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Congress #Fail; Time for a New Strategy

Time is running out on NSA reform.

That’s the headline of an article in the National Journal by Dustin Volz.

The piece rightly points out that nearly two years after Edward Snowden unleashed his first revelation on the world, we continue to wait in vain for Congress to take action to rein in the NSA and the out of control surveillance state.

Two years.

Of course, that doesn’t even compare to the 40 years of inaction since Sen. Frank Church warned about the U.S. surveillance apparatus, saying it has the potential for “total tyranny.”

Forty years.

No action.

And it appears the status quo will continue, as Volz points out.

Lawmakers have less than 100 days left to decide whether they want to reform the National Security Agency’s controversial bulk collection of U.S. call data—or risk losing the program entirely. Core provisions of the post-9/11 Patriot Act are due to sunset on June 1, including Section 215, which grants intelligence agencies the legal authority they need to carry out mass surveillance of domestic metadata—the numbers and timestamps of phone calls but not their actual content.

It looks increasingly likely that Congress will ultimately reauthorize these provisions in the Patriot Act with no reforms. Cato Institute senior fellow Julian Sanchez said the closer we get to June 1, the more likely the security-staters fear-mongering about “terrorism” will carry the debate.

The concern I have is that the less time for debate there is, the more that tends to work in favor of the side that is trying to stoke fears. We’ve often seen very little discussion or debate until the eleventh hour, and then invariably the argument is, ‘Well, it’d be nice to have a more robust debate, but we can’t let the program lapse, so let’s authorize it for another five years.’

Spying will continue. Congress will keep doing what it does – nothing.

And yet activists, advocates and Americans concerned about their privacy continue to focus the bulk of their efforts on Washington D.C. This seems to fulfill the definition of insanity often attributed to Einstein – doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.

It’s time for a new strategy.

At OffNow, we’ve developed an approach to fight the NSA that harnesses the power of the states. By denying state supplied material support and resources like water and electricity to federal agencies that collect unwarranted data, we can hinder spying and force needed reforms. And if the reforms fail to materialize, states can conceivably shut down the spy apparatus simply by refusing to aid and abet its illegal actions.

So far this year, 14 states have introduced legislation to do just that. For instance, a bill pending in the Tennessee legislature would set the stage to turn off state resources NSA facility in Oak Ridge.

But like any effort to bring down the powerful, the OffNow strategy faces many hurdles. Law enforcement lobbyists aggressively oppose our bills. Corporate interests work to torpedo legislation. Security state apologists fear-monger and scare people into opposing our efforts to stop the NSA.

We need people like you to focus the energy that’s been wasted trying to get Washington D.C. to reform Washington D.C. on state efforts. Your phone call to a state legislator will actually make a difference, unlike the conversation you will have with some intern when you call your congressional representative in D.C. Your donation to the OffNow campaign will go far further than money tossed at some federal candidate who promises you the world, but will simply enable the status quo once safely sequestered inside the Beltway. Your efforts in Tallahassee, Nashville and Salt Lake City will yield far more fruit than banging your head against a marble wall in Washington D.C.

We need to shift our focus. Use the power of the states. Stop NSA spying.

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