By Josh Peterson | Watchdog.org
Providing water and electricity to the National Security Agency in Washington state could soon mean a year of jail time.
In response to national security leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden about the agency, two Washington state lawmakers introduced a bill on Wednesday aimed at denying any help to federal agencies engaging in warrantless electronic surveillance.
Called the “Creating the Fourth Amendment protection act,” the bill would make providing any type of assistance — including “material support,” state funds, and services — a misdemeanor for corporations or person acting as state contractors, and a gross misdemeanor for state employees.
Violating the act could land a state employee up to a year in county jail with a $5,000 fine. In addition, they would lose their job and be barred from public service.
State contractors caught violating the act could face up to 90 days in jail with a $1,000 fine and forever lose the state’s business.
According to well-established federal legal precedent — particularly the Supreme Court case, Mack and Printz v. United States, 521 U.S. 898 (1997) — the federal government cannot force states to implement or enforce a federal law or program.
The bipartisan bill pending in the Washington State House Judiciary Committee is sponsored by state Rep. David Taylor, R-Moxee, and Luis Moscoso, D-Mountlake Terrace.
For Taylor, whose district is home to an NSA listening post at the U.S. Army’s Yakima Training Facility, neither the threat of terrorism nor the economic costs of operating the post are worth violating citizens’ constitutionally protected liberties.
“Just because there are terrorists in this world does not give the government the opportunity or the right to ignore the Constitution of the United States,” Taylor told Watchdog.org.
“At what point,” he said, “will we as a society quite allowing our government to use terrorism as the excuse to infringe upon the liberties and freedoms that we all hold so dearly?”
Referring to a New York Times report on Tuesday that revealed the agency used USB radios to hack into computers not connected to the Internet, Taylor told Watchdog.org that he was convinced shouldering the economic costs of operating a post was no longer necessary.
“With technology moving the way that it is,” said Taylor,” we don’t necessarily need a multi-billion dollar facility to do this anymore. It’s out there — USB ports, radio frequencies to capture cell phones; we need to be able to address this holistically, which is what we attempted to do.”
Taylor also said constituents in his district have been contacting him to express their gratitude for introducing the bill.
Moscoso did not respond to Watchdog.org’s request for comment.
The Taylor-Moscoso bill in Washington state is but one of several bills being considered at the state level across the country.
Legislators in Indiana, California, Arizona, Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas also have introduced versions of the bill, all modeled after legislative proposals made by OffNow.org, an anti-NSA coalition.
Michael Maharrey, spokesman for OffNow.org, said in a recent interview with Defense One that he was confident legislators in Utah and other states would take up similar measures.
In speaking to Watchdog.org, Maharrey also pushed back against criticisms that surveillance reform efforts aided terrorists.
“I would argue that it’s an act of terrorism to willfully and knowingly violate the constitution,” Maharrey said .
President Obama on Friday is expected to announce an overhaul to the agency’s programs, although any changes made are not anticipated to be sweeping reforms.
Contact Josh Peterson at [email protected]