The Volunteer State is on a roll. Siding with eight other states, Tennessee has introduced a bill to attempt to keep the National Security Agency out of its state. The legislation targets NSA warrantless data gathering in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

State Senator Stacey Campfield (R) and State Representative Andy Holt (R) have sponsored SB1849 known as the "Tennessee Fourth Amendment Protection Act." This bill is based on the model legislation drafted by the OffNow coalition.

You may recall Campfield from his previous comment regarding "assault pressure cookers" following the Boston Bombing.

According to SB1849, the State of Tennessee would be prohibited from "providing material support to…any federal agency claiming the power to authorize the collection of electronic data or metadata of any person pursuant to any action not based on a warrant," which is required by the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution.

According to Campfield, "We have an out of control federal agency spying on pretty much everybody in the world.  I don't think the state of Tennessee should be helping the NSA violate the Constitution and the basic privacy rights of its citizens – and we don't have to. This bill may not completely stop the NSA, but it will darn sure stop Tennessee from participating in unjustified and illegal activities."

NSA researcher James Bamford said that the NSA runs most of the data it gathers "from code breaking to word captures," through computers at an Oak Ridge, Tennessee computing facility and NSA headquarters in Ft. Meade, Maryland.

According to the Tenth Amendment Center, the legislation deals with four main areas:

  • Prohibits state and local agencies from providing any material support to the NSA within their jurisdiction. Includes barring government-owned utilities from providing water and electricity.
  • Makes information gathered without a warrant by the NSA and shared with law enforcement inadmissible in state court.
  • Blocks public universities from serving as NSA research facilities or recruiting grounds.
  • Disincentivizes corporations attempting to fill needs not met in the absence of state cooperation.

Currently, the top secret facility Multiprogram Research Facility (MRF) is located on the East Campus of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). The ORNL is a multiprogram science and technology national laboratory managed for the United States Department of Energy by the University of Tennesse-Battelle. NSA researchers use the facility to build incredibly fast computers to crack encryption. Several sources have indicated the MRF will be working together with the massive storage facility in Utah. The content of the data stored in the Utah facility could be decrypted by the computers being developed at the MRF.

Already, there are efforts underway by grassroots activists to tackle the Utah facility, while others have suggested turning off their water, or as recent California legislation seeks to do; turn off their water and electricity.

The Tenth Amendment Center communications director Mike Maharrey says that though the Oak Ridge facility's work is legitimate, he believes the University of Tennessee needs to not be involved in the spy business.

"The main thing to understand is that this bill denies the NSA material support from the state, and that includes state universities," said Maharrey. "People are going to be upset because they see value in Oak Ridge. But this legislation only bans material support to those activities which are part of the warrantless mass-surveillance that the federal government has been engaging in, and not everything else. The bottom line is that the people of Tennessee don't want the NSA consuming massive amounts of their resources so the agency can spy on them, and pretty much everybody in the world too. It has to stop."

Several states are considering the Fourth Amendment Protection Act: Washington, Arizona, Indiana, Oklahoma, and California. Kansas and Missouri already have bills pending that address data sharing.

"When Arizona State Sen. Kelli Ward announced her plan to introduce the Fourth Amendment Protection Act a few weeks back, it was a novelty," Maharrey said. "People had this attitude like, 'Oh, that's cute. But it will never amount to anything.' Today Tennessee makes the eighth state considering action to refuse cooperation with the NSA, and mark my words – more are coming. Big ones. James Madison said that when a number of states refused to cooperate with officers of the Union, it would create roadblocks which the federal government would be unwilling to encounter. This is not symbolic. We intend to box them in and make the NSA stop violating the Constitution."

Tennessee has taken major steps to beat back the usurpations of the federal government's violations of the Constitution. Just last week, legislation was introduced to nullify Obamacare and all federal gun laws. It's nice to see states exercising rights they never gave to the federal government in an attempt to bring their creature back under control.

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