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Lawmakers eye NSA’s conduct

The intensifying debate over privacy and the National Security Agency has reached the floor of the California Legislature.

A former military prosecutor, a Democrat, and a conservative San Diego-area, a Republican, are jointly authoring legislation that would bar the state — and private companies that do business with the state, including utilities — from helping the NSA collect so-called “metadata” or electronic data on Californians without a warrant. The bill, SB 828, introduced Monday, was authored by Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Long Beach, and Sen. Joel Anderson, R-Alpine.

The legislation follows a resolution approved last year on a bipartisan vote urging the NSA to halt its “unconstitutional practices.”

The prohibition would extend to public universities that receive state funding from doing NSA research.

The measure, introduced Monday, stems from disclosures from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden about the U.S. government’s collection of vast troves of electronic data on its hundreds of millions of people, including U.S. citizens. A panel appointed by President Obama has called for an overhaul of the system. Among other things, reports based on the Snowden documents have shown repeated privacy violations and the  gathering of sensitive data from private Internet companies.

“The National Security Agency’s massive level of spying and indiscriminate collecting of phone and electronic data on all Americans, including more than 38 million Californians, is a direct threat to our liberty and freedom,” Lieu, a former Air Force prosecutor, said in a statement released by his office. Anderson said he jointly authored the bill because “I support the Constitution, our 4th Amendment rights and our freedoms to live in the United States …. ”

The legislation follows a resolution approved last year on a bipartisan vote urging the NSA to halt its “unconstitutional practices.”

“The last time the federal government massively violated the U.S. Constitution, over 100,000 innocent Americans were rounded up an interned,” Lieu said, referring to the World War II internment of Japanese Americans.

 


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