Virginia lawmaker tries to keep NSA ‘predators’ from preying on citizens

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STOP THE SPYING? One Virginia lawmaker wants to see what his state can do to hamper the NSA in Virginia, if it’s spy program is unconstitutional.
STOP THE SPYING? One Virginia lawmaker wants to see what his state can do to hamper the NSA in Virginia, if it’s spy program is unconstitutional.

By Kathryn Watson | Watchdog.org, Virginia Bureau

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — What should Virginia do when the National Security Agency invades the private lives of its citizens?

Fight back — or at least try, said one state lawmaker.

By setting up a part-lawmaker, part-citizen subcommittee through a bill he just filed, the outspoken Delegate Bob Marshall wants to find out whether the NSA’s warrantless surveillance and data collection programs violate the U.S. Constitution and the Constitution of Virginia.

If they do, the Manassas Republican wants to know how Virginia can put stops on spying within the commonwealth’s borders.

James Madison in the Federalist Papers wrote that the state legislatures are supposed to be jealous guardians of the rights of citizens,” Marshall told Watchdog.org.

Specifically, Marshall wants to study the NSA’s warantless domestic surveillance and data collection programs and see if they contradict protections against unreasonable search and seizure required by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Article I, Section 10 of Virginia’s constitution.

What could Virginia constitutionally do to stop the NSA and its now-notorious spy program? Well, professors and other experts would have to put forward those ideas, Marshall said. For starters, he wants see how Virginia can tie the hands of businesses that voluntarily cooperate with the NSA, and use lawsuits as a means to stifle spying.

Marshall’s move to restrain the NSA comes not long after Virginia’s congressional leaders — particularly Republicans — pushed to keep it funded. Unlike Marshall, most of Virginia’s Republicans in Congress publicly announced their favor for the warrantless spy program in July, when all but one of them sided with President Obama to help defeat a bill that would have cut off funding for the controversial program.

Only Rep. Morgan Griffith, who lives in Salem and represents Virginia’s Ninth District, voted to cut off funding, along with all three of Virginia’s Democratic representatives — Gerry Connolly, Bobby Scott and Jim Moran.

“I strongly encourage my colleagues to join me in dismantling the NSA spying program on American citizens until we have an oversight system that can assure us that the laws regarding the surveillance programs are not being flagrantly broken, and Americans’ rights are not being violated,” Griffith said at the time in a statement.

The commonwealth’s lawmakers can’t “simply sit by while these predators” invade Virginians’ personal lives, Marshall said.

— Kathryn Watson is an investigative reporter for Watchdog.org’s Virginia Bureau, and can be reached at kwatson@watchdog.org.

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