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Alaska Cops Trying to Kill Bill that Would End State Cooperation with Federal Mass Surveillance

JUNEAU, Alaska (March 26, 2015) – An Alaska bill that would ban “material support or resources” to the NSA has bogged down in a Senate committee due to fierce opposition from state law enforcement lobbyists.

Alaska Sen. Bill Wielechowski filed SB13 in January. The legislation would prohibit the state and its municipalities from using assets, including personnel, to assist a federal agency in collecting certain telephone records or electronic data without a warrant.

The Alaska Peace Officers Association, the Alaska Association of Police Chiefs and the Anchorage Police Department all drafted letters expressing opposition to the legislation.

In its letter, the AAPC said, “While we will always follow the law and strive to protect the rights of the public, we cannot support legislation which serves to sever or limit our relationships with fellow officers who are adhering to federal law. It is crucial that state, local and federal agencies maintain the ability to share resources cooperate effectively to protect the citizens of Alaska.”

Their argument seems pretty dumb.

SB13 would stop state support of federal mass, warrantless surveillance – something by definition unconstitutional. In other words – illegal.  So, the police chief association essentially says, “Hey, we don’t want to limit our partnerships with fellow officers adhering to federal law, therefore we can’t support this bill banning partnerships with fellow officers engaged in an illegal activity.”

After talking with representatives from various law enforcement interests, Sen. Wielechowski drafted an amendment clarifying that the bill would only deny material support to “a federal agency that is involved in the routine surveillance or involuntary collection or storage of bulk telephone or email records or related metadata.” The Senate State and Regional Affairs Committee approved the amendment during a March 19 hearing.

Despite the amended language, law enforcement lobbyists continued to oppose SB13.

Their continued opposition amounts to an admission that they know – or at least suspect – that they cooperate with agencies that engage in illegal, unconstitutional surveillance. Otherwise, why oppose the bill? SB13 only prohibits cooperation with agencies engaged in warrantles, mass spying. Apparently, these cops know the feds engage in just that, and think it should continue.

During a second hearing on March 24, two cops testified in opposition of the bill. Alaska Peace Officers Association vice president Kris Sell said SB13 could put a wedge between Alaska Law enforcement agencies and their “federal partners.”

“If I collect something like text messages or emails from a victim or somebody who’s giving a tip about drug work, and then I’m told because the feds don’t have a warrant that I can’t share my legally obtained information with them for a federal prosecution, potentially it only hurts your constituents, the public,” she said.

This raises a question in my mind. How would ending state cooperation with mass surveillance stop a local cop from sharing a ‘legally obtained’ text message with an FBI agent? Apparently, Kris thinks the FBI engages in illegal, unconstitutional, warrantless mass surveillance. That’s the only way her scenario would play out under SB13.

Lt. Rodney Dial with the Alaska Department of Public Safety opposed the bill because it would do exactly what it was intended to do, and flat out admitted the feds obtain data through mass surveillance.

“If the FBI was working a narcotics case and submitted a request for information to the department asking for information that we have about a suspect, we would be concerned that we’d have to ensure that they didn’t come about the suspect’s name by warrantless monitoring of electronic data,” he said.

Of course, we know the feds do just that.

Documents obtained Reuters showed that the NSA regularly passes information to police through a formerly secret DEA unit known Special Operations Divisions. These cases “rarely involve national security issues.” Almost all of the information relates to regular criminal investigations, not terror-related investigations. Documents also revealed that the feds encourage state and local police to create “parallel investigations” that hide the actual source of the illegally collected data. Former NSA technical chief William Binney called this practice “the most threatening situation to our constitutional republic since the Civil War.”

Committee chair Sen. Click Bishop has indicated he won’t move the bill until Wielechowski can come up with amended language that eliminates law enforcement opposition.

“I don’t know that we’ll ever get consensus from the law enforcement agencies at this point,” Wielechowski said.

Law enforcement lobbyists have opposed legislation to deny state material support to NSA spying in virtually every state that it’s been introduced. The Montana Department of Justice managed to kill a similar bill, claiming it would keep police from catching child pornographers.

It’s an absurd argument.

Seriously? We’re supposed to believe catching perverts depends on a cop’s continued ability to cooperate with mass NSA spying?

Please.

Law enforcement interests also fought bills to refuse state cooperation with federal indefinite detention without due process under the 2012 NDAA. Do cops think they need to help with what amounts to federal kidnapping in order to catch child pornographers?

It makes one wonder if the real reason state and local law enforcement doesn’t want states to end cooperation with federal agencies might have more mercenary roots.

Publicly, it’s always about public safety, or protecting the children. But their reasoning just doesn’t hold any water. It’s highly likely that they just don’t want to rock the apple cart. Police departments want the grants. They want the asset forfeiture money. And they want the military toys. Refusal to cooperate with the feds for any reason might shut down that gravy train.

The said truth is, they’d rather the feds keep spying on you than risk losing the cash and cool tanks handed out by their “federal partners.”

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