The following press release went out to nearly 400 members of the media in states considering bills to ban material support and resources to the NSA.
For Immediate Release: Feb. 23, 2015
More than a Dozen States Taking On the NSA
LOS ANGELES (Feb. 23, 2015) – Bills under consideration in more than a dozen states would take on NSA spying by banning state agencies or political subdivision from providing “material support or resources” to warrantless federal spy programs.
Legislators in Alaska, Arizona, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont and Washington have introduced the Fourth Amendment Protection Act so far this year.
In Utah, HB150 would require Bluffdale to turn off city supplied water to the NSA’s data center upon paying off the city’s $3 million bond.
“No more water means no more spy computers. That should get their attention,” OffNow executive director Mike Maharrey said. “Then maybe we’ll see some real reforms.”
In states without physical NSA facilities, passage of similar legislation would almost certainly discourage the agency from locating there, and would have other practical effects as well.
“If enough states step up and pass the Fourth Amendment Protection act, we can literally box them in and force reform – or else shut them down,” Maharrey said.
OffNow developed model legislation for the Fourth Amendment Protection Act in the summer of 2013. The strategy of taking action at the state level to address NSA spying evolved as it became clear D.C. was not going to offer any real oversight or reform.
“Sen. Frank Church warned us about the NSA 40 years ago, saying it had the potential for ‘total tyranny,’ and Congress still hasn’t acted. In fact, it further empowered the agency and made it more intrusive,” Maharrey said. “Just last week we learned that the NSA, along with its British cohorts, broke into a private company’s computers and stole cell phone encryption keys. Somebody’s got to stop this. If Congress and the president won’t do it, maybe the states will.”
The legislation would prohibit what NSA former Chief Technical Director William Binney called the country’s “greatest threat since the Civil War,” by banning the state from obtaining or making use of shared electronic data or metadata collected by the NSA without a warrant. Reuters revealed the extent of NSA data sharing with state and local law enforcement in an August 2013 article.
The Fourth Amendment Protection Act rests on a well-established legal principle. Under the anti-commandeering doctrine, the Supreme Court has long held that the federal government cannot require or force a state to provide resources for, or assist in, the implementation of any federal act or program.
“The law is settled on this issue,” Maharrey said. “There is no question that states can take this kind of action. The only question remaining is whether or not legislators in these states want to continue supporting the violation of its citizens’ privacy rights.”
The OffNow Project is an organization committed to stopping unconstitutional NSA spying and reining in the surveillance-state through state and local activism.