AUGUSTA, Maine (April 3, 2015) – The usual suspects came out in opposition of a Maine bill that would turn off support and resources to the NSA in the Pine Tree State during a committee hearing yesterday.
Maine Attorney General Janet Mills and law enforcement lobbyists expressed reservations about LD531 during a Senate Committee on Judiciary hearing, saying it could hinder police from catching child pornographers and other dangerous criminals. Their arguments echoed those of law enforcement interests in Montana and Alaska.
OffNow executive director Mike Maharrey called claims that the Maine Fourth Amendment Protection Act would prevent police from catching child pornographers “patently ridiculous.”
“The bill only applies to federal agencies like the NSA that are engaged in mass, warrantless, bulk surveillance. So, you mean to tell me that local law enforcement can’t catch a perv without the NSA’s help? Really? If that’s the case, maybe they’re just not very good at their job.”
Sen. Eric Brakey (R-Androscoggin) introduced the Maine Fourth Amendment Protection Act in February. The legislation would ban “material support or resources” from the state to any federal agency collecting electronic data without meeting one of three conditions.
- That person’s informed consent;
- A warrant based upon probable cause that particularly describes the person, place or thing to be searched or seized; or
- Acting in accordance with a legally recognized exception to the warrant requirements.
Maine already has a law on the books requiring state and local law enforcement to get a warrant before obtaining electronic data. Brakey said the Fourth Amendment Protection Act would stop police from doing an end-around the law and accessing warrantless data collected and shared by the NSA.
“What [the Maine Fourth Amendment Protection Act] does is it closes that loophole, and it says that our state agencies, and local agencies, cannot accept or enable the federal government when it’s doing these illegal searches and seizures,” Brakey in an interview the day before the hearing. “It would prohibit our state and local agencies from accepting and using that data for any purposes.”
Brakey noted the attorney general also opposed the 2013 bill to require warrants for electronic data.
“But it passed with a bipartisan veto-proof majority anyway,” he said.
Maharrey noted that the bill allows law enforcement to collect data in a wide range of situations and said he considers opposition to LD531 tacit support for unconstitutional federal spying.
“If Maine cops need to catch a pedophile, they can get a warrant. The can sift through any data that was voluntarily made public. If the warrant requirement is too steep, they can get a judicially issued subpoena. The bill allows cops to obtain information through every legitimate channel there is. But I guess what they want is absolutely no restrictions on snooping. Sorry, it doesn’t work like that in America,” he said. “In my view, this opposition amounts to an admission that they know – or at least suspect – that they regularly cooperate with agencies that engage in illegal, unconstitutional surveillance. Otherwise, why oppose the bill? That’s only agencies it applies to. So apparently, these cops know the feds engage in just that, and think it should continue.”
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.