by Mike Maharrey, ©2014, The Tenth Amendment Center

(Jun. 24, 2014) — SACRAMENTO, Calif. – In the face of opposition lobbying from the California Sheriffs Association and two former NSA analysts, the California Assembly Public Safety Committee voted unanimously to approve a bipartisan bill that will create a mechanism to turn off all material support and assistance from California to federal mass surveillance programs. This includes shutting off water and electricity.

The vote was 5-0.

Dubbed the 4th Amendment Protection Act, Senate Bill 828 (SB828) passed the State Senate last month by a vote of 29-1, and now stands just two votes away from reaching Gov. Brown’s desk.  If signed into law, it 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 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 last month. “We want to protect against terrorism, but it should never be at the cost of our liberty or freedom,” he said.


Lobbying for no votes were the California State Sheriffs Association (CSSA) and two former NSA analysts. The opposition claimed that the bill should not be passed due to uncertainty of what the bill does. A representative for the CSSA said, “I’m not sure what this bill seeks to do. It does nothing, we don’t think it should be codified.”

The same message was repeated by the first of the former NSA analysts.

“I’m not sure what this bill does. I’ll try to be specific. Who decides whether the collection of data is legal or not. Who makes that decision?”

He also asked two direct questions, “Who decides whether the collection of data is legal or not. Who makes that decision? Is the NSA going to be required to explain if that data is on a specific person or investigation?”

In response, Sen. Lieu explained that “state officials would make that decision” regarding constitutionality.” He also said that the bill targets “dragnet surveillance of all 300 million Americans,” and that “If they have a warrant or reasons for a specific person it would not address that. They can’t ask for a data base.”


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 Appropriations Committee. Should it pass there, it will go on to final debate and vote on the Assembly floor.

Contact: Mike Maharrey
Communications Director
O: 213.935.0553 F: 213.402.3938


The OffNow coalition is group of grassroots organizations and individuals spanning the political spectrum committed to stopping unconstitutional NSA spying through state and local activism.

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