Tag Archives: Montana

Montana Becomes First State To Pass Law Protecting Journalists’ Electronic Privacy

Last week, Montana became the first state to include a provision in its Media Confidentiality Act that protected journalists’ electronic communications from the government when Governor Steve Bullock signed a bill “prohibiting disclosure of media info from electronic communications services.”

HB 207 was authored by Daniel Zolnikov, a Liberty-minded Republican representative from Billings, and was created to close a loophole in the existing law that gave government entities access to journalists’ electronic communications through third party providers.

Zolnikov tells Benswann.com that his bill ensures that journalists in Montana can use modern technology to safely and securely report important news, by protecting their electronic communications from government intrusion.

“A free press is vital to government transparency and accountability,” Zolnikov said. “This bill is a perfect example of how we can maintain our constitutional rights as technology advances.”

The text of the bill states that it both prohibits “governmental bodies from questing or requiring the disclosure of privileged news media information from services that transmit electronic communications,” and prohibits “an electronic communication service from being adjudged in contempt” if that service “refuses to disclose certain information.”

Zolnikov tells Benswann.com that he created the bill to help Montana set the precedent at the state level for the rest of the nation.

Freedom of the press is one of the most crucial rights contained in the First Amendment,” Zolnikov said. “The federal government has cracked down on whistleblowers and journalists in the past few years, and many have said this has a ‘chilling effect’ on news reporting.”

As previously reported, HB 207 is one of several bills Zolnikov has sponsored that promotes the protection of Americans’ electronic privacy. One bill that was sponsored by Zolnikov, which made Montana the first state in the nation to require a search warrant for cell phone location information, was passed during the 2013 legislative session, just months before Edward Snowden revealed the National Security Agency’s massive surveillance program.

Montana Legislature Passes Bill to Limit Federal Militarization of Police

Tenth Amendment Center HELENA, Mont. (Apr. 8, 2015) – A bill that would heavily diminish the effect of federal surplus equipment programs that militarize local police was given final approval by the Montana House today.

The vote was 79-20.

Introduced by Rep. Nicholas Schwaderer (R-Superior), House Bill 330 (HB330) bans state or local law enforcement agencies from receiving drones that are armored, weaponized, or both; aircraft that are combat configured or combat coded; grenades or similar explosives and grenade launchers; silencers; and “militarized armored vehicles” from federal military surplus programs.

The bill passed by a 46-1 vote in the Senate last month and will now go to the Governor’s desk.

HB330 also stipulates that a law enforcement agency purchasing allowable military equipment must use state or local funds, prohibiting federal funding of such gear. It also requires agencies give public notice within 14 days of a request for allowable military equipment. Both of these provisions ensure any procurement of military equipment still allowed under law will happen in the public spotlight.

Last month, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill into law that, while not as comprehensive as the Montana bill, made his state the first to take a step towards stopping federal militarization of police.


Through the federal 1033 Program, local police departments procure military grade weapons, including automatic assault rifles, body armor and mine resistant armored vehicles – essentially unarmed tanks. Police departments can even get their hands on military helicopters and other aircraft.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) runs the “Homeland Security Grant Program,” which in 2013 gave more than $900 million in counterterrorism funds to state and local police. According to a 2012 Senate report, this money has been used to purchase tactical vehicles, drones, and even tanks with little obvious benefit to public safety. And, according to ProPublica, “In 1994, the Justice Department and the Pentagon funded a five-year program to adapt military security and surveillance technology for local police departments that they would otherwise not be able to afford.”

HB330 goes beyond a prohibition on receipt of surplus equipment under the 1033 program by banning the purchase of such equipment with federal funds. It reads, in part: “If a law enforcement agency purchases property from a military equipment surplus program operated by the federal government, the law enforcement agency may only use state or local funds for the purchase. Funds obtained from the federal government may not be used to purchase property from a military equipment surplus program.”

Local agencies almost never have the funds needed to purchase this kind of equipment, and federal money is the only way they can afford it. By banning purchase with federal funding, HB330 would effectively nullify the effect of such federal “grant” programs.

The legislation also requires law enforcement agencies to notify the public within 14 days of requesting any allowable military gear from such a surplus program.


Arming ‘peace officers’ like they’re ready to occupy an enemy city is totally contrary to the society envisioned by the Founders. They’ve turned ‘protect and serve’ into ‘command and control.’

In the 1980s, the federal government began arming, funding and training local police forces, turning peace officers into soldiers to fight in its unconstitutional “War on Drugs.” The militarization went into hyper-drive after 9/11 when a second front opened up – the “War on Terror.”

