The OffNow coalition has now marched state and local efforts to stop unconstitutional NSA spying right onto the agency’s front porch.
Late last week, Maryland State Delegate Michael Smigiel introduced the Fourth Amendment Protection Act to end all state cooperation with the National Security Agency (NSA).
Based on model legislation drafted by a transpartisan coalition organized by the Tenth Amendment Center (TAC) and the Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC), HB1074 would ban Maryland state or local government from providing water, electricity or other resources to the NSA while it engages in warrantless mass-surveillance, and would make shared collected data inadmissible in state courts.
Smigiel said that even though the NSA has deep roots in Maryland, the state should no longer support an agency that ignores constitutional constraints and tramples on the privacy rights of the people.
“I want Maryland standing with its back to its people holding a shield. Not facing them holding a sword,” he said.
Ft. Meade serves as the home base for the NSA, and resource needs have created significant issues for the agency for more than 10 years. In 2006, the Baltimore Sun reported that the agency had maxed out the Baltimore-area power grid, causing insiders to fear that the problem “could force a virtual shutdown of the agency.”
While the NSA alleviated some of those concerns with new facilities in Utah, Texas and elsewhere, they still remain an issue. In December, the agency signed a new contract with Howard County, Md., to provide up to 5 million gallons of water per day to cool supercomputers in a new data center slated to open in 2016.
“Maryland has almost become a political subdivision of the NSA,” TAC executive director Michael Boldin said. “The agency relies heavily on state and local help. This bill bans all of it.”
Smigiel said the bill is not merely a symbolic gesture. The Elkton Republican has a track record of working with Democrats on civil liberties related legislation, and said he believes he can garner the bipartisan support necessary to move the bill forward.
BORDC executive director Shahid Buttar called coming together across party lines to oppose unconstitutional NSA spying “imperative.”
“The NSA’s decade of warrantless surveillance en masse assaults not only the rights of hundreds of millions of law-abiding Americans, and our democracy as a whole, but resembles Soviet-style spying — on meth, empowered and amplified by the past generation’s remarkable advances in computing technology,” he said. “Maryland residents have a chance to shed partisan differences and take matters into their own hands. They have the opportunity to defend democracy by shutting off state resources consumed by the massive NSA operation in Maryland as it assaults We the People, our fundamental rights, and the Constitution that enshrined them.”
Along with denying the NSA resources and prohibiting the use of warrantless data in courts, the Fourth Amendment Protection Act also blocks public universities from serving as NSA research facilities or recruiting grounds, and forbids corporations filling needs not met in the absence of state cooperation from doing business with the state.
TAC national communications director Mike Maharrey said the provision prohibiting the use of unconstitutionally gathered data in state criminal proceedings is just as important as cutting off resources because it protects citizens from a practical effect of NSA spying
“We know the NSA shares data with state and local law enforcement. We know from a Reuters report that most of this shared data has absolutely nothing to do with national security issues,” he said. “We might not be able to stop the NSA from gathering data on everybody in America, but we can darn sure stop that information from being used against them.”
Boldin praised Smigiel and lawmakers in 12 other states for stepping up to do something Congress and the president either can’t or won’t do – rein in an agency intent on spying on everybody in the world without any regard to the Constitution or basic civil liberties.
“People are sick and tired of watching federal politicians sit on their hands as these huge agencies violate their rights. The feds won’t limit their own power? Fine. The states will do it for them,” he said. “The NSA has a choice; follow the Constitution or get the hell out!”
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.
The Tenth Amendment Center, the source for this article, exists to promote and advance a return to a proper balance of power between federal and State governments envisioned by our founders, prescribed by the Constitution and explicitly declared in the Tenth Amendment. A national think tank based in Los Angeles, the Tenth Amendment Center works to preserve and protect the principle of strictly limited government through information, education, and activism.