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Washington State Bill Proposes Criminalizing Help to NSA, Turning Off Resources to Yakima Facility

Washington has become the first state with a physical NSA location to introduce a Fourth Amendment protection act.

NSA listening post in Yakima, Washington. (Image: via Google Maps)

The campaign to turn off power to the NSA has gotten a big boost. Washington has become the first state with a physical NSA location to consider a Fourth Amendment protection act designed to make life extremely difficult for the massive spy agency.

The state-level campaign to turn off power to the NSA got a big boost January 15, 2014, as Washington became the first state with a physical NSA location to consider a Fourth Amendment protection act designed to make life extremely difficult for the massive spy agency.

Bills introduced in California, Oklahoma, Indiana, Missouri and Kansas seek to prevent the NSA from expanding further or sharing data and metadata in non-terror investigations. But Washington’s House Bill 2272 (HB2272) takes things a step farther because the state is home to the secretive “Yakima listening post” documented by famous NSA researcher James Bamford in his 1982 book, The Puzzle Palace.

HB2272 was introduced by a bipartisan team of legislators, Rep. David Taylor, a Republican from Moxee, and Rep. Luis Moscoso, a former three-term secretary of the state Democratic Party from Mountlake Terrace.

If passed, the bill would make it the policy of the state “to refuse material support, participation, or assistance to any federal agency which claims the power, or with any federal law, rule, regulation, or order which purports to authorize, the collection of electronic data or metadata of any person pursuant to any action not based on a warrant.”

Taylor, whose district houses the Yakima post, said he “cannot sit idly by while a secretive facility in his backyard violates the rights of people everywhere.”

“We’re running the bill to provide protection against the ever-increasing surveillance into the daily lives of our citizens,” Taylor said. “Our founding fathers established a series of checks and balances in the Constitution. Given the federal government’s utter failure to address the people’s concerns, it’s up to the states to stand for our citizens’ constitutional rights.”

Practically speaking, the bill prohibits state and local agencies from providing any material support to the NSA within their jurisdiction. This includes barring government-owned utilities from providing water and electricity. It makes information gathered without a warrant by the NSA and shared with law enforcement inadmissible in state court. It blocks public universities from serving as NSA research facilities or recruiting grounds. And it bans corporations who continue to do business with the NSA from holding any contracts with the state.

According to documents made public by the US military, as of 2008, a company called PacifiCorp is the primary supplier of electric power and Cascade Natural Gas Corporation supplies natural gas to YTC. The Kittitas Public Utility District, a function of the state, provides electric power for the MPRC and the Doris site, but no documentation has yet proven that it also provides electricity used directly by the NSA facility. And while YTC does provide a bulk of its own water, documents also show that some of it gets there by first passing through upstream dams owned and operated by the state.

The Army report states, “YTC lies within three WAUs whose boundaries coincide with WRIAs, as defined by the State of Washington natural resource agencies.”

WAU’s are the state’s Water Administration Units. WRIAs are state Water Resource Inventory Areas.

A Washington company has a strong link to the NSA. Cray Inc. builds supercomputers for the agency. Calls to the company for comment were not returned.

Taylor said he understands the need for “national security” but insists we can’t trample over the Constitution in the process.

“Simply claiming ‘national security’ does not negate an individual’s constitutional rights. We have a legal system which provides law enforcement agencies the means to conduct legal, constitutional surveillance. We’re simply asking the government to follow the supreme law of the land,” he said.

Three public universities in Washington are among 166 schools nationwide partnering with the NSA. Taylor’s bill would address these schools’ status as NSA “Centers of Academic Excellence” and would bar any new partnerships with other state colleges or universities.

OffNow national campaign leader Shane Trejo said that while people tend to focus on the banning of resources to NSA facilities, the bill’s prohibition against using data gathered without a warrant in state court probably would have the most immediate impact. In fact, lawmakers in Kansas and Missouri are considering bills simply addressing this kind of data sharing.

“Last fall, Reuters reported that NSA is sharing information gathered without a warrant with local law enforcement. The documents said that most cases where this is happening are not terror-related. By banning this practice, the bill would lessen the practical effect of all that data collecting that NSA is doing.”

Trejo said he expects at least three more states to introduce the act within the next few weeks.

“This idea is catching on. And if people in Washington make phone calls to committee members, the bill has a good chance of passing. That will just encourage even more states to do the same,” Trejo said. “In the end, our goal is to put a stop to these NSA spying programs, whether the Congress wants us to or not.”