NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Cities Move to Protect Civil Liberties

December 23, 2002

A number of U.S. cities are in effect saying to the federal government: don't let anti-terrorism programs jeopardize the civil liberties of our citizens.

  • Nearly two dozen cities have passed resolutions to that effect.
  • While the resolutions are largely symbolic, they are evidence of genuine citizen concerns and efforts to pass similar measures are underway in more than 60 other places.
  • Many communities are getting help in their efforts from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, a group located in Florence, Mass.
  • Supporters of the resolutions say the measures have grown out of a belief that the Patriot Act of 2001, the Homeland Security Act passed this year and a series of executive orders have given the federal government too much muscle in its war against terrorism at the expense of average Americans, especially Muslims.

While most of the resolutions carry little legal weight, some have a sharp tone. Amherst, Mass., went so far as to direct city personnel not to help federal and state officials in activities that could be considered in violation of civil rights or liberties.

Police officials in some towns warn the language in local resolutions could put them in the untenable position of refusing federal requests for cooperation in investigations or face possible arrest.

Source: Michael Janofsky, "Cities Wary of Anti-Terror Tactics Pass Civil Liberties Resolutions," New York Times, December 23, 2002.


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