Anti-terrorism amendments approved by Nevada panel
April 16, 2003
The Assembly voted unanimously Tuesday to adopt amendments to a Nevada anti-terrorism bill — changes hailed by civil libertarians concerned that the initial plan was too broad.
But while AB250, sponsored by Assembly Speaker Richard Perkins, was revised, the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada still is worried about some of the wording in the bill.
Richard Siegel, head of the Nevada ACLU, said his organization has more concerns about SB38, a Senate-sponsored anti-terrorism measure.
Siegel added the concerns are warranted because terrorists convicted under the proposed law could get sentences ranging from life imprisonment to the death penalty.
“We feel pretty good about what’s been accomplished in the Assembly,” Siegel said. “But the language in the Senate bill was not as carefully tailored.”
Siegel also credited the conservative Nevada Eagle Forum for helping to raise many of the same issues brought up by the ACLU, adding, “The truth is, there’s a left-right coalition that’s working on this.”
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The amendments to AB250 include wording to protect peoples’ free speech rights. The changes include a line that says “coercion” doesn’t include protests or other forms of civil disobedience.
“One of our major concerns was that acts of civil disobedience or labor protests not be considered acts of terrorism,” Siegel said.
Other changes tighten the definition of terrorism to exclude the use of fear as a tactic. Now it’s the use of sabotage, coercion or violence to cause “great bodily harm or death to more than one person.”
Also covered are the use of such tactics to destroy, contaminate or impair buildings, communication networks, transportation or utility services or “any natural resource or the environment.”
Siegel said he still has some concerns because wording in the Assembly bill dealing with damage to structures or services might be used to prosecute arsonists as terrorists.
The amended version of AB250 is expected to come up for a final vote in the Assembly in a few days. From there, it must go to the Senate for its review.
Perkins, D-Henderson, said that while all of the acts covered under his bill are already illegal, it’s still necessary to codify terrorism in Nevada’s statutes and to increase the penalties.
“The people who do these types of despicable things deserve to be punished more stringently,” Perkins said during an earlier hearing on the bill.