by Mike Maharrey, ©2014, The Tenth Amendment Center
(May 19, 2014) — SACRAMENTO, Calif. – A bipartisan bill that creates a mechanism to turn off all state material support and assistance to the NSA overwhelmingly passed the California state Senate Monday.
Dubbed the Fourth Amendment Protection Act, Senate Bill 828 (SB828) would ban the state from participating with, 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 valid warrant that particularly describes the person, place, and thing to be searched or seized.”
The Senate passed the measure 29-1.
Sponsored by Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) and Sen. Joel Anderson (R-San Diego), SB828 represents the growing transpartisan opposition to NSA spying at the state and local level.
“The NSA’s program is an unreasonable search and seizure of Californian’s electronic data and communications,” Lieu said.
Anderson took a similar position on the Senate floor Monday, saying national security cannot trump the Constitution.
“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. The 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 the state still took an important step.
“We know the NSA has aggressively worked to expand its physical locations because it maxed out the Baltimore area power grid in 2006. It’s built new locations in Utah and Texas, and expanded in several other states,” he said. “Since the NSA is expanding so wildly, it’s not unlikely that the agency plans 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, providing critical research and training that helps the NSA expand. The California Fourth Amendment Protection Act also addresses the status of these schools as NSA “Centers of Academic Excellence.” The legislation would ban these partnerships should the state determine NSA surveillance 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 initiate the first step in a process to ban resources to the NSA. If signed into law, once the state makes an official determination that a federal agency is engaging in illegal and unconstitutional collection of electronic data or metadata, the ban on resources would immediately go into effect.
Trejo said passage of the Fourth Amendment Protection Act in California will lay a solid foundation for further action across the country.
“California would set a serious precedent,” he said. “Violate the Constitution and we’ll turn off the water and power. We will not cooperate with the violation of our citizens’ rights. This could be the mantra for privacy-advocates across the country.”
SB828 is now moves to the State Assembly for consideration.