An Arizona lawmaker is eyeing an unusual way of reigning in the National Security Agency, which has been under fire for questionable surveillance practices: Block it from operating in her state.
State Senator Kelli Ward, a Republican representing Arizona's Lake Havasu City region, plans to introduce legislation next month that would prohibit state and local law enforcement agencies from extending any kind of support to the NSA. The measure would also bar state-owned utility companies from providing electricity or water supplies to any NSA facilities that might be set up in Arizona.
Ward's bill would also ban prosecutors from using information gathered by the NSA without a warrant in state and local courts. And it would block Arizona public universities from getting involved in any NSA-related research or recruiting activities as well as punish private firms that assist the agency in any way.
The goal, according to Ward, is to prevent warrantless snooping on Arizona residents by the NSA.
In the last legislative session, Ward pushed a bill that would have required state law enforcement to ignore federal gun regulations; that proposal was never allowed up for a vote by the state's Republican leadership, according to The Arizona Republic.
Ward's proposal is modeled on a template developed by the Tenth Amendment Center, an advocacy group focused on state and individual sovereignty issues.
As part of an ongoing effort to get individual states to take action against NSA spying, the group is trying to get Utah lawmakers to pass legislation that would prohibit state-owned utilities from supplying water to a planned NSA data center near Salt Lake City.
The giant facility reportedly requires 1.7 million gallons of water to cool the massive supercomputers and storage systems that the NSA will use to collect and analyze surveillance data from around the world. The Jordan Valley River Conservancy District, a state-owned entity, is currently supposed to provide water to the facility.
Michael Maharrey, the national communications director for the Tenth Amendment Center, expressed hope that other states will join Arizona's effort in blocking the NSA.
"Arizona is the first state to officially announce it will consider the bill," Maharrey said in emailed comments to Computerworld. "We have soft commitments from lawmakers in Utah and Washington, but can't confirm anything officially until they actually file the bills."
The legal rationales behind these bills are "rock-solid," Maharrey claimed. "That the federal government cannot force states to help implement or enforce any federal act or program is well-established in the law. It is known as the anti-commandeering doctrine."
The U.S. Supreme Court has previously held that the federal government cannot force state workers to administer or enforce any federal regulatory program, he said.
Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld. Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at @jaivijayan or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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