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City Council slams Patriot Act

| Tuesday, April 27, 2004, 12:00 p.m.

Pittsburgh City Council put the administration -- of President Bush -- on notice Monday that it rejects many provisions of federal anti-terrorism policies, including the USA Patriot Act.

Council unanimously approved a resolution that opposes indefinite incarceration of non-citizens; access to personal medical, financial and educational records by law enforcement; and federal surveillance of religious services and political demonstrations.

Members directed the city clerk to send copies of the resolution to the White House, Congress and Attorney General John Ashcroft.

"The threat to this country will not come from without, but from erosion" of civil liberties, said Councilman William Peduto, the prime sponsor.

The Bush administration policies go "too far to destroy rights and freedoms of the people," Councilwoman Twanda Carlisle said.

The vote came after months of lobbying by the American Civil Liberties Union and other grass-roots organizations that have successfully pushed about 300 other local governments nationwide to approve similar measures.

Councilman Doug Shields said the Patriot Act is another example of the federal government overstepping its bounds, likening it to the second coming of McCarthyism.

Two dozen people spoke during council's public comment period in favor of the resolution; no one spoke against it. Council members had been divided on its language, but ultimately lined up behind both Peduto's resolution and a compromise bill introduced by Councilman Jim Motznik.

Council asked Mayor Tom Murphy to tell police not to enforce federal immigration laws, to refrain from surveillance of people participating in activities protected by the First Amendment and not to profile people based on race.

It recommends schools and universities notify students whose records have been obtained by federal investigators. It also suggests libraries post notices that records can be tracked by federal agents. Libraries should destroy records on borrowed books as soon as books are returned, council said.

Neither administration -- Bush's nor Murphy's -- had an immediate response.

In other action, the Murphy administration introduced bills Monday for five library branches -- in Homewood, Lawrenceville, Mt. Washington, the West End and Hazelwood -- to be declared historic structures. The bills are scheduled to come up for discussion May 5.

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