By Josh Peterson | Watchdog.org
Lawmakers across the nation are continuing their campaign against the National Security Agency and the federal government’s expansive surveillance powers.
The bills are modeled on legislation drafted by the OffNow.org coalition, a state level organization challenging the federal government’s warrantless electronic surveillance activities.
In New Hampshire, HB1533, sponsored by two Republican state representatives, Neal Kurk and Emily Sandblade, and Democrat state Rep. Tim O’Flaherty, would prohibit a state official from searching a portable electronic device without a warrant.
Any official caught in willful violation could be charged with a Class-A misdemeanor, which under New Hampshire state law means immediate jail time upon conviction, along with a possible fine and probation.
HB1619, also sponsored by Kurk, “affirms a reasonable expectation of privacy in information from sources including, telephone; electric, water and other utility services; internet service providers; social media providers; banks and financial institutions; insurance companies; and credit card companies,” OffNow.org said in a statement.
The bill makes an exception for federal agents to collect data without a warrant, but bars state agencies from receiving and using the information in court.
In Arizona, SB1156, which has 14 Republican sponsors, was introduced by state Sen. Kelli Ward. It would bar the state from providing material support to the agency’s activities and ban any data collected without a warrant from being used in court.
Ward announced her intentions in December to introduce a bill that would keep Arizona from supporting the NSA.
Tennessee state lawmakers Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, and State Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, introduced companion bills earlier in the week that would ban state officials from providing material support to an NSA code-breaking facility at Oak Ridge.
The bill mirrors similar legislation introduced Jan. 15 by two Washington state lawmakers seeking to deny material support and state funds to a NSA listening post at the U.S. Army’s Yakima Training Facility.
OffNow.org’s legal reasoning behind supporting the states refusing to help NSA is based in the Supreme Court legal precedent of the anti-commandeering doctrine, which recognizes that states can refuse to comply with federal laws and programs.
The principle is disputable under the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, however, which defers authority to the federal government in the event a conflict over power takes place between the federal and local governments.
OffNow.org has been able to find legislative allies not only in New Hampshire, Arizona, and Tennessee, but also Oklahoma, and Indiana.
“Sources close to the Coalition indicate lawmakers in several other states will introduce the act in the coming weeks,” said OffNow.org in a news statement on Thursday.
The organization, however, is not alone in its efforts.
At the federal level, Digital 4th — a coalition of the American Civil Liberties Union, Heritage Action for America, Americans for Tax Reform and the Center for Democracy & Technology — has been working to motivate lawmakers to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986.
The law, which allows federal agents to subpoena 180-day-old stored electronic communications, has been criticized for being outdated and unable to protect consumers’ privacy rights.
The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, a federal privacy watchdog, published a report on Thursday that concluded the NSA’s phone records collection program was illegal and should be terminated.
The White House rejected the PCLOB’s conclusion, standing firm in its belief that the program is lawful.
Contact Josh Peterson at [email protected]. Follow Josh on Twitter at @jdpeterson