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BBC News Features OffNow State Strategy to Stop NSA Spying

Yesterday, BBC News published a full report on the status of states taking on the NSA by banning material support or resources.

It was a well-written, fair and accurate account, and I was quoted and cited extensively.

Reporter Anthony Zurcher focused on a Texas bill that would cut off water and power to the massive Texas Cryptologic Center in San Antonio as an example of this nationwide movement, and interviewed bill sponsor Rep. Jonathan Stickland.

“I believe the first role of government is to protect the personal rights and liberties of its citizens,” says the Republican, who has represented a district near Dallas for two years. “Before we build a road or anything else, we have to ensure that those exist for every Texan.”

The reporter picked up on a number of messages I hoped to convey when I agreed to the interview, including our reason for focusing on state action.

“I’m not really faithful in things that are going on in Washington, DC,” [Maharrey] says. “People can make a difference more rapidly and more readily at the state level.”

[Maharrey] adds that state politicians are generally more responsive to their constituents. “A lot of phone calls make a state legislator really nervous,” he says.

Zurcher also included the fact that the OffNow strategy was based on northern state action to hinder fugitive slave rendition under the Fugitive Slave Act prior to the Civil War.

“It’s called the anti-commandeering doctrine,” [Maharrey] says. “The federal government cannot force the states to provide personnel or resources to any federal regulation or federal act or federal process. If the feds want to do it they can do it, but they have to do it themselves.”

And he highlighted the intense law enforcement opposition to reining in the NSA.

I found it particularly telling that nowhere in the article did anybody say, “You can’t do this.” In fact, an opponent of a Utah bill that would cut off water to the NSA data center in Bluffdale whom Zurcher interviewed objected precisely because he thought it would work, and the strategy could be applied in other situations.

Positive press like this serves as an important part of the OffNow strategy. This article will reach a much broader audience than we can on our own. That means more people now know about our work and understand that they have other options to fight the surveillance state than just depending on the political class in Washington D.C. to solve a problem it created.  Media attention also legitimizes our work, and it places more pressure on state legislators to support our bills.

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