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U.S. attorney criticizes University City resolution
By Bill Bryan
University City has drawn the ire of U.S. Attorney Ray Gruender.
The City Council recently passed a resolution Gruender says, that puts "lives in jeopardy" and increases the chances for terrorists to be successful.
The resolution "puts all citizens at risk" and could result in "catastrophic loss of life," claims Gruender, who is the federal prosecutor for the eastern district of Missouri.
The resolution, passed by a vote of 4-2 on Feb. 10, expresses concern that recent federal actions - including the adoption of the Homeland Security and USA Patriot acts - could infringe on Americans' civil rights. The resolution directs city employees to refrain from taking part in activities they believe may violate constitutionally protected civil liberties.
That drew Gruender's criticism.
"Nobody wants to undermine civil liberties," he said.
But, he added, "If this resolution inhibits a University City officer from sharing information with federal counterparts, imagine the consequences. Without the ability for all law enforcement to work together to connect the dots of information, a terrorist cell located in University City could go undetected and result in catastrophic loss of life."
Joseph Adams, mayor of the city of 40,000 people, defended the resolution.
"(Gruender) may not like it. That's his free speech," Adams said. "But we want to make sure the civil rights of residents of University City are protected, that the Constitution is not broken and that the Bill of Rights is not trashed."
He said the resolution simply "instructs the police department not to break the law."
Adams added: "Historically, whenever the United States has had conflicts, there have been examples of the U.S. violating its principles."
University City is believed to be the first city in Missouri and the 33rd in the nation to pass such a measure.
In addition to referring to USA Patriot and Homeland Security acts, the resolution cites several executive orders and the revised Attorney General Guidelines to the FBI. The resolution says such actions could infringe on rights of due process, free speech, assembly, privacy and properly authorized searches.
Adams said he would like Gruender to appear before the City Council.
"Maybe it would stimulate debate, if the citizens are willing to give away their rights," he said.
Gruender said the resolution's implication that new federal policies permit warrantless searches, seizures and wiretaps is false.
"Judicially issued, independent determinations of probable cause remain the necessary legal standard," the prosecutor said. "E-mail content is no more accessible without a court order now than it was before the USA Patriot Act.
"Ethnicity, religion and race are no more appropriate triggers for investigative measures now than before. As was true before the Patriot Act, so-called secret searches can occur only in rare situations and only with judicial approval.
"Extending permission for FBI agents to attend public events or examine publicly available information simply permits them to do what local, state and most federal law enforcement officers always have been allowed to do."
Reporter Bill Bryan:
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