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Maine Bill Taking on NSA Spying Passes Out of Committee 9-4

AUGUSTA, Maine (May 7, 2015) – A Maine bill that would turn off support and resources to the NSA in the Pine Tree State passed out of joint committee by a surprisingly comfortable margin yesterday, despite intense opposition form the state attorney general.

Sen. Eric Brakey (R-Androscoggin) introduced LD531 On Feb. 26. His seven cosponsors literally span the political spectrum, including Republicans, Democrats and an Independent.

The Maine Fourth Amendment Protection Act would ban “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.

LD531 received a favorable report from the joint Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee by a 9-4 vote. With intense opposition coming from the AG and other law enforcement interests, supporters expected a closer vote.

“It was a bipartisan report, and it puts it in a really good place to potentially pass in the House and Senate,” Brakey said.

Under the proposed measure, the cops would not be able to obtain warrantless data from the feds. 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.

Maine Attorney General Janet Mills and some law enforcement lobbyists claim the bill could hinder police from catching child pornographers and other dangerous criminals. Their assertions mirror fear-mongering by law enforcement interests in other states.

LD531 will now go to both the Senate and House for a vote.

PRACTICAL EFFECT

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

The bill would ban 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 Special Operations Divisions 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.

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