PHOENIX, February 24, 2014 – Today, a powerful Arizona state senate committee passed SB1156, the 4th Amendment Protection Act, by a vote of 4-2 with one member absent. The bill now moves on to a vote in the state senate, which is likely to be the first full legislative body in the country to vote on a bill designed to thwart surveillance programs from the National Security Agency (NSA).

Introduced by Sen. Kelli Ward and 14 other sponsors and co-sponsors, SB1156 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 OffNow Coalition provided the basis for the legislation in Arizona and more than twelve other states around the country. OffNow is organized by the Tenth Amendment Center (TAC) and the Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC), a civil liberties group advised by well-known anti-establishment figures such as Daniel Ellsburg and Naomi Wolf.

Ward said that her goal was to protect the liberty and the Constitution. Paraphrasing Benjamin Franklin she said, “We cannot sacrifice liberty for security.”

The legislation specifically bans the use of warrantless data in state courts. 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.

Reports in the Washington Post and USA Today last fall documented how “the FBI and most other investigative bodies in the federal government” are regularly using a mobile device known as a “stingray” to intercept and collect electronic data without a warrant. Local and state police “have access through sharing agreements.”

Shane Trejo of OffNow suggested that this might be the most important part of the legislation. “While Arizona might not be able to physically stop the NSA and other federal agencies from collecting our data without a warrant, legislation such as this can significantly reduce the practical effect of what they are trying to do with it, namely, use it within the states for non-terror criminal cases, which is a gross violation of the 4th Amendment,” he said.

The legislation would also ban Arizona from providing material support or resources to the operation of any federal facilities engaged in the warrantless surveillance of people in Arizona.  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 around the country from Utah to Texas and elsewhere,” Trejo said. “Since the NSA rarely tells us its plans in advance, it is absolutely essential to make sure that states pass this legislation to cut them off at the pass. Our plan is to box them in and do everything we can to stop them.”

SB1156 now moves on to the state senate where it will need to pass by a majority vote before being considered by the house.



All other states, take action here:

Michael Boldin

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