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Tennessee bill to ban warrantless data moves forward

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (March 27, 2014) – An amended version of the Tennessee Fourth Amendment Protection Act which would end the use of unconstitutionally gathered data in state court passed out of a House subcommittee on Wednesday.

HB1907, as filed, addressed all four areas of the OffNow Coalition’s Fourth Amendment Protection Act, banning both material support for the NSA and the use of shared unconstitutionally gathered data in Tennessee criminal courts. When it became clear that the bill was never going to pass out of committee as introduced, bill sponsor Rep. Andy Holt and Senate companion bill (SB1849) sponsor Sen. Stacy Campfield worked to narrow the scope of the legislation.

HB1907 now primarily addresses data sharing, prohibiting the use of any data gathered by the federal government without a warrant or subpoena as defined by Tennessee law in a criminal case. The bill also prohibits a local or state agency from providing resources to federal agencies should their warrantless data collection be ruled by a “court of competent jurisdiction” to have violated the 4th Amendment.

HB1907 passed out of a subcommittee of the Civil Justice Committee and was scheduled for a hearing in the full committee on April 2

OffNow coalition member Shane Trejo called this an important part of the overall effort to push back against NSA spying.

“This bill is an important step forward to ban local law enforcement from becoming just another arm of the national surveillance state lead by the NSA and FBI,” he said. “And by prohibiting the use this information on a state level, it blocks some of what the federal spies are trying to do in practice.”

NSA collects, stores, and analyzes data on countless millions of people without a warrant, and without even the mere suspicion of criminal activity. The NSA also tracks the physical location of people through their cellphones. In late 2013, the Washington Post reported that NSA is “gathering nearly 5 billion records a day on the whereabouts of cellphones around the world.” This includes location data on “tens of millions” of Americans each year – without a warrant.

Through fusion centers, state and local law enforcement act as information recipients from various federal departments under Information Sharing Environment (ISE). ISE partners include the Office of Director of National Intelligence, which is an umbrella covering 17 federal agencies and organizations, including the NSA.

The NSA also expressly shares warrantless data with state and local law enforcement through a super-secret DEA unit known as the Special Operations Division (SOD). We know state prosecutors use the information in criminal cases. Reuters released documents in 2013 indicating that most of this shared data has absolutely nothing to do with national security issues, but instead deals with routine criminal investigations.

Trejo praised Campfield and Holt for keeping the bills alive when it appeared they would die in committee.

“Sure, we are a little disappointed that they couldn’t move the Fourth Amendment Protection Act in its entirety. But you have to give the sponsors credit. They recognized the limitations they were dealing with in the legislature at this time and worked hard to salvage an important piece of the puzzle. If the legislation ultimately passes, Tennessee will have effectively ended one of the dangerous effects of NSA spying, and it will set the stage for future action next year.”

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