In 1972, President Nixon conducted unconstitutional surveillance of those he deemed “suspicious” and, when caught, resigned under threat of impeachment. Under the current administration, unconstitutional surveillance has expanded to all citizens, suspicious or not. This behavior was not permissible during the Nixon administration, and we must not tolerate it now.
It’s time to curb the National Security Agency’s systematic infringement of American citizens’ privacy. In California, we’ve chosen to do just that.
Right now, the federal government requests private information on hundreds of thousands of law-abiding American citizens without warrant. These are citizens who have committed no crimes, yet under the NSA’s widespread data collection program they are denied their Fourth Amendment rights to “be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.”
The Tenth Amendment provides states with recourse to act against federal government overreach. Senator Ted Lieu (D-Los Angeles) and I have introduced legislation in the California State Senate that would use the Tenth Amendment to enforce the Fourth Amendment. Lawmakers in other states–including Tennessee, Arizona, Washington, Maryland, and Utah–have followed suit, and joined the national movement by introducing similar bills in their own legislatures.
Contrary to current administration policy, our right to privacy is not a luxury that can be taken away by government in the name of national security. Rather, it is an inherent right.
Here in California, we do not accept that the federal government can waive our rights to privacy without due process. We believe that, as Benjamin Franklin said, “Those who would trade liberty for safety deserve neither.”
To that end, Senator Lieu and I have authored Senate Bill 828, “A Citizen’s Protection Act.”
Senate Bill 828 would protect the Fourth Amendment rights of 38 million Californians by prohibiting any state agency or employee from cooperating with the NSA on gathering information about citizens in the absence of a warrant, due process, or probable cause.
SB 828 stops the NSA at the border of California. It creates a bright line that state agencies and employees cannot cross. They may not work with the NSA to collect data on Californians unless there is a warrant or due process. This bill would stop NSA access to DMV records, Covered California records, state records, even voting records that might otherwise be confiscated at will.
This bill makes clear that the state of California will continue to uphold the Fourth Amendment rights of its citizens, even under pressure from the federal government.
Our nation is unequivocally dedicated to stopping terrorism, yet we must be ever vigilant that our desire for safety does not come at the expense of the freedoms and liberty our enemies seek to destroy.
Though we are forty years removed from Watergate, no responsible action has been taken at the national level to halt the NSA’s current Nixonian tactics. Thus, it’s up to individual states to protect their citizens from federal overreach. In defense of liberty, we’ve chosen to act.