CONCORD, N.H., February 20, 2014 – Today, a New Hampshire state house committee passed a bill designed to thwart the effects of warrantless surveillance, the second such bill passed by the committee this week.

Introduced by Rep. Neal Kurk (R-Hillsborough), House Bill 1619 (HB1619) prohibits the acquisition, collection, or retention of personal information including “personal identifiers, content, and usage, given or available to third-party providers of information and services, including telephone; electric, water and other utility services; internet service providers; social media providers; banks and financial institutions; insurance companies; and credit card companies.”

Municipal and state agencies, employees and contractors are expressly prohibited from obtaining or accepting such information unless it was with a “warrant signed by a judge and based on probable cause.”

It passed out of committee earlier today by a vote of 16-1.

Earlier this week, the Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety also passed House Bill 1533 (HB1533), which bans the use of any information obtained from a “portable electronic device” such as mobile phone in “a criminal, civil, administrative, or other proceeding.”

HB1533 was also introduced by Kurk, along with two cosponsors, Rep Emily Sandblade (R) and Rep. Timothy O’Flaherty (D). The state House Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety passed the bill by a vote of 12-1 on Tuesday.

A third privacy and surveillance related bill from Kurk, House Bill 1567, will take up by the committee next month. HB1567 bans the state from obtaining “location information of an electronic device without a warrant issued by a judge based on probable cause and on a case-by-case basis.”

Together, the three bills act as a firewall against activities taken by the federal government to monitor, watch and track people without a warrant.

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).   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.”

The Washington Post also reported that the NSA is “is gathering nearly 5 billion records a day on the whereabouts of cellphones around the world,” enabling the agency “to track the movements of individuals — and map their relationships — in ways that would have been previously unimaginable.” While NSA claims that their goal is to track the location of potential “threats” overseas, the Post reports that the agency is collecting a vast amount of location data on US citizens as well.

The NSA does not target Americans’ location data by design, but the agency acquires a substantial amount of information on the whereabouts of domestic cellphones “incidentally,” a legal term that connotes a foreseeable but not deliberate result.

Passage of HB1533, HB1567 and HB1619 will ban the state from working with such information passed from the federal government to local law enforcement via SOD or FBI “sharing agreements.” Much of this same information is made readily available to states via fusion centers.

OffNow coalition representative Shane Trejo said that this was an important and effective way for states to push back against federal spying programs. “While the states might not be able to physically stop the NSA and other federal agencies from collecting our data or location without a warrant, legislation such as these in New Hampshire 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 Fourth Amendment,” said Trejo.

HB1533 and HB1619 will be debated and voted on by the full New Hampshire state house on March 5. HB1567 will be taken up by the committee on March 4.


In New Hampshire, support this legislation – CLICK HERE

All other states, take action to push back against mass surveillance – CLICK HERE

Michael Boldin

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