OKLAHOMA CITY – Today, an Oklahoma state House committee voted 9-3 to pass a bill designed to thwart warrantless surveillance programs of the National Security Agency (NSA), while a New Hampshire house committee voted 12-1 to approve a bill blocking some practical effects of federal spying.
The Oklahoma Privacy Protection Act (HB2808) was introduced by Rep. Lewis Moore last month. It would prohibit state material support or assistance to the spy agency. It reads, in part:
“It is the public policy of this state to refuse material support, participation or assistance to any federal agency which claims the power to authorize, or with any federal law, rule, regulation or order which purports to authorize, the collection of electronic data or metadata of any person pursuant to any action not based on a warrant that particularly describes the person, place or thing to be searched or seized.”
The bill faced its first hurdle today, with an important hearing and vote in the House Committee on States Rights. It needed a majority vote to move forward.
The legislation would ban Oklahoma from providing material support or resources to the operation of any federal facilities engaged in the warrantless surveillance of people in the Sooner state. While the NSA does not operate a physical facility in the state, the prohibition of material support sends an important message to the spy agency by pulling up the welcome mat.
“We know the NSA is aggressively expanding its physical locations around the country from Utah to Texas and elsewhere,” Trejo said. “Since the NSA rarely tells us its plans in advance, it is absolutely essential to make sure that states pass this legislation to cut them off at the pass. Our plan is to box them in and do everything we can to stop them.”
The legislation also bans the use of warrantless data in state courts. A Reuters report last year revealed that the NSA shares data with state and local law enforcement through a secret outfit called the Special Operation Division (SOD). The federal government also shares data mined by its agencies, including the NSA, through “fusion centers.
Reports in the Washington Post and USA Today last fall documented how “the FBI and most other investigative bodies in the federal government” are regularly using a mobile device known as a “stingray” to intercept and collect electronic data without a warrant. Local and state police “have access through sharing agreements.”
“What we’re trying to prevent is the unlawful sending of data in an investigation where there was no warrant…in violation of your Fourth Amendment rights,” Moore said.
Shane Trejo of the OffNow coalition suggested that this might be the most effective part of the bill.
“While Oklahoma might not be able to physically stop the NSA and other federal agencies from collecting our data without a warrant, legislation such as this can significantly reduce the practical effect of what they are trying to do with it – namely, use it within the states for non-terror criminal cases, which is a gross violation of the Fourth Amendment,” he said.
A similar, but narrower, bill also passed out of committee in New Hampshire today. House Bill 1533 (HB1533) bans the use of any information obtained from a “portable electronic device” such as mobile phone in “a criminal, civil, administrative, or other proceeding.” The state House Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety passed the bill by a vote of 12-1. It now moves on to the full House for consideration.
In Oklahoma, HB2808 will now be considered by the House Calendar Committee, the body tasked with creating an agenda for the House floor.