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Ignore the Fear-Mongering and Focus on the 4th Amendment

On Nov. 19th, the Utah 4th Amendment Protection Act, a bill which addresses resources being used by the state to facilitate the NSA data center in Bluffdale, is up for an important interim committee hearing.  The letter below was drafted by Susan Barretta of Restore the Fourth – Utah – in support of the bill.  It should be seen as a blueprint to support similar action in states across the country.

Dear Rep. _____________________

I am a member of Restore the Fourth Utah and I have lived in Utah now for over two years.

In this past year the Utah state government passed legislation that was arguably rooted in the Fourth Amendment. Among these pieces of legislation are requirements for search warrants when tracking the locations of electronic devices and for the deployment of drones. These were important steps to take, but as the state of Utah continues handing over the tools to the federal government to commit crimes against the Fourth Amendment, it is obvious that this state legislation does not go far enough.

When Edward Snowden revealed in detail how our government snoops on our private lives, I was appalled, but not just at his revelations. I was appalled at how we collectively as a nation tune out the warning signs of the many government encroachments on our civil liberties and we shrug our shoulders as if we are completely helpless to do anything about it. As other states have demonstrated, Utah is not helpless.

James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, has not been held accountable for the lie he told Congress in March 2013 that the NSA does not intentionally collect data on millions of Americans. Later, he admitted that data is broadly and widely collected because to collect it narrowly would make it too difficult to identify terrorism-related communication. Clapper has made his excuses, but the Constitution does not say anything about “convenience” in establishing probable cause when a citizen is under suspicion of a crime.

Then-National Security Director Keith Alexander later claimed that NSA’s PRISM program thwarted 54 terrorist attacks. Subsequent investigations concluded that only four could in any way be accredited to NSA’s collection efforts. Later, Alexander hedged the number was “one or two.” Given that even that number was hedged, what was the real number ? Zero, possibly ? Other than those provoked and/or provided fake bombs by the FBI, NSA has yet to produce a list of persons who have been arrested, indicted, prosecuted, and convicted of terrorism.

You will hear the defenders of NSA cite “jobs” as a benefit to having the data center here in Utah. Utah, and Bluffdale, can do better than to continue enabling a data collection program that is unconstitutional and admittedly ineffective. A job devoted to a white elephant program may in the short term line somebody’s pockets, but in the long-term it is a drain on the economy, not a boon.

Utah, like much of the west, is in a drought zone. Drought threatens the nation’s agricultural industry. Unlike warrantless blanket surveillance, food, water and textiles are essentials to life, and the ability to grow food is challenging when natural resources are limited and climate constrains the growing season. How is Bluffdale leading the way in research for agriculture ? What season extension inventions have been born in Bluffdale? What water conservation, recycling, and reuse innovations have been researched, developed, marketed, and sold in Bluffdale for large farms and for the home gardener? Instead of handing over natural resources to NSA, Bluffdale could choose instead to develop and market technology helping us optimally use our natural resources in the production of food and textiles.

I should add that the the possible loss of jobs and sweetheart research relationships between NSA and their state universities did not deter legislative bodies such as the California senate from overwhelmingly passing the Fourth Amendment Protection Act.

Fearmongering has become the primary policy tool of law enforcement today at all levels. It is time to put our focus back to the highest law of the land. Please do the brave thing and the right thing and Pass the 4th Amendment Protection Act. Thank you.

Susan J. Barretta

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