Will Washington State’s New Law Be the First Step Towards Shutting Down the NSA?
A bipartisan bill in a Northwest state could severely hinder the actions of the National Security Agency (NSA), and if it spreads to other states could do even more than that.
Under the bill in Washington state, selling anything to organizations such as the National Security Agency would become a crime. The bill in the state’s House of Representatives makes providing any sort of support to federal agencies that engage in warrantless surveillance a misdemeanor punishable by jail time and a fine.
House Bill 2272, or The Fourth Amendment Protection Act, would only apply to state employees and contractors to the state of Washington. State employees who helped the NSA could receive up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine. Contractors would receive up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. The bill would also ban contractors that worked with the NSA from doing business with the state in the future.
“If the federal government is going to fail to act to protect our citizens’ rights, then it is up to the state to take action,” one of the act’s sponsors, State Representative David Taylor (R-Moxee) told radio host Dave Ross. Taylor’s district is home to an NSA facility.
Trying to Pull the Plug on NSA
Theoretically, this act could affect utilities that sell water, electricity and natural gas to NSA facilities because they also work with the state. It might also affect Microsoft and Amazon.com, which provide services to the federal government and are based in Washington State.
Taylor told Ross that he would like to see the lights go out at the NSA facility in his district. He admitted that was the goal of the bill.
“They have standalone power for the most part is my understanding, but ultimately if the bill were to pass as it’s written right now, absolutely,” Taylor said. “At what point are we as a society going to continue to allow unwarranted surveillance in violation of our citizens’ constitutional rights without taking action?”
Democratic Rep. Luis Moscoso is a cosponsor.
“At what point,” Taylor told Watchdog.com, “will we as a society quite allowing our government to use terrorism as the excuse to infringe upon the liberties and freedoms that we all hold so dearly?”
Is It Constitutional?
House Bill 2272 has been criticized but it in fact could be constitutional, because the U.S. Supreme Court in a decision called Mack and Printz v. United States (1997) ruled that the federal government cannot force states to implement and enforce federal laws. It isn’t clear whether that decision gives states the power to ban people from doing business with the federal government.
The issue could be tested in the near future because similar legislation has been introduced in legislatures in California, Missouri, Arizona, Oklahoma, Indiana and Kansas according to an organization called Offnow.org. The group is promoting the Fourth Amendment Protection Act and even has model legislation posted on a website called nullifynsa.com.
Going After NSA’s “Achilles Heel”
Nullifynsa.com is going after what it calls NSA’s Achilles’ heel: The agency needs vast amounts of electricity from the grid to operate its computers and servers. The idea behind the Fourth Amendment Protection Act is to cut off that power and shut down NSA’s systems by making it illegal for utilities to sell the agency power or water.
Among other things, Nullifyusa.com would like to shut down NSA’s new data center in Utah which requires 1.7 million gallons of water a day to operate. The group wants the Jordan Valley River Conservancy District to stop providing the water.
When asked why his organization and state legislators are fighting NSA, Michael Maharrey for Offnow.org, the group behind the effort had a simple answer.
“I would argue that it’s an act of terrorism to willfully and knowingly violate the Constitution,” Maharrey said.