California Legislators Introduce Bill To Banish NSA

Bipartisan duo wants to cut NSA's utilities, ban research at state schools and impose sanctions on contractors

A bill introduced in California would deny NSA facilities access to water and electricity from public utilities and outlaw NSA research partnerships with state universities.

By STEVEN NELSON January 7, 2014

A bipartisan team of California state senators introduced legislation Monday that would prohibit the state and its localities from providing "material support" to the National Security Agency.

If the bill becomes law, it would deny NSA facilities access to water and electricity from public utilities, impose sanctions on companies trying to fill the resulting void and outlaw NSA research partnerships with state universities.

Companies with state contracts also would be banned from working with the NSA.

"I agree with the NSA that the world is a dangerous place," state Sen. Ted Lieu, the bill's Democratic co-author, said in a statement. "That is why our founders enacted the Bill of Rights. They understood the grave dangers of an out-of-control federal government."

Lieu said the NSA's surveillance programs pose "a clear and present danger to our liberties."

"The last time the federal government massively violated the U.S. Constitution," he said, "over 100,000 innocent Americans were rounded up and interned."

State Sen. Joel Anderson, a Republican, is Lieu's co-author. The California state senate has 40 members.

"I support this bill because I support the Constitution, our Fourth Amendment rights and our freedoms to live in the United States of America," Anderson said.

The bill's intent is largely symbolic. Universities might be affected, but the NSA does not currently operate a large data facility in the state.

A similar bill was introduced in Arizona by state Sen. Kelli Ward, a Republican, in December. Ward described her bill as a preventive strike and a way "to back our neighbors [in Utah] up."

The OffNow coalition of advocacy groups is urging Utah lawmakers to pass their own version of the legislation to override the city of Bluffdale's water contract with the NSA's $1.5 billion Utah Data Center. No legislator has publicly announced they will sponsor the bill.

The NSA is based in Fort Meade, Md. Its massive phone and Internet surveillance programs – secretly authorized for years by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court – were revealed in June by whistle-blower Edward Snowden. A federal judge ruled Dec. 16 the bulk collection of phone records almost certainly violates the Fourth Amendment, but another judge disagreed. As court challenges pend, any substantial federal legislation curbing the NSA likely would be vetoed by President Barack Obama, a supporter of the NSA programs.

The Arizona and California bills are based on model legislation drafted by the Tenth Amendment Center, which organized the OffNow coalition with the Bill of Rights Defense Committee.

"Violations of our basic civil liberties impact us all – Democrats, Republicans and independents alike," Mike Maharrey of the Tenth Amendment Center said. "For all of our political bickering, Americans rally around certain core principles enshrined in our Constitution. It's fitting that Lieu and Anderson are standing together to defend these values."

The California bill would specifically ban the state and its political subdivisions from "[p]roviding material support, participation or assistance in any form to a federal agency that claims the power, by virtue of any federal law, rule, regulation or order, to collect electronic data or metadata of any person pursuant to any action not based on a warrant that particularly describes the person, place and thing to be searched or seized."


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