AUGUSTA, Maine (April 14, 2015) – A Maine bill that would turn off support and resources to the NSA in the Pine Tree State continues to slowly make its way through the committee process, but faces powerful opposition.
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.
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.
The Senate Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee held a work session on the bill Tuesday. Law enforcement interests continue to oppose the legislation. Maine Attorney General Janet Mills and 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.
During Tuesday’s work session, Brakey introduced an amendment clarifying the types of data subject to the collection requirements, a move he hopes will ease concerns. The revised language stipulates the bill applies to data and metadata “obtained from a cellphone, handheld electronic device, GPS device, personal computer, e-mail account, private messaging service or cloud database system.”
The committee tabled the bill after introduction of the amendment language to give members time to study the changes. Brakey said the committee will take up LD531 again during a work session in the near future, and he expressed optimism, saying the conversations were “moving in a positive direction.”
OffNow founder and deputy director Michael Boldin said continued grassroots support will be vital in getting the Maine Fourth Amendment Protection Act out of committee.
“This kind of law enforcement opposition has killed similar bills in other states. These are powerful interests with a lot of clout. We need a groundswell of grassroots support to overcome them,” he said.
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.