Opposition to anti-terrorism package in New York
Source: New York Civil Liberties Union
Date: September 06, 2003
The New York Civil Liberties Union opposes provisions of the anti-terrorism package the New York state Legislature has become deadlocked over. The majority of the Democrats who dominate the state Assembly will not let the legislation come to the floor of that chamber.
Most Assembly Democrats say they have one or more of the same concerns about the legislation as those expressed by the Civil Liberties Union:
PROVISION: To create a "good faith" exception to the exclusionary rule. This would allow evidence to be admitted at criminal trials, even that gathered illegally, if judges deemed police obtained the evidence in good faith and without knowingly breaking the law. The Supreme Court has recognized a limited "good-faith" exception in the use of some evidence.
OBJECTION: It violates the "hallowed" Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which protects citizens against illegal searches and seizures.
PROVISION: To allow uncorroborated evidence of an accomplice in a crime to be used to convict the alleged perpetrator.
OBJECTION: This provision would go against more than a century of New York common law on what constitutes the necessary evidence to convict a defendant.
PROVISION: To allow "roving" wiretaps of phone lines.
This would change the object of a wiretap request to a court from a specific telephone line to a person. Proponents say this merely acknowledges a reality of modern telecommunications, where disposable cell phones can be used for communication among criminals who are fairly certain that their conversations cannot be traced through more traditional court-obtained wiretaps. Some hijackers on Sept. 11, 2001, used cell phones to converse with one another, even up to when their planes were about to take off.
OBJECTION: Federal law may already authorize the wiretaps in the cases proponents say the law needs to cover. In domestic criminal cases, the potential for police and prosecutorial misuse is allegedly extensive.
PROVISION: To impose additional penalties for acts of terror.
OBJECTION: Federal law, under which most of these acts would be prosecuted, already allows for extra penalties, including for crimes committed using nuclear, radiological, chemical and biological agents. More study is needed to determine the value of a state law. The Civil Liberties Union said it worried that this provision could be applied against a "human rights activist" who throws a container of human waste at a jury in a courtroom or an abortion protester who throws human blood at clients entering an abortion clinic during a protest.
PROVISION: To make some criminal uses of a computer cyberterrorism, with heightened criminal penalties.
OBJECTION: Fairly innocuous uses, or misuses, of a computer could be deemed terrorism. The Civil Liberties Union said the "virtual march on Washington" conducted prior to the U.S.-Iraqi War by sincere protesters against that military action could have been subject to this statute because people jammed federal Web sites with anti-war sentiments in what could be called a "denial of service" operation under the statute.
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