Ohio Clampdown

The PATRIOT Act and the states.


Since 2002 four states and 370 local governments have passed resolutions condemning the PATRIOT Act. Some of the measures don't stop with a strongly worded statement. Toledo, Ohio, for example, asked its librarians to post a warning that "records of the books and other materials you borrow from this library may be obtained by federal agents. That federal law prohibits librarians from informing you if records about you have been obtained by federal agents. Questions about this policy should be directed to: Attorney General John Ashcroft, Department of Justice, Washington, DC 20530."

Four other Ohio cities have denounced the PATRIOT Act–and, in some cases, asked their employees to work around it to whatever extent the law allows. Soon they may face a new regulation restraining such resolutions. In March the state Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 9, nicknamed the Ohio Patriot Act, which would "restrict municipal ordinances and other enactments from materially hindering or preventing compliance with immigration or terrorism investigations or with federal laws or orders pertaining to terrorism or homeland security." Any city that passes such an ordinance "shall be ineligible to receive any homeland security funding available from the state."

That's not all that's in the Ohio bill, which at press time had not yet passed the state House. Among other things, it gives law enforcement officers the right to set up checkpoints where everyone is required to reveal his name, address, and date of birth, on threat of detention. It also denies various licenses and state contracts to anyone who has assisted any person or group on the federal Terrorism Exclusion List. (Far from being limited to obvious terrorists, that list is broad enough to include an Arab TV channel, Al-Manar.) Much of the legislation was inspired by New York's Anti-Terrorism Preparedness Act, passed last year, though the restrictions on city resolutions appear to be sui generis.