The fight against the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance programs has moved to some state legislatures, in addition to the ongoing debate in Washington, thanks to a push by the Tenth Amendment Center, an organization that advocates for federalism.
An Arizona legislator, state Sen. Kelli Ward (R-Lake Havasu City), has become the first legislator in the country to introduce the Fourth Amendment Protection Act, which purports to prohibit state and local agencies, including utility providers, from providing the NSA with any material support.
“While media attention is focused on a possible effort to shut off water to the NSA data center in Utah, I’m introducing the Arizona Fourth Amendment Protection Act to back our neighbors up,” Ward said in a statement from the Tenth Amendment Center. “Just in case the NSA gets any ideas about moving south, I want them to know the NSA isn’t welcome in Arizona unless it follows the Constitution.”
The legislation would make information provided by the NSA inadmissible in state courts and blocks state universities from serving as research facilities for the controversial intelligence agency. It would also sanction companies if they cooperate with the NSA.
“I believe the number one priority for national security is defending and protecting the Constitution. Without that, the rest becomes irrelevant. There is no question that the NSA program, as it is now being run, violates the Fourth Amendment. This is a way to stop it,” Ward added.
The Tenth Amendment Center is encouraging other states to follow suit.
“We know the NSA is aggressively expanding its physical locations, not just in Utah, but in Texas, Hawaii and other states too,” said Mike Maharrey, communications director for the Tenth Amendment Center. “Since the NSA isn’t transparent about its plans, it’s essential to not only address where it is today, but work to get the rest of the country to say, ‘You’re not welcome here either!’”
Maharrey noted that the push is all about states standing up to an intrusive federal government, which, he said, was encouraged by James Madison, the “Father of the Constitution,” in Federalist 46.
“[W]hen several states work in union, [Madison] said it would ‘create obstructions which the federal government would hardly be willing to encounter,” he noted. “Arizona is an important piece of the obstruction puzzle.”
It remains to be seen whether Ward’s legislation will gain traction inside the Arizona legislature, though, similar measures promoting civil liberties, such as the targeting of the indefinite detention provision of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2011, have gained support in various state legislation. Nevertheless, the development is important and it’s likely to be introduced in other lawmaking bodies across the country.