On June 5 of last year, millions of us found out that the federal government was collecting and storing information about our phone calls. This news came after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden released documents to the media. In the months following, we learned that the government was collecting more than just data about our phone calls.
The NSA program, PRISM, allows them to collect data from all the major tech companies about our online activity. They can access our contact lists and web history. They are also able to tap the fiber optic cables collecting a steady stream of data. They say they are targeting foreigners, but it is now public fact that massive amount of Americans’ data is collected and stored. This only scratches the surface of what they’ve done.
The actions of the NSA have dramatically increased the amount of distrust the citizenry has for the government. The Associated Press quoted a poll in January:
“The percentage of Americans saying the nation is heading in the right direction hasn’t topped 50 in about a decade. In the new poll, 70 percent lack confidence in the government’s ability “to make progress on the important problems and issues facing the country in 2014.”
The good news is that yesterday, Arizona has become the first state to pass a bill designed to thwart surveillance programs from the NSA. Senate Bill 1156 (SB1156), the Arizona 4th Amendment Protection Act, was introduced by Sen. Kelli Ward and 14 other sponsors and co-sponsors. Ward said that her goal was to protect the liberty and the Constitution. Paraphrasing Benjamin Franklin she said,
“We cannot sacrifice liberty for security.”
Based on model legislation drafted by the OffNow Coalition, 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 Coalition 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 possibly the most important part of the bill is, a “prohibition against using state and local courts if that information is collected without a warrant.” Shane Trejo of OffNow agreed. “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.
SB1156 now moves on to the Senate Rules committee where it will need to pass by a majority vote before being considered by the full senate.
The wheels are in motion now. We all can take action on this! Every state.
The Fourth Amendment of the inalienable Bill of Rights provides:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.