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Empire editorial: Is the Assembly the place to decide the community's conscience on patriotism?
I read Don Smith's editorial in Sunday's Empire about the Patriot Act. I detect he was trying to give voice to those satisfied with government action to increase domestic surveillance and federal law enforcement power. Thank you, Don, for this service. But I must challenge you on four things.
You took Mayor Smith to task for failing to keep Assembly chamber order, despite Mr. Anderson's specific objection against audible audience expression concerning Patriot Act testimony. Just previously, she also failed to control applause over testimony on Perseverance Theatre successes. Thus the mayor was at least consistent about her "laxity." But concerning his objection, Mr. Anderson was not. I was a witness. So, Don, patriotism had nothing to do with it. It was just ordinary human imperfection.
Next, the USA Patriot Act passed resoundingly because Attorney Gen. Ashcroft warned of further emergencies unless it was passed as-is. Consequently, congressmen didn't study it, and brushed off deliberating its merits. So sorry you didn't hear Rep. Young speaking about the trouble this has caused in the most recent "Talk of Alaska" radio program.
You asserted that there were no laws that would have prevented the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks. Don, please read up on 9/11 investigations by Congress. Congress found the major government fault was poor intelligence analysis - aggravated by interagency non-cooperation in dissemination of known data. It was not a lack of quality intelligence or capability to effectively act. For example, it was revealed that a foreign intelligence service, already tracking two of the 9/11 perpetrators, reported them to U.S. intelligence in summer 2001. This accelerated congressional cooperation for the Homeland Security bureaucracy reorganization.
Finally, Don, you imply that it's really not the practical business of the Juneau Assembly to get involved with this issue and that anything done would be symbolic. Will you please reread Article XII, Sect. 5, Alaska Constitution about oaths of office by elected officials? Since Juneau ordinance defers to Alaska Constitution here, all Assembly members swore to support and defend the U.S. and Alaska constitutions. Just how will they avoid oath breaking, if they avoid consideration of alleged conflicts with our constitutions as locally reported?
Therefore, Don, I urge you to come give testimony at the hearing 5 p.m. Tuesday on advantages of the Patriot Act against terrorism - instead of deriding this basic process of American self-government.