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Santa Fe Police Arrest Attorney For Comments he Made In An Internet Chat-RoomA St. John’s College Library visit by a former public defender was abruptly interrupted February 13 when city police officers arrested him about 9 p.m. at the computer terminal he was using, handcuffed him, and brought him to the Santa Fe, New Mexico, police station for questioning by Secret Service agents from Albuquerque. Andrew J. O’Conner, 40, who was released about five hours later, said in the February 16 Santa Fe New Mexican, “I’m going to sue the Secret Service, Santa Fe Police, St. John’s, and everybody involved in this whole thing.”
According to O’Connor, the agents accused him of making threatening remarks about President George W. Bush in an Internet chat room. Admitting he talked politics face-to-face in the library with a woman who was wearing a “No war with Iraq” button, O’Connor recalled saying that Bush is “out of control,” but that “I’m allowed to say all that. There is this thing called freedom of speech.” He also speculated that the FBI might have been observing him because of his one-time involvement in a pro-Palestinian group in Boulder, Colorado.
Earlier on the same day O’Connor was questioned, officials at St. John’s—as well as at the College of Santa Fe and Santa Fe Community College—issued warnings to students and faculty that the FBI had been alerted to the presence of “suspicious” people on campus within the past four weeks.
Concern about threats to individual privacy under the USA Patriot Act has prompted New Mexico legislators in both houses to propose resolutions urging state police not to help federal agents infringe on civil rights. The resolutions also encourage libraries to post prominent signage warning patrons that their library records are subject to federal scrutiny without their permission or knowledge.
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