Colorado Senate Bill 13-013, working its way through the state legislature would give the United States Secret Service “Peace Officer” authority in the state. More than being a solution in search of a problem, this bill is a terrible intrusion of Federal power into local law enforcement by an agency with expanding powers and a track record of abusing free speech rights of Americans. This bill will come before the Colorado house this week prior to a final stop for the Governor’s signature. The Republican Liberty Caucus of Colorado urges you to contact your state representative and tell them to vote “NO on SB-13”.
You may envision the Secret Service as the guys in black suits ready to take a bullet for the President. In Fact, the Secret Service employs approximately 3,200 special agents, 1,300 Uniformed Division officers, and more than 2,000 other technical, professional and administrative support personnel.
In a post 9/11 world there is much more to the agency than serving as presidential body guards. In fact expanding the use of “peace officer” authority in various states is part of an organized effort to give the Secret Service another tool in the kit of powers used to restrict the voice of peaceful protest near the President, foreign visitors and major national events.
The Secret Service has too much power over citizens already! Beginning in 2002 the Secret Service has been used to limit protest speech to which federal and foreign officials are subject. The agency repeatedly directed local law enforcement to place protesters opposed to administration policies out of sight and away from cameras and press, while those supporting the President or neutral, are placed in prime locations. This practice continued at the Republican and Democratic National conventions of 2008 and 2012.
This is a basic first amendment violation. “The Secret Service’s directives, which have the effect of deciding which messages are to be afforded favorable treatment, are completely at odds with our Constitution’s guarantees of free speech and rights of protest,” ACLU Legal Director Stefan Presser said.
The Patriot Act of 2006 again expanded the powers of the Secret Service by creating, for the first time, a Uniformed Service division, essentially a uniformed federal police. The act also allows the president in his sole discretion to designate an event as “a special event of national significance” and deploy the Secret Service to oversee security at the event and its perimeter.
In response to large scale protests at federal facilities by Tea Party and Occupy groups, even more power was granted the Secret Service in 2011 with the passage of the “Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act.” The law, signed by President Obama, expands an existing statute by making your presence around these areas a criminal act even if you are not “willfully” committing a crime!
Couple this track record of legislation with a recent Supreme court decision granting immunity from civil litigation to the Secret Service and the potential for abuses is obvious. The case originated in Colorado when a man in at a mall in Beaver Creek touched the Vice President and uttered some unkind words about the war in Iraq. He was subsequently arrested. His lawsuit was dismissed by the court and immunity from such suits now shields the agency.
Who would want to grant this agency additional powers in Colorado? There can be no doubt that this bill came from outside! It is part a similar push in other states, most recently in Connecticut. In that state some most Republicans and a few Democrats questioned the bills intent:
“We cannot just assume that everything is going to be OK because they are highly skilled and highly trained,” Connecticut Republican Rep Sean Williams said. “We don’t know the reason why we are doing this bill. We don’t know what problem we are solving.”
Lets hope Colorado Republicans are willing to demand answers to the same questions and vote “NO” on Senate Bill 13. Contact your Rep and tell them you want a NO vote.