Calif. bill would halt assistance to NSA

Lawmakers in California want to block state agencies and universities from assisting the National Security Agency (NSA) in its surveillance of Americans.

Legislation from state Sens. Ted Lieu (D) and Joel Anderson (R), introduced on Monday, would cut off the spy agency from California utilities, services and other agencies.

Lieu said in a statement that the agency's surveillance poses a “direct threat to our liberty and freedom” and is comparable to the U.S. government's internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

“The last time the federal government massively violated the U.S. Constitution, over 100,000 innocent Americans were rounded up and interned,” he said.

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The legislators’ bill would prevent state agencies and corporations with state contracts from “materially supporting or assisting” the NSA’s surveillance efforts, unless a specific warrant had been issued. It would also prevent information obtained without a warrant by the federal government from being used in a state or local criminal case.

“State-funded public resources should not be going toward aiding the NSA or any other federal agency from indiscriminate spying on its own citizens and gathering electronic or metadata that violates the Fourth Amendment,” Lieu said.

Documents disclosed by former contractor Edward Snowden show that the NSA routinely collects information about Americans’ phone calls and email histories.

The NSA does not operate a major facility in California, though it does run a massive data center in nearby Utah. Similar legislation was introduced in Arizona last year, and activists have urged Utah to follow suit.

The NSA’s surveillance efforts could soon be reformed.

In December, a White House advisory panel delivered a list of 46 recommendations to reform the NSA and other intelligence operations. President Obama has been reviewing the advice and is planning to announce which measures he supports this month. 

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