ACLU Nebraska Chapter Head Claims Police Harassment

New York Times

ACLU Nebraska Chapter Head Claims Police Harassment

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — The head of the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union said Friday that two Nebraska state troopers tried to intimidate him after he screened a documentary film critical of the federal Patriot Act.

Tim Butz, who filed a complaint Wednesday with State Patrol chief Col. Tom Nesbitt, alleged the troopers approached him after he screened the documentary film “Unconstitutional: The War on Our Civil Liberties” at a community college in North Platte on Sept. 22.

The film is critical of the Patriot Act, a package of prosecution and surveillance measures passed by Congress after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist acts that has been criticized as infringing on citizens’ constitutional rights.

“Police officers take oaths to uphold the constitution,” Butz said. “Stifling free speech is contrary to that oath and is disgraceful.”

Butz said troopers Greg Vandenberg and Norb Liebig, who are based in North Platte, were among about 75 people who attended the film’s screening at Mid-Plains Community College.

Butz alleges that afterward, Vandenberg identified himself as an FBI agent and said Liebig accused him of lying “and that I ‘shouldn’t come out to these small towns and scare people and stir things up.”’

Patrol spokeswoman Deb Collins said the complaint had been referred to the agency’s internal affairs division for investigation. She declined further comment.

Liebig declined to comment while the internal investigation is pending. Vandenberg did not immediately return a phone message left at the patrol office Friday.

Butz said he asked Nesbitt to investigate and explain why Vandenberg identified himself as an FBI agent when he actually was a state patrol trooper.

“Unconstitutional” is being shown across the country in events organized by the ACLU and others.

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