State acts to thwart US law on terrorism

2012-04-20T00:00:00Z 2012-04-20T09:43:47Z State acts to thwart US law on terrorismHoward Fischer Capitol Media Services Arizona Daily Star
April 20, 2012 12:00 am  • 

PHOENIX - State legislators have all but finalized a law making it a crime for any state official or employee to assist in the enforcement of a federal anti-terrorism law.

SB 1182 would block state employees from enforcing two sections of the new National Defense Authorization Act dealing with when the federal government can detain people - including U.S. citizens - suspected of involvement in terrorism.

The proposed state legislation, which passed the House Thursday on a 34-24 vote, would make helping the feds with that a misdemeanor. That even includes state and local police. A nearly identical version already has been approved by the Senate, which now needs to sign off on the House changes.

A federal act, signed at the end of last year by President Obama, gives him authority "to use all necessary and appropriate force" to detain, without trial, certain people, including not only those who planned or aided in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks but anyone who "substantially supported al-Qaida, the Taliban or associated forces." That includes U.S. citizens and provides for military trials.

The state legislation deals with a contention that the federal government has overreached and is acting illegally.

State lawmakers already have voted to condemn the law. But Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, said that's not enough.

She said anyone who works for the state or local government should be barred from having anything to do with enforcing that law. And Allen said she sees nothing wrong with threatening those who do with arrest.

The vote was one of two shots the Legislature took Thursday at Washington.

On a separate voice vote, the House gave preliminary approval to legislation demanding the U.S. government give up title to all of its public lands in Arizona and give them to the state.

SB 1332 would allow the state to keep what it wants. And it would retain 5 percent of the net proceeds of anything it sold off, giving the balance to the federal government.

The federal government controls nearly 48,000 square miles, about 42 percent of the state.

The bill was offered by Sen. Al Melvin, R-Tucson. Melvin's bill wants all of it, except about 5,800 square miles of military bases and more than 4,000 square miles of national parks - though it does demand national monuments and wilderness areas.

Melvin conceded he does not expect Washington to suddenly give Arizona the deed to millions of acres of land. Nor does he foresee the state using police to seize the land.

But he figures the legislation, which already has gained Senate approval in slightly different form, will provide the legal basis for a lawsuit.

Melvin noted other states are pursuing similar measures. And Utah's governor signed a law last month demanding back what the feds own.

"What I envision is something like Obamacare," he said, where two dozen states filed suit and successfully got the U.S. Supreme Court to review the legality of federal action.

Allen said the terrorism enforcement prohibitions are needed because "if you help the federal government to arrest citizens who have due process," she has no problem making it a misdemeanor, which carries a potential six months in jail.

Rep. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, said Allen is right in objecting to the federal law but wrong on her approach.

"I strongly support the intention behind this bill," he said, calling the National Defense Authorization Act "a real problem." But he said the criminal penalties make no sense.

"We're putting our own law enforcement officers in a hopeless double bind where they're committing a state crime if they try to stop a federal crime," Farley said. "I don't know that we want to put our law enforcement officials in that position."

But Allen said her legislation helps police enforce their sworn duty to obey both the state and federal constitutions.

She said the federal act violates people's constitutional rights to a speedy trial, the aid of counsel and to confront witnesses, not to mention their freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures as well as a prohibition on excessive bail.

"They're supposed to uphold the Constitution," she said of police. "And they turn right around and they go against many provisions of it?"

Allen stressed she's not trying to protect those who conspire against the country, and nothing in her legislation will stop a police officer from making an arrest.

She said the only thing her measure does is ensure anyone who is accused is guaranteed the constitutional due process.

And if they're guilty? "I hope they go to jail and rot there," she said.

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