by Steve Nelson
U.S. News & World Report
The National Security Agency’s headquarters in Ft. Meade, Md., will go dark if a cohort of Maryland lawmakers has its way.
Eight Republicans in the 141-member Maryland House of Delegates introduced legislation Thursday that would deny the electronic spy agency “material support, participation or assistance in any form” from the state, its political subdivisions or companies with state contracts.
The bill would deprive NSA facilities water and electricity carried over public utilities, ban the use of NSA-derived evidence in state courts and prevent state universities from partnering with the NSA on research.
State or local officials ignoring the NSA sanctions would be fired, local governments refusing to comply would lose state grant funds and companies would be forever barred from state contracts.
The bill was filed as emergency legislation and requires support of three-fifths of delegates to pass. It was referred to the chamber’s judiciary committee.
NSA facilities in Maryland use a massive amount of water and electricity, the supply of which might be jeopardized by the legislation.
The legislative wave is spearheaded by the Tenth Amendment Center, which along with the Bill of Rights Defense Committee launched the OffNow coalition last year seeking to cut off water to the NSA’s just-built Utah Data Center.
Legislation hasn’t yet been introduced in Utah, but lawmakers in Arizona, California, Tennessee, Washington and other states have filed bills based on model legislation from the Tenth Amendment Center.
Several of those bills were introduced with bipartisan sponsorship. The Arizona bill has been the most successful to date, winning 4-2 approval by the state Senate Government and Environment Committee on Feb. 3.
The Maryland bill would almost certainly have the largest impact of any of the proposed state bans, some of which were introduced in states with either nonexistent or minimal known on-the-ground agency presence.
“Maryland has almost become a political subdivision of the NSA,” Tenth Amendment Center Executive Director Michael Boldin said in a statement. “The agency relies heavily on state and local help. This bill bans all of it."
Three pending federal lawsuits seek to end the NSA’s bulk collection of phone metadata and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., plans to file a fourth. So far, judges have had mixed rulings. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon of Washington, D.C., handed legal activist Larry Klayman a preliminary win Dec. 16 after deciding the phone program is an “almost Orwellian” violation of the Fourth Amendment. U.S. District Court Judge William Pauley of New York disagreed, finding the program “lawful” on Dec. 27 and dismissing a challenge from the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU is appealing. Klayman is also suiting to halt the NSA’s PRISM Internet program.
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