person's property without the their knowledge.
All libraries in the state, are also requested to post a sign stipulating: “WARNING: Under Section 215 of the federal USA PATRIOT Act (Public Law 107-56), records of the books and other material you borrow from this library may be obtained by federal agents. Federal law prohibits librarians from informing you if records about you have been obtained by federal agents.”
These concerns and others, have led Republican Congressman Barr to offer five reasons why conservatives should be leading the charge against the PATRIOT Act:
1. It knocks the stuffing out of the Fourth Amendment, which mandates the maximum respect for the sanctity of a citizen's home and personal property. It establishes that the rights of the individual are equal to the power of the government. Isn't individualism a foundation block of conservative thinking?
2. It allows secret searches of homes and offices without timely notification to their occupants and permits the secret seizure of private property. These are police state tactics.
3. It permits the government to employ secret courts to collect data on the private lives of its citizens, ranging from library check-outs to gun purchases, without the judicial checks and balances.
4. It defines terrorist activity so broadly it could be applied against all manner of political dissenters, including pro-life demonstrators.
5. Finally, the power of the Patriot Act doesn't expire with the current administration.
Passage of strongly worded resolution from a red state is bound to have a very powerful impact in many other cities and states, including California, the largest state in the Union.
Idaho, another red state, has recently added its voice to opposing the USA PATRIOT ACT.
For more information about cities and states contemplating legislation to seek complete or partial repeal of the USA PATRIOT ACT contact the California Civil Rights Alliance at (510) 252 – 9858 or visit www.civilrightsforall.net.


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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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