Last week, Vermont State Representative Teo Zagar (D-Windsor-4-1), along with co-sponsor Representatives Susan Davis (P/D-Orange-1), Patricia Komline (R-Bennington-Rutland) and William Stevens (I-Addison-Rutland) introduced the Fourth Amendment Protection Act to prohibit any state support of the National Security Agency. Vermont has officially become the twelfth state to introduce legislation that deals with NSA spying inside its borders.
According to the Tenth Amendment Center, H732 is "based on model legislation drafted by the OffNow coalition" and would make it state policy to "refuse to provide material support for or assist or in any way participate in the collection of a person's electronic data or metadata by any federal agency or pursuant to any federal law, rule, regulation, or order unless the data is collected pursuant to a warrant that particularly describes the persons, places, and things to be searched or seized."
The bill deals with two specific areas concerning cutting off state assistance to the NSA.
First, the state would be banned from using any information collected without a warrant by any federal agency in criminal investigations or prosecutions.
Shane Trejo of the OffNow coalition said, "While state actions might not be able to physically stop the NSA 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 in the states for non-terror criminal cases, such as prosecuting the war on cannabis."
Trejo believes this is the most important part of the legislation, especially in light of an August 2013 report by Reuters:
A secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.
Although these cases rarely involve national security issues, documents reviewed by Reuters show that law enforcement agents have been directed to conceal how such investigations truly begin - not only from defense lawyers but also sometimes from prosecutors and judges.
The undated documents show that federal agents are trained to "recreate" the investigative trail to effectively cover up where the information originated, a practice that some experts say violates a defendant's Constitutional right to a fair trial. If defendants don't know how an investigation began, they cannot know to ask to review potential sources of exculpatory evidence - information that could reveal entrapment, mistakes or biased witnesses.
Remember, this is the same DEA which recent documents have confirmed are smuggling cocaine. They are supposed to be law enforcement, not engaging in criminal activity.
Second, the legislation would ban the State of Vermont from providing resources such as water or electricity to any federal agency that is engaged in data or metadata collecting without a "judicially-issued warrant that particularly describes the persons, places, and things to be searched or seized."
Rep. Zagar said that his goal for 2014 is to "work with fellow representatives from across the state and across the aisles to try to improve the state of our state."
Shahid Buttar of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee said he was happy to see the advancement of legislation to secure Americans' rights. "We look forward to building transpartisan grassroots campaigns, both online and off-line, in states around the country to secure fundamental First and Fourth amendment rights violated en masse by the NSA," he said.
Mike Maharrey of the Tenth Amendment Center agreed with Buttar, saying "This crosses party lines. Left, right and even the generally apathetic are outraged that their government is spying on them day in and day out. Violations of our basic civil liberties impacts us all -Democrats, Republicans and independents alike. For all of our political bickering, Americans rally around certain core principles enshrined in our Constitution. It's fitting that these four legislators are standing together to defend these values."
The bill has been referred to the Vermont House Judiciary Committee. It will need to be passed by a majority vote before it can be considered by the full state house.
- Call committee chair Lippert of Hinesburg. (802) 482-3528
- Call all the rest of the committee members.
- Grad of Moretown, Vice Chair 802-496-7667
- Koch of Barre Town, Ranking Member 802-476-4141
- Conquest of Newbury 802-757-3803
- Donaghy of Poultney 802-287-9693
- Fay of St. Johnsbury 802-748-1291
- Goodwin of Weston 802-824-6817
- Marek of Newfane 802-365-9107
- Strong of Albany 802-754-2790
- Waite-Simpson of Essex 802-872-0499
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