State Measure Takes Aim at Cooperation with NSA

There would be no welcome mat in California for the National Security Agency under a measure now making its way through the state Legislature.

State Senate Bill 828 – due for a hearing Tuesday before the Assembly’s Public Safety Committee -- is creating buzz on a national level, especially after NSA critics say legislation in Washington aimed at curbing agency data-collection abuses essentially has been de-fanged.

SB 828 would apply to California agencies in a way that would send NSA to court – requiring it and other federal agencies to get warrants from California judges before they could receive any kind of cooperation in data-gathering from state agencies and contractors.

"It's wrong for a rogue NSA to be spying on everyday Americans who have done nothing wrong, says San Diego-based State Sen. Joel Anderson (R-36th District). “ So let's start with the premise that until you do something wrong, the government doesn't start spying on you."

Anderson is teaming with Torrance-based State Sen. Ted Lieu (D-28th District) in co-sponsoring SB 828, which passed the Senate on a 29-1 vote last month.

Under the measure, any information obtained by NSA without a warrant and turned over to law enforcement would be inadmissible in state court.

"If I'm doing some nefarious activity, they should have access to me,” said Anderson in an interview with NBC 7. “That would be under 'due process.' They would have a warrant, they'd have to go to a judge. They'd have to say, 'Look, there's a reason to keep this person under surveillance.' But to say everybody out here deserves that same surveillance is wrong."

The bill would make public universities off-limits to NSA research or on-campus recruiting – and could be used to cut off water and power to NSA facilities, although the agency doesn't currently operate a data or "threat operations" center in California.

But local prosecutors oppose the bill, warning its language is so broad and vague as to pose “unintended consequences” that could hamper federal-state task force operations and tax investigations.

“We think this is tacking a big issue,” says Sean Hoffman, legislative director for the California District Attorneys Association. “This needs to be carefully crafted.”

Hoffman told NBC 7 in phone interview from Sacramento that he hopes lawmakers table the legislation until next year: “And in the interim, have some conversations about, 'What are you really trying to address here?’ -- and do it in a way that we maybe use a scalpel instead of a machete.”

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