Wright gets into intraparty squabble
Terror bill irks others in GOP
DENVER — Some Republican legislators are not happy with Rep. Jared Wright and his bill to prevent Colorado law enforcement officials from cooperating with federal agents when it comes to arresting terrorists.
A to-do between the Fruita Republican and some of his colleagues started when some lawmakers on his side of the political aisle began to question what authority a state could have over a federal law.
At issue is the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, which includes a provision first enacted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. That provision allows federal authorities to arrest and detain terrorist suspects without normal legal due process.
Wright’s bill to prevent law enforcement officials in the state from following that provision has created an unlikely alliance between the constitutional purists on the right and so-called ACLU extremists on the left, state legislators said.
“It’s been understood by libertarian and civil liberty groups as being a threat to their liberty,” said Rep. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs. “I understand their concern, and I have my own concerns about (the federal law), but I don’t think that House Bill 1045 really helps the situation. The situation is helped by the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act reading differently, and not us trying to as a state legislature get into the middle of what is a federal discussion.”
Other Republicans also began to oppose the bill when Wright placed an amendment on it in the House State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee to exempt the Colorado National Guard.
Trouble is, the amendment did more than exempt the National Guard from HB1045. It also endorsed the questionable provision in the federal law, said House Minority Leader Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs.
Waller and Gardner were among a half dozen Republican lawmakers who were inundated with hundreds of phone calls and emails over the past few days from angry voters, many of whom were from out of state, saying they would be betraying their oaths to uphold the Constitution by opposing Wright’s measure.
Those lawmakers were further annoyed because those calls came to their private cellphones, the numbers for which are not provided to the general public.
Wright said he doesn’t know how their private cellphone numbers became public, but said neither he nor his aide, Joshua Kistler, gave them out.
“I’ve been getting the same calls to support my own bill,” Wright said. “I am absolutely not considering firing Josh. He has assured me he had nothing to do with releasing cellphone information and I have no reason not to trust him.”
Wright said both Gardner and Waller pointed out a valid concern over the National Guard amendment, admitting he’d made a mistake by adding it and hopes to get it stripped out of the bill when it is debated in the House later this week.
Gardner said he was mostly able to explain to callers his reasons for opposing the measure, but he still didn’t like the idea of having his privacy violated, particularly over their misunderstanding of the bill.
“It was very annoying to have your personal cellphone put out there,” Gardner said. “When I explained my concerns that (the act) is really about the war on terrorism and really not good state public policy, people were mostly responding, ‘I didn’t understand that. I haven’t read (the act).’ There’s just a lot of misunderstanding.”
Regardless of the to-do over the messages, Wright said the bill points to a valid federal issue that the state can have a say in helping to end.
He said it’s a dangerous road to allow any government the right to detain citizens without due process.
“Representative Gardner as a seasoned attorney brought forward a very valid concern with my amendment to the bill that excludes the Colorado National Guard,” Wright said. “I think all state agencies need to be limited from participating in indefinitely detaining U.S. citizens. The question is if we can accomplish this constitutionally as a state without creating confusion amongst our military ranks regarding enforcement.”