TOPEKA, Kan. (Feb. 18, 2020) – A bill introduced in the Kansas House would require a warrant for certain surveillance of private property. It would not only protect privacy in Kansas; it would also push back against the growing federal surveillance state.
Rep. Ken Corbet (R-Topeka) introduced House Bill 2025 (HB2025) on Jan. 11. Under the proposed law, Kansas law enforcement agencies would be prohibited from entering into an agreement with an owner or operator of a utility pole “to install a tracking device to conduct surveillance on private property,” unless authorized pursuant to a warrant. A tracking device is defined as any “electronic or mechanical device that permits a person to remotely determine or track the position or movement of a person or object.
Tracking device includes, but is not limited to, a device that stores geographic data for subsequent access or analysis and a device that allows for the real-time monitoring of movement.” This would include surveillance cameras.
HB2025 would also prohibit an employee of the Kansas department of wildlife, parks and tourism, or a “county weed supervisor” from conducting any type surveillance on private property without a warrant.
IMPACT ON FEDERAL SURVEILLANCE STATE
Limiting surveillance at the state and local level hinders the operation of the ever-growing and interconnected national surveillance state. Information gathered at the state and local level often ends up in federal databases.
The feds can share and tap into vast amounts of information gathered at the state and local level through fusion centers and a system known as the “information sharing environment” or ISE. In other words, stingrays create the potential for the federal government to track the movement of millions of Americans with no warrant, no probable cause, and without the people even knowing it.
Fusion centers were sold as a tool to combat terrorism, but that is not how they are being used. The ACLU pointed to a bipartisan congressional report to demonstrate the true nature of government fusion centers: “They haven’t contributed anything meaningful to counterterrorism efforts. Instead, they have largely served as police surveillance and information sharing nodes for law enforcement efforts targeting the frequent subjects of police attention: Black and brown people, immigrants, dissidents, and the poor.”
Fusion centers operate within the broader ISE. According to its website, the ISE “provides analysts, operators, and investigators with information needed to enhance national security. These analysts, operators, and investigators…have mission needs to collaborate and share information with each other and with private sector partners and our foreign allies.” In other words, ISE serves as a conduit for the sharing of information gathered without a warrant. Known ISE partners include the Office of Director of National Intelligence which oversees 17 federal agencies and organizations, including the NSA. ISE utilizes these partnerships to collect and share data on the millions of unwitting people they track.
The federal government encourages and funds the purchase of surveillance technology at the state and local level across the U.S., thereby undoubtedly gaining access to a massive data pool on Americans without having to expend the resources to collect the information itself. By placing restrictions on surveillance, state and local governments limit the data available that the feds can access.
In a nutshell, without state and local cooperation, the feds have a much more difficult time gathering information. The enactment of laws limiting or prohibiting surveillance strikes a major blow to the surveillance state and would be a win for privacy.
HB2025 was referred to the Committee on Agriculture where it must pass by a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process.