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Missouri privacy legislation one step closer to November public vote

A Missouri state constitutional amendment proposal is moving through the process, now just steps away from a vote of the people this fall.

Introduced by Sen. Rob Schaaf, Senate Joint Resolution 27 (SJR27) was passed through the House Downsizing State Government Committee late last week. It had previously passed in the senate by a 31-1 margin. The bill will now go to the House Rules Committee where it will need to pass through a majority before a full vote can be taken in the house.

If the house concurs with the senate’s decision, the legislation would bypass the veto pen of Gov. Jay Nixon, going to a vote of the people on this year’s ballot. Approval by majority would make it part of the state constitution.

The text of SJR27 is short and concise, replacing the “privacy rights” section in the state constitution with the following language adding electronic communications to the objects protected from search or seizure without a warrant.

“That the people shall be secure in their persons, papers, homes [and], effects, and electronic communications and data, from unreasonable searches and seizures; and no warrant to search any place, or seize any person or thing, or access electronic data or communication, shall issue without describing the place to be searched, or the person or thing to be seized, or the data or communication to be accessed, as nearly as may be; nor without probable cause, supported by written oath or affirmation.”

The effect of this resolution would be significant. The addition of electronic communications to the list of privacy items would make emails, phone records, Internet records and other electronic information gathered without a warrant inadmissible in state court. That would include data gathered illegally by overzealous state and local law enforcement as well as the federal government.

SJR27 addresses one aspect of OffNow’s campaign to thwart NSA spying at the state and local level – data sharing.

As Reuters reported in August 2013, the secretive Special Operations Division (SOD) is “funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.”

Documents obtained by Reuters show that these cases “rarely involve national security issues,” and that local law enforcement is directed by SOD to “conceal how such investigations truly begin.”

Reports in the Washington Post and USA Today last fall documented how “the FBI and most other investigative bodies in the federal government” are regularly using a mobile device known as a “stingray” to intercept and collect electronic data without a warrant. Local and state police “have access through sharing agreements.”

Passing SJR27 is the first step in protecting the privacy rights of Missouri residents. The second step is the introduction and passage of our more comprehensive 4th Amendment Protection Act to safeguard the electronic data of Missourians from not just state-level abuses, but unwarranted federal intrusion as well.

ACTION ITEMS

In Missouri, take action to support this legislation HERE.

All other states, take action HERE.

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