PHOENIX. (Feb. 10, 2015) – Today, an Arizona state Senate committee approved a bill that would not only ban “material support or resources” to federal warrantless surveillance programs, but would also help block some practical effects of NSA spying.
Sen. Kelli Ward introduced Senate Bill 1331 (SB1331) on Feb. 2, and today, the Committee on Federalism, Mandates, and Fiscal Responsibility passed it by a vote of 4-2, with 1 member not voting.
SB1331 would accomplish three important functions. First, it would support efforts in Utah to shut down the Bluffdale data center. Second, it would make Arizona an unattractive location for future NSA facilities. And finally, it would have a practical effect on certain NSA programs in the Grand Canyon State.
RESOURCES, SUPPORT FOR UTAH
The original definition of “material support or resources” included providing tangible support such as money, goods, and materials and also less concrete support, such as “personnel” and “training.” Section 805 of the PATRIOT Act expanded the definition to include “expert advice or assistance.”
Practically-speaking, the legislation would almost certainly stop the NSA from ever setting up a new facility in Arizona.
In 2006, the agency maxed out the Baltimore-area power grid, creating the potential, as the Baltimore Sun reported, for a “virtual shutdown of the agency.” Since then, the NSA aggressively expanded in states like Utah, Texas, Colorado, and elsewhere, generally focusing on locations that can provide cheap and plentiful resources like water and power.
In a recent hearing on the Utah Fourth Amendment Protection Act, a Utah state rep, intentionally or not, made a plea to other states to help out. “If Utah goes through all this trouble to turn off the water, what’s to stop the NSA from moving to another state?” he asked.
“What will stop the NSA from moving to other states? Bills like this one” Maharrey said. “Each state that passes the Fourth Amendment Protection act pulls up another welcome mat. We can literally box them in and force reform – or else shut them down.”
By including a prohibition on participation in the illegal collection and use of electronic data and metadata by the state, SB1331 would also prohibit what NSA former Chief Technical Director William Binney called the country’s “greatest threat since the Civil War.”
The bill would ban the state from obtaining or making use of electronic data or metadata obtained by the NSA without a warrant.
Reuters revealed the extent of such NSA data sharing with state and local law enforcement in an August 2013 article. According to documents obtained by the news agency, the NSA passes information to police through a formerly secret DEA unit known Special Operations Divisions and the cases “rarely involve national security issues.” Almost all of the information involves regular criminal investigations, not terror-related investigations.
In other words, not only does the NSA collect and store this data. using it to build profiles, the agency encourages state and local law enforcement to violate the Fourth Amendment by making use of this information in their day-to-day investigations.
This is “the most threatening situation to our constitutional republic since the Civil War,” Binney said.
The bill would also set the stage to end partnerships between the NSA and state universities.
Last year, Ward was the first state legislator in the country to file a bill that would attack resources to NSA and other mass surveillance programs. That bill was attacked by lobbyists for state agencies and corporate entities for having “ambiguous language.” Cox Communications, AT&T and the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce were among the business interests actively lobbying against the bill last year. Eventually, Republican leadership blocked the bill from moving forward to a vote in the Senate.
That’s why today’s vote is significant, as the bill was filed just eight days ago and has already moved out of its first committee assignment. Last year, it wasn’t given a hearing for nearly two weeks.
Ward has already made some adjustments to this year’s language, and according to inside sources is working additional technical amendments to ensure that the bill holds its purpose of prohibiting resources to warrantless surveillance programs while ensuring it still has the support needed to get to the Senate floor.
Arizona joins nine other states in considering this type of legislation for 2015. Sources close to OffNow indicate even more states will likely follow. The bill in Utah is being prepared for debate and discussion in the state House right now.
SB1331 now moves to the Senate Committee on Government, where it will need to pass before moving forward.