Anti-surveillance lawmakers believe the National Security Agency has an Achilles heel: its reliance on public utilities. The NSA's $1.5 billion Utah Data Center, pictured, requires millions of gallons of water a month to cool its computer systems.
In eight states, legislators are pushing bills they hope will either boot National Security Agency facilities or ban the agency from setting up shop. The bills would prohibit state and local governments from offering material support to the agency, including use of public utilities that carry water and electricity. Two of the bills would criminalize official cooperation with the NSA and several seek to squeeze contractors out of work with the electronic spy agency.
The state-level push began months after whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed in June 2013 the NSA’s bulk collection of U.S. phone records and Internet-mining programs.
Last year, bills in Utah - home of the NSA’s massive Utah Data Center - and Maryland - host of the agency’s Fort Meade headquarters - sought to shut down those operations, winning broad media coverage.
The Utah bill remains active and its sponsor, Republican state Rep. Marc Roberts, is cautiously optimistic about its chances, particularly after a seemingly receptive committee hearing in November.
Roberts says colleagues he’s spoken with “have concerns with the NSA programs and violations of the Fourth Amendment.” But, he says, “when it comes down to a big vote on it like this I'm not sure [what] they will do.”
Roberts is waiting to learn which legislative committee this year will hear his bill, which seeks to shut off the water supply to the NSA's vast Utah Data Center that's currently provided through a sweatheartdeal with the city of Bluffdale.
Legislators in Alaska, Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Washington, meanwhile, introduced similar bills this month, many called Fourth Amendment protection acts, based on model legislation from the OffNow coalition. More are likely to be introduced as the legislative season unfolds.
The bills generally say states and their political subdivisions cannot supply material support to federal agencies that collect citizens’ metadata without individualized warrants, and they intend to bar NSA-derived evidence from state courts and block the agency from research partnerships with state schools.
In Washington, the proposed bill goes further. It would force companies to choose between NSA and state contracts. And if state contractors or officials do provide “material support, participation, or assistance in any form” to the NSA, they would be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and up to one year behind bars.
The bill’s sponsor, Republican state Rep. David Taylor, has an NSA facility within his district, on the U.S. Army's Yakima Training Center. The facility, however, is reportedly slated for closure and may be immunized by its independence from state and local utilities.
But Taylor, whose seven cosponsors include six Republicans and one Democrat, says he's heard there are other, smaller NSA facilities that would be affected. Taylor says he fears the lack of a quick death-knell to exposed NSA programs has emboldened local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to "move forward at a more rapid pace" to collect data and communications without warrants.
“We’re saying, 'No, it’s inappropriate.' We have a Fourth Amendment to the Constitution," he says. "And if you violate that there’s going to be civil penalties and jail time." Taylor is working with larger bipartisan coalitions to require warrants for use of Stingray cellphone tracking devices and to limit the use of drones.
The Oklahoma and Mississippi bills, like the Washington version, would make companies who work with the NSA “forever ineligible” to work with the state and local governments. Officials who knowingly violate the law “shall be deemed to have resigned,” all three bills propose.
Violators of the Oklahoma legislation would be guilty of a misdemeanor that carries a fine of up to $1,000 and one year in jail.
The Mississippi bill, which would not establish criminal penalties, is sponsored by state Sen. Chris McDaniel, a popular conservative leader who lost a tight Republican primary for U.S. Senate last year.
In Maryland, where the NSA recently negotiated a water deal with a county government, eight Republicans introduced a bill in February 2014 threatening to darken and dry the agency’s headquarters.No similar bill has yet been introduced this year, and it’s unclear if one’s coming.
Five cosponsors of the now-dead bill, including the lower chamber's minority leader, bailed before it was considered in committee. The two leaders of the Maryland push lost primary races last year, and the remaining cosponsor wasn’t re-elected.
Photograph: Rick Bowmer/A
By Justin Raimondo | AntiWar.com | Feb. 14, 2014"Turn it off!" campaign targets the NSA’s Utah Data CenterThe movement to end the Surveillance State is finally getting serious. With the failure by Congress to rein in the NSA – although the heroic Rep. Justin Amash nearly succeeded in doing so – activists on the state level are mounting a campaign that promises to hit Big Brother where it really hurts – by cutting off the NSA’s water supply at its Bluffdale, Utah, Data Center.A bill introduced in the Utah legislature by state representative Marc Roberts (R-Santaquin) would cut off the water supply to the NSA’s massive facility which will gobble up1.7 million gallons of water per day – in a state already hit hard by a region-wide drought.What do they need all that water for? To cool the mega-computers housing the NSA’s huge store ofintercepted data – virtually all the emails transmitted in the country and beyond, including phone calls and our all-important "meta data."