The following was submitted as written testimony to the committee considering the Kansas Fourth Amendment Protection Act (HB2421).
Protection of personal data counts among the greatest concerns in America today. Over the last 20 years, technology steamed far ahead of the legal framework necessary to ensure basic privacy rights. The ease of interception and proliferation of private data through the Internet and cellular networks makes personal information far too easy to gather and abuse.
Our founding fathers lived under a system that allowed government officials to write general warrants authorizing broad sweeping searches over long periods of time. With one of these warrants in hand, agents of the British Crown could enter a home or business at will and poke around looking for evidence of smuggling. The founding generation chaffed under this gross violation of privacy and insisted on an amendment to the Constitution to ensure the federal government would never wield such overreaching power. The Fourth Amendment requires probable cause and specificity before government agents can initiate a search.
Yet today, the NSA vacuums up reams of data on Americans, without a warrant, without probable cause and without any specificity.
Kansas cannot stop the NSA from spying on Americans, but it can ensure state and local law enforcement don’t use illegally gathered information to prosecute its citizens. The Fourth Amendment Protection Act does just that.
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, revealed by Snowden. We know from this report that most of this shared data has absolutely nothing to do with national security issues. State and local law enforcement utilize this information in investigations, and the SOD reportedly shows them how to cover their tracks and start “parallel investigations.”
The proposed Fourth Amendment Protection Act would make this illegally gathered evidence inadmissible in court, mitigating this gross violation of the Constitutional basic civil liberties.
And of course, it would also legally bind state actors and require them to obtain warrants before collecting private electronic data, keeping with Article 15 of the Kansas Bill of Rights.
Search and seizure. The right of the people to be secure in their persons and property against unreasonable searches and seizures shall be inviolate; and no warrant shall issue but on probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or property to be seized.
One of the most fundamental roles of government is protecting the basic rights and liberties of its citizens. Sometimes that means protecting the people from other governments. And sometimes that means protecting them from itself.
HB2421 does both.
But passing the Fourth Amendment Protection Act, you will fulfill one of the duties James Madison insisted you took on as a state lawmaker – the duty to “interpose for arresting the progress of the evil” when you see “a case of a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of other powers, not granted” by the Constitution.