Have you noticed people never hear about an NSA revelation and say, “Oh, that isn’t as bad as I thought?”
In fact, every leaked document proves the spy agency more invasive, more expansive and more insidious than we realized. And what we’ve seen likely represents just the tip of the iceberg. If what we know causes grave concern, the prospect of what remains hidden should send shivers up our spines.
Former NSA technical chief turned whistle blower William Binney numbered the constitutional violations committed by the NSA in the trillions.
Beyond the constitutional concerns, incessant snooping tramples basic privacy rights.
But what can we do about it?
After a more than a year of Edward Snowden revelations, Congress failed to pass one substantive reform. The president took no action. An “independent” government panel recently stamped the NSA’s most controversial program with its seal of approval. Clearly, we can’t count on the federal government to rein in an out of control federal agency.
In The Art of War, Sun Tzu advised this strategy: “Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.”
The NSA expects opponents to “attack” from the same front: Washington D.C. It’s ready for that. But it does have an Achilles Heel. The spy agency needs resources like water and electricity. State and local governments often supply them. For instance, the NSA storage facility in Bluffdale, Utah, will reportedly use some 1.7 million gallons of water when fully operational. The city holds the contract to supply that water.
It doesn’t have to.
Nothing obligates state and local governments to help federal agencies violate your rights. In fact, state and local governments don’t have to provide money, manpower or resources for any federal purpose.
Under the anti-commandeering doctrine, the Supreme Court has consistently held the federal government cannot force states to help implement or enforce federal acts or programs. It rests primarily on four Supreme Court cases. Printz v. US serves the cornerstone.
“The Federal Government may neither issue directives requiring the States to address particular problems, nor command the States’ officers, or those of their political subdivisions, to administer or enforce a federal regulatory program…such commands are fundamentally incompatible with our constitutional system of dual sovereignty.”
So, when a state or city provides water or electricity to the NSA, we can turn it off!
Last summer, the Tenth Amendment Center partnered with the Bill of Rights Defense Committee and drafted legislation to do just that, birthing the OffNow campaign.
The Fourth Amendment Protection Act addresses NSA spying in four ways. It prohibits state and local agencies from providing material support to the NSA within their jurisdiction. It makes information gathered without a warrant by the NSA and shared with law enforcement inadmissible in state court. It blocks public universities from serving as NSA research facilities or recruiting grounds. And it provides for sanctions against corporations cooperating with the spy agency.
Lawmakers introduced the bill in more than a dozen states last year. A version passed the state Senate in California and remains on track for passage in the Assembly. A Utah House committee considered the bill and referred it to interim study, meaning it will have a public hearing and lawmakers will take it up in the next session. We consider this a great start, but much work remains.
The OffNow strategy attacks the soft underbelly of the spy-state and seeks change from the bottom up. It bypasses the political class in D.C. and relies on state power animated by grassroots activists. Our goal is to hinder the operation of the NSA and force substantive changes. By denying the spy-state the material support and compliance it needs, we can preserve our basic civil liberties and privacy rights.
Your support could mean the difference in this epic struggle for our rights. Please join OffNow, and help us speak truth to power as we battle for our essential freedoms.