By stripping state and local police of this military-grade gear and requiring them to report on their acquisition and use, it makes them less likely to cooperate with the feds and removes incentives for partnerships.

“Sunshine is the salve of good government,” Schwaderer said.

That is exactly what HB330 will bring to Montana if signed into law by Gov. Bullock.


In Montana: Support this bill by following all the steps at THIS LINK.

For other states: Take action to push back against federal militarization of your police at this link.

Exclusive Interview: Liberty Republican Setting the Standard for Electronic Privacy in Montana

Daniel Zolnikov, 28, a liberty-minded Republican State Representative in Montana is entering the 2015 legislative session with a list of bills that he hopes will set the standard for the nation, in terms of protecting Americans’ electronic privacy.

Zolnikov is currently a representative for the district of Billings, and he tells Benswann.com that in order to become part of the state legislature in Montana, it wasn’t about the amount of money he had to raise, it was about the time he had to spend knocking on doors and reaching out to the public.

During the 2013 legislative session, Zolnikov sponsored a bill that made Montana the first state in the nation to require a search warrant for cell phone location information. A couple of months after the bill was passed, Edward Snowden revealed the massive surveillance program the National Security Agency (NSA) was conducting.

Zolnikov recalls that it wasn’t until the Snowden leaks became a national story that other states followed Montana’s lead and began to enact digital privacy laws.

Even with that kind of accomplishment, there was no real success because now we know that the NSA is collecting all of your data and we’re in a very bad spot,” said Zolnikov. “It’s like one person versus a whole army sometimes.”

Entering the 2015 legislative session, Zolnikov tells Benswann.com that his main focus is on enacting “a whole new variety of legislation” that deals with protecting citizens’ electronic privacy and making the government follow the procedures that “have been in place for centuries.”

Zolnikov explained that one of the ways the U.S. Government is “ignoring the Fourth Amendment” and obtaining citizens’ electronic information without their knowledge is through a loophole called the third party doctrine. This doctrine states that if an individual sends an email through a server such as Google or Yahoo, the information loses the expectation of privacy when their digital communications use a “third party” to send it.

The third party doctrine allows for electronic spying and the stealing of electronic communication, because they say there’s no reasonable expectation of privacy,” said Zolnikov. “Most people don’t understand that.”

Another bill Zolnikov is sponsoring this session is a bill that would ban license plate readers in the state of Montana. He explained that this bill would prohibit the government from tracking citizens based on pictures of their license plates, and GPS and Bluetooth signals emitted from their phones.

As previously reported, the American Civil Liberties Union recently “revealed the existence of a national program operated by the Drug Enforcement Administration that collects and analyzes license plate information,” and has as many as “343 million records in the National License Plate Recognition program.”

Zolnikov tells Benswann.com that he is able to pass laws protecting electronic privacy in the state, due to the fact that “Montana is very liberty-minded.”

If we start passing these well put-together bills, other states will start following and passing them. Once other states start passing them, it puts pressure on Congress,” said Zolnikov. “I’d rather do something at the state level than complain that the Federal level is doing nothing.”

Lawmaker Proposes Bill to Protect Journalists’ Electronic Information

A bill introduced in Montana’s House Judiciary Committee on Thursday would prevent state government agencies from using companies such as Google and Yahoo to obtain a Journalist’s sources and information.

The Associated Press reported that “no one spoke in opposition to the bill,” which would prohibit all state government officials from “asking for a member of the media’s emails or other electronic communications from companies that store that information.”

Representative Daniel Zolnikov, a Republican from Billings, Montana, proposed the bill. He claimed he is not looking to change the existing law; rather he wants to close a loophole in the current law.

“My bill does not change existing law, but adds to it based on a new age of digital communications,” said Zolnikov. He explained that the existing media shield law does not protect a reporter’s emails or other electronic information that might be stored on the servers of Gmail, Yahoo or Outlook.

According to Courthouse News, after proposing a bill in 2013 that was later labeled “anti-business,” but would have “given consumers control over their personal data and prevented companies from reselling it behind their backs,” Zolnikov is “no stranger to privacy issues.”

The Associated Press reported that this bill is one of several Zolnikov is sponsoring to “protect privacy rights in the state.” His other proposed bills would secure privacy for the citizens of Montana by banning license plate readers in the state and by prohibiting state officials from gathering electronic data without a warrant.

On his website, Zolnikov wrote that after seeing “unprecedented attacks on the rights of the press in recent years at the federal level,” he felt it was best to show support for reporters by starting at the state level.

Freedom of the press is one of the most crucial rights contained in the First Amendment,” wrote Zolnikov. “We can’t change the Federal Government’s attitude towards the important of the reporter’s privilege, but we can strengthen Montana’s shield laws.