California Senate challenges NSA spying

On Monday, May 19 the California Senate took a decisive 29-to-1 vote in favor of SB 828, the Fourth Amendment Protection Act.

If signed into law as written, the Act will prevent the State of California from co-operating with federal agencies engaged in warrantless bulk data collection. SB 828 is the product of the OffNow coalition effort led by BORDC and the Tenth Amendment Center, in partnership with Media Alliance and several other California-based and national grassroots groups.

Last month, the bill passed the Senate Public Safety Committee unanimously. The version considered by the Committee had been amended to strike two provisions from the original bill: one regulating corporate partnerships with the NSA and other federal intelligence gathering agencies, and another preventing NSA collected evidence from introduction in state court. As written, the current bill will prevent state organizational partnership, land sales, municipal contracts and access to state-run college campuses to federal agencies practicing warrantless surveillance.

California does not yet have an NSA data collection facility inside its borders, and the passage of SB 828 will keep it that way. Shane Trejo of the Tenth Amendment Center explains:

“We know the NSA has aggressively worked to expand its physical locations because it maxed out the Baltimore area power grid in 2006,” Trejo said. “They’ve built new locations in Utah and Texas, and expanded in several other states.”

Trejo further explained that as a center of the high-tech industry, California would be a “likely candidate” to house a new NSA data center or “threat operations center” amid the agency’s aggressive expansion.

“This act yanks away the welcome mat and tells the NSA, ‘We don’t want you in California unless you follow the Constitution,’” Trejo said.”

The Act has bipartisan support not only in the legislature, but across California communities, as well. Grassroots activists from across the political spectrum have found common ground in resisting the constitutional threats presented by warrantless domestic spying. Sponsoring Senator Ted Lieu (D) acknowledged this when he wrote:

“[O]ur federal government should not be invading our privacy in violation of the Constitution. Every elected official, from the President to local elected officials, takes an oath. That oath is not to any particular party, or administration, or agency. Instead, the oath is to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States.” That means if a federal program is unconstitutional, the federal government simply cannot execute it, no matter how allegedly worthwhile the goals. If the federal government wants to do an unconstitutional program, then the Administration needs to seek a constitutional amendment. What the NSA cannot do is to simply ignore the Fourth Amendment.”

As quoted by the LA Times reported, Senator Lieu also said:

“The NSA’s sweeping seizure of California’s data is unreasonable seizure under the 4th amendment,” Lieu told his colleagues before the 29-1 vote to approve the measure and send it to the Assembly.

The Act now moves to the Assembly's Public Safety and Appropriations committees, and then the Assembly Floor before going to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law. To reach that stage, grassroots supporters must keep up the momentum and make sure that lawmakers in Sacramento know there is a public mandate to challenge warrantless spying.

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Spying is a crime against the citizens of this country. Read your Constitution. It is the law.