Monday, May 19, 2014
A bipartisan bill which creates a mechanism to turn off all material support and assistance, including water and electricity resources, from California to the NSA passed the State Senate today. The vote was 29-1.
Dubbed the 4th Amendment Protection Act, Senate Bill 828 (SB828) would ban the state from participating in, or providing material support or resources to any federal agency engaged in the “illegal and unconstitutional collection of electronic data or metadata, without consent, of any person not based on a warrant that particularly describes the person, place, and thing to be searched or seized.”
Sponsored by Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) and Sen. Joel Anderson (R-San Diego), SB828 represents a growing opposition to NSA spying on a state and local level, and across the political spectrum.
“The NSA’s program is an unreasonable search and seizure of Californian’s electronic data and communications,” said Lieu. Anderson took a similar position on the Senate floor today. “We want to protect against terrorism, but it should never be at the cost of our liberty or freedom,” he said.
Practically speaking, SB828 addresses three major areas where NSA and other federal agencies rely on local support to carry out their surveillance programs. This includes resources such as water and electricity for physical facilities, university research partnerships, and sharing of warrantless data.
While the NSA does not currently operate a data or “threat operations” center in California, OffNow spokesman Shane Trejo said states around the country need to pass similar legislation to make NSA expansion more difficult.
“We know the NSA has aggressively worked to expand its physical locations because it maxed out the Baltimore area power grid in 2006. They’ve built new locations in Utah and Texas, and expanded in several other states,” Trejo said. “Since the NSA is expanding so wildly, it’s not unlikely that they’re planning to build new data centers and ‘threat operations centers’ in other locations. California’s high-tech industry makes it a likely candidate. We can’t wait until the NSA opens up shop. This act yanks away the welcome mat and tells the NSA, ‘We don’t want you in California unless you follow the Constitution.’”
Six California state universities have partnerships with the NSA. These university partnerships provide critical research which helps the NSA expand. The California Fourth Amendment Protection Act also addresses the status of these schools as NSA “Centers of Academic Excellence.” Continuance of such programs would be banned after passage of SB828 should NSA surveillance be determined as illegal and unconstitutional.
Finally, the bill would address the use of warrantless data from the federal government in state or local criminal proceedings.
As reported by Reuters in Aug. 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.”
Passage of the bill would be the first step in a process to ban resources to the NSA. If signed into law, once an official determination is made that a federal agency is engaging in illegal and unconstitutional collection of electronic data or metadata, the state ban on resources would immediately go into effect.
Trejo said that passage into law will result in a strong foundation being set. “California could set a serious precedent with this law,” he said. “Violate the Constitution and we’ll turn off the water and power. This could be the mantra for privacy-advocates across the country.”
SB828 is now moves to the State Assembly, where it will first be assigned to a committee for majority approval before the full Assembly has an opportunity to concur.