My Turn: A chilly reception for rights resolution

Posted: Monday, February 17, 2003

The FBI has a program called Carnivore. It's function is to allow a computer to attach itself to an Internet service provider, filtering through all the traffic to find target information to which it is legally entitled. Problem is, no one is allowed to look at the computer code that grabs information except the FBI itself. Zero oversight.

Congress uses an antiquated committee system to oversee the administration's numerous spy agencies. That is equivalent to matching a 1990s PC against the Carnivore to maintain the balance between Congress and the administration on security issues, if one ever really existed, something must be done quickly. For example, a Congressional Liberties Office might be organized using the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office as a model.

The sudden marriage of lower legal thresholds and enhanced technology enable the tracing of private citizen's lives in ways that fallen dictators could have only dreamed. Just seeing what Google can find about you in seconds is scary enough for the average person.

Although the Privacy Act of 1974 banned the government from maintaining information on citizens who are not the target of investigations, it can now buy access to data libraries maintained by businesses. The child called data probing has many parents and is growing relentlessly.

There is a draft resolution before the CBJ Assembly that calls on our Alaska congressional delegation and their colleagues to monitor the implementation of the Patriot Act and new executive orders. It further calls on them to work for the repeal of those provisions found to violate fundamental rights and liberties.

Given the glacially slow judicial response to problems in society, it is Congress to whom we must first look for oversight and relief as problems are discovered.

And the fastest way to get Congress to act is to begin passing resolutions at the municipal level. True, a resolution is in fact a purely symbolic gesture. But we Alaskans pass them almost daily in a quest for relief from the federal government. Although we are not the actual adjudicators of federal issues, the resolution is a time-honored means of expressing local concern. It would require a library to house those pertinent to resource development in Alaska, an issue which is almost totally under federal control.

Fairbanks has passed a resolution and Anchorage is a work in progress. The Juneau version has problems that will need correction. For example, you may say that a section of the Patriot Act is not respective of civil liberties and should be changed. But until the courts say either Congress or the administration has overstepped their Constitutional authority, the CBJ is not going to make the charge.

This is apparent from their initial review of the document. Presumably citing a sentence alleging "an abuse of power," the city attorney made a chilling remark: "We should keep in mind that the people we are accusing of bad faith are the same ones we will be asking to build the NOAA Center and fund the second crossing."

The fact that CBJ Law would reflexively bring up the federal government's ability to financially retaliate against a small community impulsive enough to use intemperate language is bothersome, even if politically correct. That said, they have good suggestions in their review of the draft which should be heeded in writing a final document.

The next stop for the "Resolution to Defend the Constitution and the Bill of Rights" is public hearing on Tuesday from 5-7 p.m. in Assembly Chambers. Hopefully, people on both sides of the issue will appear so the Human Resources Committee can forward something to the entire Assembly that has been road tested.

This will be an opportunity for Juneau to hear not only concerned citizens, but also professionals from various disciplines that deal with these new laws. Should you wish to do personal research, excellent resources are: ; ; ; ; and . Space prohibits listing by name.

• Larry Hurlock lives in Juneau and advises a trust manager. He has worked on the resolution project since its beginning.

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