PHOENIX, January 23, 2014 – Arizona state Senator Kelli Ward made good on her commitment to introduce legislation that would withdraw all state support of the NSA and hang a big “Spies Not Welcome Here” sign on the front door of the Grand Canyon State this week.
After being the first legislator in the country to announce an intent to do so last fall, Ward along with nine sponsors introduced the Fourth Amendment Protection Act on Wednesday. SB1156 also garnered four co-sponsors, including senate President Andy Biggs.
Based on model legislation drafted by the OffNow Coalition, the Arizona Fourth Amendment Protection Act would ban the state from engaging in activities which help the NSA carry out their warrantless data-collection programs, or even make use of the information on a local level.
The Coalition is organized by the Tenth Amendment Center (TAC) and the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, a civil liberties group advised by well-known anti-establishment figures such as Daniel Ellsburg and Naomi Wolf.
The bill reads, in part, the state of Arizona will not “provide material support or assistance in any form to any federal agency that claims the power to collect, or comply with any federal law, rule, regulation or order that purports to authorize the collection of, electronic data or metadata of any person pursuant to any action that is not based on a warrant that particularly describes the person, place and thing to be searched or seized.”
The legislation also bans the use of warrantless data in courts in the state. A Reuters report last year revealed that the NSA shares data with state and local law enforcement through a secret outfit called the Special Operation Division (SOD). The federal government also shares data mined by its agencies, including the NSA, through “fusion centers.”
TAC national communications director Mike Maharrey said this part of the bill would have the most impact. “SB1156 would make this information utterly useless in the state of Arizona,” he said.
Ward told US News that her goal was to protect the Constitution. “I believe the number one priority for national security is defending and protecting the Constitution,” she said. “Without that, the rest becomes irrelevant.”
While the NSA does not operate a physical facility in the state, the prohibition of material support sends an important message to the spy agency by pulling up the welcome mat.
“We know the NSA is aggressively expanding its physical locations, not just in Utah, but in Texas, Hawaii and other states too,” Maharrey said. “Since the NSA isn’t transparent about its plans, it’s essential to not only address where it is right now, but work to get the rest of the country to say, ‘You’re not welcome here either!’ Our plan is to box them in and do everything we can to stop them.”
The legislation also addresses relationships between the NSA and public universities. Currently, the spy agency has agreements with 166 schools across the U.S. Two Arizona state universities currently maintain partnerships with the NSA. The Arizona Fourth Amendment Protection Act would address the status of Arizona State University and the University of Arizona, Tucson, as NSA “Centers of Academic Excellence” and would prevent future agreements with other state schools.
Arizona joins Washington State, Oklahoma, Indiana, California and Tennessee in considering the Fourth Amendment Protection Act. Bills addressing one aspect of the OffNow campaign – data sharing – are pending in Kansas and Missouri. Sources close to the Coalition indicate lawmakers in several other states will introduce the act in the coming weeks.
Maharrey emphasized the importance of states standing together against unconstitutional spying.
“It’s important for Arizona to take a stand with California, Washington State, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Indiana, Kansas and Missouri. We need to take steps to protect the Fourth Amendment, even if the NSA refuses to,” he said. “And while one state might not make a difference, all of us together will.”
Track the status of similar legislation around the country at http://offnow.org/state.