By Jack King
One Clovis woman has started a lonely campaign to get the Clovis City Commission to pass a resolution questioning the U.S. Patriot Act.
Christine Nahmens said she has never been involved in a political action before and shies away from publicity. But she said she was moved to take action because she is concerned that the Patriot Act poses a threat to civil liberties.
She developed a proposed resolution and took it to every Clovis city commissioner, Curry County commissioner, Mayor David Lansford and Clovis Police Chief Bill Carey.
“I really didn’t know what avenue to take,” Nahmens said. “This is just something I felt needed to be done. Our officials are the ones who can change the law, so I started at the top.”
“Also, local government would be the first parties impacted by any decisions that would affect civil liberties. I believe our local government are good people, and that if they are aware there is a threat to civil liberties, they would take steps to do something about it,” she added.
The three-page resolution includes a list of provisions in the act that Nahmens states violate the First, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
Among other things, she says the act:
n greatly expands the ability of government to carry out secret searches.
n all but eliminates judicial supervision of telephone and Internet surveillance.
n subjects non-citizens to indefinite detention or deportation even if they have not committed a crime.
n allows broad access to sensitive business, financial, educational, library, medical and mental health records without first showing probable cause, or evidence of a crime and forbidding disclosure that such information has been demanded.
Nahmens’ resolution asks the New Mexico’s Congressional delegation to actively monitor the implementation of the USA Patriot Act and to work for the repeal of those portions that violate guaranteed civil liberties.
Mayor David Lansford said he is impressed with the amount of study Nahmens has given the Patriot Act.
“It’s like most pieces of legislation. There are not many people who read them and those who read them don’t understand them. It takes a lot of skill. There are people we train in society to do that — attorneys — and perhaps we’ve put our trust in them prematurely,” he said.
Lansford said there is a possibility the city commission would consider a resolution directing legislators to study the Patriot Act more closely.
“Something that’s as far-reaching with regard to civil liberties as the Patriot Act needs a lot more public scrutiny than it has received so far,” Lansford said. “It may be an appropriate response to the situation, but it must stand the test of time.”
Commissioner Juan Garza said he, too, would consider a resolution.
“From what I’ve read of her letter, she seems to be asking for a resolution in support of the Bill of Rights. I’m a little ambivalent about the situation. On one hand, I’m glad the government is out there protecting us. On the other hand, I don’t believe people should be put in a position where the government is violating their civil rights. So, I would support a resolution that asks our Congressional representatives to protect our civil liberties,” he said.
City Manager Ray Mondragon said a resolution is merely an opinion or a directive of the commission and not legally binding.
By drawing attention to the issue, Nahmens’ one-woman crusade has been effective, Lansford said.
“You bet. She has raised awareness considerably by visiting with local and regional officials and asking them to consider passage of the resolution. She’s a voice worth listening to,” he said.
Nahmens, a working mother of a teen-age daughter, said she developed the pattern for her resolution and some of her information from the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, an anti-Patriot Act group based in Florence, Mass., that, according to its Web site, works closely with the American Civil Liberties Union.
According to the group’s Web site, 127 cities and counties nationwide have passed resolutions questioning the Patriot Act. In New Mexico, Rio Arriba County and the cities of Aztec, Socorro and Santa Fe have passed such resolutions, it said.
Nahmens added, however, that some parts of the resolution and much of her information come from her research as she became increasingly alarmed about the Patriot Act.
“I watched the events of Sept. 11 with horror, as did everyone. Then I watched as they developed the Patriot Act. I felt they were exerting federal powers that were unnecessary for the protection of the people,” she said.
Brett Carter, 9th Judicial District attorney, said the Patriot Act is a federal law and has had no effect, and probably will have no effect, on how local law enforcement agencies investigate crimes or prosecute cases.