A bill introduced this week in the Mississippi State Senate would prohibit a federal-local surveillance collaboration that the NSA’s former chief technical director called the “biggest threat since the civil war.”
Introduced by State Sen. Michael Watson, Senate Bill 2429 (SB2429) would require government agencies to get a search warrant before obtaining the location information of an electronic device, with limited exceptions, one of which would be if the owner reported it stolen.
SB2429 further states that they may not use, copy, or disclose the location information, stored data or transmitted data of an electronic device not part of the warrant. The agency would have to notify the device owner within 14 days of the search warrant unless they could prove, among several things, it would put someone in danger or cause the person to flee.
If passed, the bill would take effect in July. It has been referred to the Senate Energy Committee.
NSA collects, stores, and analyzes data on countless millions of people without a warrant, without even the mere suspicion of criminal activity. The NSA also tracks the physical location of people through their cellphones. In late 2013, the Washington Post reported that NSA is “gathering nearly 5 billion records a day on the whereabouts of cellphones around the world.” This includes location data on “tens of millions” of Americans each year – without a warrant.
Through fusion centers, state and local law enforcement act as information recipients from various federal departments under Information Sharing Environment (ISE). ISE partners include the Office of Director of National Intelligence, which is an umbrella covering 17 federal agencies and organizations, including the NSA. State and local law enforcement share data up the chain with the feds.
The NSA expressly shares warrantless data with state and local law enforcement through a super-secret DEA unit known as the Special Operations Division (SOD). That information is being used for criminal prosecutions.
A Reuters report last fall showed that most of this shared data has absolutely nothing to do with national security issues. Most of it involves routine criminal investigations. This data sharing shoves a dagger into the heart of the Fourth Amendment.
In an interview last fall, former NSA technical chief William Binney called NSA information sharing “the most threatening situation to our constitutional republic since the Civil War.”
“That’s what happens when you allow this kind of assembly of information – that’s so much power. That’s like J. Edgar Hoover on super-steroids,” he said. “This is not compatible with any form of democracy at all.”
Passage of SB2429 into law would prohibit this from happening in Mississippi .