The state-level effort to turn off water and electricity to the National Security Agency (NSA) got a major boost today as legislators in Tennessee introduced a bill to ban the state from providing material support to the federal agency.

A long-standing secretive NSA computing facility calls Oak Ridge home. According to NSA researcher James Bamford, the NSA runs most data it gathers “from code breaking to word captures,” through computers at Oak Ridge and NSA headquarters in Ft. Meade, Md.

The Tennessee Fourth Amendment Protection Act was introduced by State Sen. Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville) late Tuesday evening. Rep. Andy Holt (R-Dresden) will file the companion bill in the House.

Based on model legislation drafted by the OffNow coalition, SB1849 would prohibit the state of Tennessee from “providing material support to…any federal agency claiming the power to authorize the collection of electronic data or metadata of any person pursuant to any action not based on a warrant” as required by the Fourth Amendment.

“We have an out of control federal agency spying on pretty much everybody in the world.  I don’t think the state of Tennessee should be helping the NSA violate the Constitution and the basic privacy rights of its citizens – and we don’t have to,” Campfield said. “This bill may not completely stop the NSA, but it will darn sure stop Tennessee from participating in unjustified and illegal activities.”

From a practical standpoint, the legislation covers four major areas.

  • Prohibits state and local agencies from providing any material support to the NSA within their jurisdiction. Includes barring government-owned utilities from providing water and electricity.
  • Makes information gathered without a warrant by the NSA and shared with law enforcement inadmissible in state court.
  • Blocks public universities from serving as NSA research facilities or recruiting grounds.
  • Disincentivizes corporations attempting to fill needs not met in the absence of state cooperation.

The Multiprogram Research Facility (MRF) sits discreetly on the East Campus of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Inside this top secret facility, NSA researchers work to build High Productivity Computers. The goal: make machines fast enough to crack encryption.

Numerous sources report the MRF will work in tandem with the data storage center in Utah. The super fast computers in Oak Ridge could conceivably break the encryption on reams of data stored in Bluffdale, making its contents accessible to the NSA. This includes data of Americans vacuumed up by the spy agency.

partnership between the state-run University of Tennessee and Battelle runs the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. UT-Battelle’s contract ends in 2015, but the DOE has already declared its intent and started the process to extend it. The city of Oak Ridge is the primary source of water and wastewater treatment for the facility as well. That contract-renewal process will take some time and the proposed legislation could stop both the renewal and material support from the local level.

Tenth Amendment Center national communications director Mike Maharrey acknowledged that Oak Ridge is a massive facility and a lot of its work is perfectly legitimate,  but ultimately the University of Tennessee has got to get out of the spy business.

“The main thing to understand is that this bill denies the NSA material support from the state, and that includes state universities. People are going to be upset because they see value in Oak Ridge. But this legislation only bans material support to those activities which are part of the warrantless mass-surveillance that the federal government has been engaging in, and not everything else.” he said.“The bottom line is that the people of Tennessee don’t want the NSA consuming massive amounts of their resources so the agency can spy on them, and pretty much everybody in the world too. It has to stop.”

Last week, Washington became the first state with an actual NSA facility to consider the Fourth Amendment Protection Act. Lawmakers in Arizona, Indiana, Oklahoma and California will also consider the bill. Bills that would address one aspect of the OffNow campaign – data sharing – are pending in Kansas and Missouri. Sources close to the Tenth Amendment Center indicate lawmakers in several other states will introduce the bill in the coming weeks.

“When Sen. Ward in Arizona announced a few weeks back that she planned to introduce the Fourth Amendment Protection Act, it was a novelty. People had this attitude like, ‘Oh, that’s cute. But it will never amount to anything.’ Today Tennessee makes the eighth state considering action to refuse cooperation with the NSA, including two states with physical facilities within their borders. And mark my words – more are coming. Big ones,” Maharrey said.

“James Madison said that when a number of states refused to cooperate with officers of the Union, it would create roadblocks which the federal government would be unwilling to encounter.  As more states get involved in this campaign, it it will create serious problems for the NSA. This is not symbolic. We intend to box them in and make the NSA stop violating the Constitution.”



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