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New Handbook Outlines 2015 OffNow Strategy and Legislation

With A year under our belt and valuable lessons learned, the OffNow project has already started preparing for the 2015 legislative session. To kick things off, we’ve published a 24-page handbook outlining our strategy and explaining all of our model legislation.

More than a year after Edward Snowden grabbed the world’s attention by documenting the almost unimaginable scope of the illegal spying apparatus known as the NSA, business as usual continues at the spy-agency.

Of course, Snowden wasn’t the first person to warn about the NSA. Sen. Frank Church sounded the alarm way back in 1975, saying that if a dictator took over the NSA it “could enable [him] to impose total tyranny.”

But despite the warnings and the world-wide outrage, Congress has failed to act. The president has failed to act. Federal courts have failed to act.

It’s time for us to act!

OffNow doesn’t rely on the traditional Washington D.C. centered strategies. We don’t count on the federal government reining in its own agencies. We take a different tact.

The OffNow plan involves working at the state level to create an environment that makes it politically and logistically impossible for the NSA and other federal agencies to continue illegal surveillance programs. The strategy centers around state and local legislation designed to deprive the NSA and other agencies engaged in warrantless spying of the resources and cooperation they need to operate and accomplish their goals.

The short version: we intend to pull the rug out from under them, box them in and shut them down.

Gaining Momentum

The OffNow project started just over a year ago. During the 2014 legislative session, more than a dozen states introduced the Fourth Amendment Protection Act to deny any material assistance from the state to federal agencies engaged in illegal spying. This includes refusing to supply water or electricity from state or locally-owned or operated utilities, ending NSA partnerships with public universities and colleges, and prohibiting state officials from using warrantless data given to them by federal agencies.

The aggressive nature of the approach, including provisions to turn off water to the NSA data center in Bluffdale, Utah, brought media spotlight. The OffNow campaign was highlighted in both national and international news sources, including US News and World Report, the Associated Press, ABC News, CBS News, The Guardian, VICE Magazine, Mother Jones and several other national and local publications.

Moving ahead

With a year of experience under our belts and lessons learned from our initial campaign, the OffNow project has already started preparing for 2015 with expanded strategy and improved model legislation.

The Fourth Amendment Protection Act will remain the cornerstone of our legislative strategy.  We’ve rewritten the model legislation to incorporate important factors learned as last year’s bills worked through the process. The 2015 version will prove more streamlined with tighter language. We will also feature model legislation designed to make warrantless data gathered by the feds and shared with state and local law enforcement inadmissible in state court. Finally, we’ve developed a standalone bill known as the CHOICE Act. (Creating Helpful Options for Institutions, Corporations, and Enterprise) It would make corporations voluntarily enabling federal agencies engaged in illegal spying ineligible to bid for state contracts, forcing them to make a choice: work with federal agencies spying on Americans, or do business with the state.

While OffNow remains primarily focused on action against federal surveillance programs, with the line between federal, state and local law enforcement becoming increasingly blurred, we also plan to address issues more local in nature, including the use of drones and location data collection without a warrant by state and local law enforcement.

Learn More

In preparation for the upcoming legislative session, we’ve published a 24- page handbook outlining the strategy and the legislation. You can download it here (pdf), or read it in full below.

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