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Maine Bill Taking On NSA Spying Passes House; Killed By Senate

AUGUSTA, Maine (July 2, 2015) Late last month, the Maine House approved a bill to turn off support and resources to the NSA in the Pine Tree State, only to have it rejected by the state Senate.

Sen. Eric Brakey (R-Androscoggin) introduced LD531 on Feb. 26. The Maine Fourth Amendment Protection Act would have banned “material support or resources” from the state to any federal agency collecting electronic data without meeting one of four conditions.

1. That person’s informed consent;
2. A warrant based upon probable cause that particularly describes the person, place or thing to be searched or seized;
3. Acting in accordance with a legally recognized exception to the warrant requirements; or
4. Information that is in the possession of the state or its political subdivisions that is otherwise legally obtained under state law.

Under this measure, the cops would not have been able to obtain warrantless data from the feds. Sen. Brakey said it was particularly important to pass LD531 in order to keep state and local law enforcement from doing an end-around, bypassing a state law requiring a warrant for the collection of electronic data.

LD531 received a favorable report from the joint Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee by a 9-4 vote, despite intense opposition from the AG and other law enforcement interests,

However, the Senate killed the Fourth Amendment Protection Act.

On June 17, the Senate took up the measure, and Sen. David Burns (R-Washington), a former state trooper, immediately moved that the chamber accept the minority “ought not pass” report. His motion ultimately prevailed by a 25-9 vote. The House took up LD531 the next day, voting to accept the “ought to pass” report 82-58. After approving an amendment to clarify some language, the House passed the bill and sent it back to the Senate. But that same day, acting once again on a Burns motion, the Senate insisted upon the acceptance of a previous “Ought Not to Pass” report, killing the bill.

LD531 faced opposition from the usual array of special interest groups and fear-mongering bureaucrats. Maine Attorney General Janet Mills and law enforcement lobbyists expressed reservations about the bill during a committee hearing, saying it could hinder police from catching child pornographers and other dangerous criminals. Their arguments echoed those of law enforcement interests in Montana and Alaska.

“If Maine cops need to catch a pedophile, they can get a warrant. The can sift through any data that was voluntarily made public,” OffNow.org executive director Mike Maharrey said. “If the warrant requirement is too steep, they can get a judicially issued subpoena. The bill allows cops to obtain information through every legitimate channel there is. But I guess what they want is absolutely no restrictions on snooping. Sorry, it doesn’t work like that in America.”

Maharrey said the opposition seemed know that the federal government violates the Fourth Amendment.

“In my view, this opposition amounts to an admission that they know – or at least suspect – that they regularly cooperate with agencies that engage in illegal, unconstitutional surveillance. Otherwise, why oppose the bill? That’s only agencies it applies to. So apparently, these cops know the feds engage in just that, and think it should continue.”

A MISSED OPPORTUNITY

By including a prohibition on participation in the illegal collection and use of electronic data and metadata by the state, LD531 could have prohibited what NSA former Chief Technical Director William Binney called the country’s “greatest threat since the Civil War.”

The bill would have banned 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 as the Special Operations Division 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.

Because of the Senate’s decision, this existential threat to our country will be in full force in the state of Maine for at least another year.

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