COLUMBIA, March 11, 2014– The campaign to stop unconstitutional National Security Agency (NSA) spying at the state and local level has clearly taken on a life of its own, and is gaining support from across the political aisle.
A bipartisan group of 23 South Carolina representatives introduced the Fourth Amendment Protection Act late last month. Cosponsors include leadership from both parties, with Majority leader Rep. Bruce Bannister (R) and Minority leader Rep. J. Todd Rutherford (D) both signing on to the bill.
Introduced by Rep. Kris Crawford (R-Florence), H.4795 would bar South Carolina or its political subdivision from providing material support for, assisting with, or in any way participating in the collection of a person’s electronic data or metadata by a federal agency or pursuant to any federal law, rule, regulation, or order. The bill would also make any such data collected by the feds and shared with state or local law enforcement inadmissible in court.
Tenth Amendment Center national communications director Mike Maharrey said that the provision dealing with data sharing would likely have the most immediate and far-reaching impact because it erases a practical effect of the NSA’s spy activities.
“We know the NSA shares warrantless data with state and local law enforcement. We know from a Reuters report that most of this shared data has absolutely nothing to do with national security issues,” he said. “This data sharing shoves a dagger into the heart of the Fourth Amendment. This bill would stop that from happening immediately.”
While the NSA does not currently operate a data or “threat operations” center in South Carolina, OffNow coalition spokesperson Shane Trejo said the Palmetto State, and others around the country, need to pass similar legislation to make NSA expansion more difficult.
“As we’ve seen over the last few yeas, the NSA is aggressively expanding in Utah, Texas, Hawaii and other states too,” he said. “Obviously, the NSA keeps its plans close to the vest. That’s why we can’t just address where it is today, but we have to work to get the entire country to pull up the welcome mat and say, ‘We don’t want you here if you refuse to work within constitutional restraints.”
The legislation sits on well-established legal principle known as anti-commandeering doctrine. Simply put, the federal government cannot “commandeer” or coerce states into implementing or enforcing federal acts or regulations – constitutional or not. The anti-commandeering doctrine rests primarily on four Supreme Court cases dating back to 1842. The 1997 case, Printz v. US, serves as the modern cornerstone. The majority opinion deemed commandeering “incompatible with our constitutional system.”
H4795 will first be heard in the house judiciary committee, where seven of the 24 committee members are bill cosponsors. But, inside sources suggest that it will still take significant support to move the bill out of Chairman Greg Delleney’s committee. Should it pass, it will then be considered by the full house.