Maryland lawmakers look to cut off NSA's water, power

A bill in Maryland’s state legislature would cut off state services like water and power at the National Security Agency’s (NSA) headquarters.

The bill from eight Republicans in the House of Delegates, including the chamber's minority leader, would prevent the state from granting “material support, participation or assistance” to the NSA or any other federal agency that collects people’s information without a warrant. 

Under the Fourth Amendment Protection Act, which was introduced last week, law enforcement officials would also be prevented from using information collected without a warrant in a criminal investigation.

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The NSA’s headquarters is in Fort Meade, Md., about halfway between Washington and Baltimore.

Critics have said that the NSA’s surveillance efforts, which include the collection of bulk information about the phone calls that people make, violate the Constitution’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Supporters of the NSA’s programs have said that the metadata efforts have helped to prevent terrorist attacks in the U.S. and have been upheld by federal judges.

Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (Md.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, scolded the state bill, which he called “unnecessarily punitive and ill-informed.”

“It is bad enough that Edward Snowden has demonized the NSA, but for Maryland lawmakers to degrade their own constituents and threaten so many Maryland jobs is unconscionable,” he said in a statement.

Leaks from Snowden, a former NSA contractor, first raised alarms about the NSA’s surveillance programs last summer.

The action in Maryland follows similar efforts in Arizona, California and elsewhere. Those states are not home to a major NSA installation, however, so legislation introduced there is more symbolic than the action in the Chesapeake Bay State. 

The state-level efforts have been spearheaded by the Tenth Amendment Center, which supports states' rights. The center created a draft bill after which the Maryland legislation was modeled. 

“Maryland has almost become a political subdivision of the NSA,” the organization’s executive director, Michael Boldin, said in a statement. “The agency relies heavily on state and local help. This bill bans all of it.”