By Miriam Raftery
February 7, 2014 (Sacramento)—Two California legislators have teamed up in an effort to curtail the National Security Agency (NSA) from warrantless surveillance of all Americans. Senate Bill 828 is coauthored by Republican State Senators Joel Anderson, who represents most of East County, and Democrat Ted Lieu from Torrance.
“I support this bill because I support the Constitution, our Fourth Amendment rights and our freedoms to live in the United States of America,” Senator Anderson stated in a press release.
The bill would prohibit state agencies and officials, as well as corporations that provide services to the state, from assisting the NSA in collecting data without warrants on 38 million Californians. Services that the NSA relies upon include power and water needed to cool its powerful supercomputers.
Firms such as internet service providers or telecommunications companies could potentially lose lucrative state contracts if they assist the NSA with data collection on their customers. The measure could even be used to cut off power to any NSA data collection centers in areas with municipally owned utilities.
This bill would also ban the use of electronic data or metadata provided by the federal government or a corporation that was obtained without a federal warrant, as specified, from being used in a state or local criminal investigation or prosecution.
SB 828 is based on model legislation called “The Fourth Amendment Protection Act” proposed by the Tenth Amendment Center under a project called “Nullify the NSA.” It seeks to restore Constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment.
A federal judge recently ruled that the NSA’s widespread collection of Americans’ phone records is unconstitutional, calling the sweep “near Orwellian.”
“All 317 million Americans cannot reasonably be considered to be suspicious simply for making or receiving telephone calls,” Senator Lieu stated. “The NSA’s blanket seizure of the telephone records of all Americans is therefore an `unreasonable seizure’ under the Fourth Amendment,” he added, noting that our Founding Fathers enacted the Bill of Rights because they understood the dangers of an out of control government, having fled the tyranny of English rule.
The measure is based on the concept of state nullification. The Tenth Amendment Center explains that this concept began with then Vice President Thomas Jefferson when he authored what came to be known as the Kentucky Resolutions of 1798. The resolutions made the case that the federal government is a creature of the states, and that states have the authority to judge the constitutionality of the federal government’s laws and decrees. He also argued that states should refuse to enforce laws which they deem unconstitutional.
James Madison wrote a similar resolution for Virginia and asserted that whenever the federal government exceeds its constitutional limits and begins to oppress the citizens of a state, that state’s legislature is “duty bound” to interpose its power and prevent the federal government from victimizing its people.
In California, Lieu previously carried a resolution asking Congress to stop the NSA’s unconstitutional practices. That measure passed almost unanimously, 32-1, which could bode well for SB 828’s chances of winning passage in Sacramento. The bill is also drawing cautious praise from civil liberties groups including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
On the other hand, high-tech firms or other companies fearing loss of business could oppose the measure—and Governor Jerry Brown has vetoed some recent consumer privacy measures if law enforcement voiced opposition.