Washington State next in line to take on unconstitutional federal surveillance


Yesterday, January 15th, a bi-partisan group of elected officials in Washington State introduced legislation that would restrict the state from providing material support to federal agencies engaging in warrantless, bulk meta-data collection. House Bill 2272 is based on model legislation put forward by the OffNow coalition led by BORDC and the Tenth Amendment Center.

Washington State follows California as the latest of six states to introduce legislation based on the OffNow model, and the only state to contain an actual National Security Agency's (NSA) facility that engages in bulk data collection, the Yakima Listening Post.

From U.S. News:

“The Washington legislation does not refer to the NSA by name. Rather, it issues the restrictions against "any federal agency which claims the power, or with any federal law, rule, regulation, or order which purports to authorize, the collection of 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."”

If implemented, the legislation would prevent the state from providing water and power services to NSA operations hubs, criminalize the provision of services to the NSA by private corporations and bar the admission of information collected by the NSA from introduction into evidence by a court.

In effect, it would nullify the ability of the NSA to operate meaningfully from within the state without running afoul of the doctrine of federal preemption. Nothing in the legislation prevents the federal government from engaging in constitutionally problematic surveillance, it merely withdraws state participation in the practice.

As in other states the OffNow legislation has been introduced, Washington State’s version also has bi-partisan support. It was introduced by Rep. David Taylor (R – Moxee) and Rep. Luis Moscoso (D – Mountlake Terrace).

In regards to the rationale behind the legislation, Rep. Taylor commented to Truth Out:

"We're running the bill to provide protection against the ever-increasing surveillance into the daily lives of our citizens," Taylor said. "Our founding fathers established a series of checks and balances in the Constitution. Given the federal government's utter failure to address the people's concerns, it's up to the states to stand for our citizens' constitutional rights."

BORDC and other local activists are already busy organizing events in the region to highlight the issues raised by the new legislation and to educate people about the implications the bill will have for their civil liberties. In the, the OffNow Coalition has action steps Washington residents can take and a tool kit for those living in a state that hasn’t proposed similar legislation yet.

If you’d like to get involved directly in state organizing efforts to protect yourself from unconstitutional spying, contact BORDC organizing team members directly by emailing organizing@bordc.org

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