In the latest move to push back against NSA lawlessness at the state level, a joint resolution has been proposed in Missouri that would explicitly add electronic communications to the privacy rights protected by the state constitution.
The legislation (SJR 27) proposes an amendment to the constitution that would be submitted to the voters in the next election.
The text is short and concise, replacing the “privacy rights” section with the following language adding electronic communications to the objects protected from search or seizure without a warrant.
“That the people shall be secure in their persons, papers, homes [and], effects, and electronic communications and data, from unreasonable searches and seizures; and no warrant to search any place, or seize any person or thing, or access electronic data or communication, shall issue without describing the place to be searched, or the person or thing to be seized, or the data or communication to be accessed, as nearly as may be; nor without probable cause, supported by written oath or affirmation.”
The effect of this resolution would be significant. The addition of electronic communications to the list of privacy items would make emails, phone records, Internet records and other electronic information gathered without a warrant inadmissible in state court. That would include data gathered illegally by overzealous state and local law enforcement as well as the federal government.
Shane Trejo is the national campaign lead for the OffNow.org coalition of organizations working to push back against NSA spying in the states. He took the position that blocking information-sharing with state and local law enforcement is an important part of their efforts.
“While we’re certainly concerned about the NSA collecting and storing data, because that itself is a violation of our right to privacy, we’re possibly even more concerned with what they do with that data, because that is what could affect our liberty even more. Since we know they’re sharing information collected without warrant with local law enforcement, legislation like this takes a big step towards blocking what the NSA wants to do with all that information,” said Trejo.
Information-sharing of data collected without a warrant is not just a “concern” of fourth amendment activists, leaks have shown that it is already happening.
As Reuters reported in August, 2013, the secretive Special Operations Division (SOD) is “funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.”
Documents obtained by Reuters show that these cases “rarely involve national security issues,” and that local law enforcement is directed by SOD to “conceal how such investigations truly begin.”
Hildabrand’s legislation would ban that practice within the state of Kansas. “The Fourth Amendment Protection Act was written to protect electronic media in Kansas from warrantless searches. I want to make sure that electronic privacy in Kansas is protected,” he said.
In early-December, U.S. News reported that Arizona State Sen. Kelli Ward would be introducing similar legislation for her state, but Hiladabrand’s is the first to be formally introduced in the country.
Trejo applauded the effort and suggested that more states would be considering such legislation soon.
“There are four strategic points where states can take action to thwart the effect of NSA spying. Provision of resources, university partnerships, corporate sanctions, and information-sharing. Each bill introduced is an important piece of the puzzle. We are happy to see Kansas, Missouri and Arizona taking big steps forward with bills for 2014. Our sources tell us to expect ten states considering similar legislation in the coming months.”
In Missouri: Take action to support SJR27 HERE.
Other states: Contact your state legislators today – urge them to introduce similar legislation. Model bills and contact info HERE.