MOUNT VERNON (AP) – Voters in this small, central Maine town joined other cities in Maine, and more than 150 across the nation, that have passed resolutions condemning the USA Patriot Act.

Saturday’s vote made the community of 1,440 residents the first in Maine to approve a resolution against the Patriot Act at a town meeting. Waterville, Portland and Bangor have passed similar resolutions through their city officials.

The state Legislature also passed a resolution in March urging Congress to ensure that the federal anti-terrorism law doesn’t compromise civil liberties. Alaska, Hawaii and Vermont lawmakers have also passed anti-Patriot Act measures.

The Patriot Act, passed by Congress weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, expands the government’s ability to use wiretaps, monitor e-mail and conduct searches in its fight against terrorism.

The law has encountered sharp criticism by civil libertarians, librarians and other groups in addition to elected bodies.

In California, the cities of Santa Cruz and South Pasadena formally declared their opposition to the Patriot Act. Santa Cruz is also the first local government in the country to pass a resolution asking Congress to look into impeaching President Bush over his handling of the war in Iraq.

Appleton, Wis., and Multnomah County, Ore., librarians passed policies to inform patrons of the potential for secret surveillance. Leaflets carrying that message were handed out in Calais, Maine, and library computer logs were shredded in Santa Cruz, Calif.

Attorney General John Ashcroft has traveled to cities throughout the country to defend the Patriot Act, saying the law has made possible a series of terrorism arrests.

Ashcroft contends that Americans broadly support the law, citing opinion polls and lopsided votes in favor when the measure passed Congress. Justice Department officials also say the opposition is being generated by a vocal minority that has spread false impressions of the law.

At Saturday’s town meeting in Mount Vernon, which is 20 miles northwest of Augusta, Christopher Dumaine said he’s concerned that the law could be misused.

“Someday, somebody will use those laws against us,” Dumaine warned.


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