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Trick or Treat - Someone’s Tapping on YOUR Window!

What probably started as an earnest attempt to help the U.S. intelligence community gather information needed to fight terrorism has led to the use of powerful, secret surveillance tools. As we know now, this use has spiraled out of control, with vast amounts of data being gathered from individuals and businesses in a clear violation of the United States Constitution. This hit the news again last week, as Edward Snowden alerted Americans that personal information they store using Google or Facebook shouldn’t be counted as secure from prying eyes.

There is, however, a movement at the state level to thwart NSA spying, with Iowa becoming the 15th state to consider legislation denying support to the spy agency. This abuse of power is so flagrant it puts advocacy groups like the ACLU and Greenpeace on the same side as staunch conservatives and libertarians. It’s gaining steam here in Virginia - just a couple of weeks ago, I went to listen to former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli discuss the threat that government surveillance poses to our rights and the ways we can reassert our privacy.

Iowa State Senator Jake Chapman introduced the Fourth Amendment Protection Act to protect Iowans. Sen. Chapman said

“This federal agency has usurped our Constitutional rights…We have learned in recent months through investigations and through the media, the NSA is collecting and storing nearly 30 percent of all Americans’ call records, they collect and store over 200 million text messages daily, and they are tracking American’s through social media, including GPS tracking. We must not trade freedom for security. My bill may not protect all Americans, but it will certainly protect Iowans.”

Quoting The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s website, a group who is considered a leading nonprofit organization defending civil liberties in the digital world

“The US government, with assistance from major telecommunications carriers including AT&T, has engaged in a massive illegal dragnet surveillance of domestic communications and communications records of millions of ordinary Americans since at least 2001. News reports in December 2005 first revealed that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been intercepting Americans’ phone calls and Internet communications. Those news reports, combined with a USA Today story in May 2006 and the statements of several members of Congress, revealed that the NSA is also receiving wholesale copies of American's telephone and other communications records. All of these surveillance activities are in violation of the privacy safeguards established by Congress and the US Constitution.”

I’m on the Joint Committee on Technology and Science, an interim commission tasked with helping make sure the schools in the Commonwealth are using reasonable measures to secure student data, much of which is being stored off-site using cloud storage services. If it raises our ire when hackers steal information about our kids, we shouldn’t let it slide when the feds swipe even more information about the whole family.

When I speak with people and ask what is important to them, I hear deep concerns that our government cannot be trusted. People are also rightly focused on jobs and the economy because these more than anything affect everyone’s quality of life. Some folks are out of work and are struggling to make ends meet. Parents want jobs to be available for their kids after they graduate from college.

What does this have to do with the NSA? A lot, because the government’s unrestrained abuse of power isn’t just violating our rights to privacy and freedom from unwarranted search. They are, in fact, costing American companies and the American technology industry as a whole billions of dollars. According to Forrester Research Inc., “the NSA disclosures may reduce U.S. technology sales overseas by as much as $180 billion, or 25 percent of information technology services by 2016.”

As the NSA leans on American technology firms to build weaknesses into their products that the NSA will later use to harvest data, American technology becomes suspect and unmarketable. With so much of the Northern Virginia economy tied into the success of these technology firms (firms like Cisco and Intel) and data centers, what hurts them will inevitably hurt our residents.

So what can be done? I believe the most fruitful avenue to pursue will be to work within the law at the state level to obstruct the NSA’s continuing efforts to illegally gather data and push businesses into compromising their services. I agree with the experts at the Tenth Amendment Center 

“Simply put, the federal government cannot force state or local governments to act against their will. This is known as the anti-commandeering doctrine, and it is well established in constitutional jurisprudence.”

As the next session gets closer, I’m preparing to introduce legislation that will use this concept to protect the rights of Virginians from these violations.

The Founders believed that freedom from government intrusion into one’s home was a natural right and fundamental to liberty. When I took the oath of office, I swore to support the Constitution of the United States of America and the Constitution of the great Commonwealth of Virginia. I intend to work with the liberty-minded members of the Virginia legislature to push back against whoever disregards our God-given constitutional rights, even when the violator is the NSA.

Paid for and Authorized by Dave LaRock for Virginia
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