The ball continues to move forward for liberty. We had a committee hearing this week for the Runestad Privacy Amendment a.k.a. HJRN. The hearing went very well with the overwhelming majority of the attending speakers supporting the bill. The only speaker who didn’t support the bill spoke in opposition because he felt the bill didn’t go far enough! However, HJRN can act as the catalyst spurring many more substantive privacy bills to be enacted at a later date – similar to the miracle that has happened in Arizona since they amended their constitution to re-affirm the right to nullify last year.
I was proud to give the following testimony in favor of the bill:
My name is Shane Trejo, and I am the State Director of the Michigan Tenth Amendment Center. We are an activist organization that works to keep government power within its appropriate Constitutional boundaries. I am speaking in support of House Joint Resolution N, and I think it is an excellent first step toward stopping a pervasive system of limitless spying that, if left unchecked, could quite conceivably destroy our 4th Amendment privacy rights forever.
A federal court ruled just last week that the NSA’s bulk spying program was illegal, and they did so for good reason. Whether you support what Edward Snowden did or not when he leaked sensitive information about the NSA in 2013, his revelations have yielded conclusive proof showing that the federal government operates with no regard to the 4th Amendment of the Constitution. Because of Snowden, we now have an accurate glimpse of what is going on in the world of national security, and it is devastating to our rights.
Direct evidence has emerged of the NSA tapping into the servers of Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Microsoft and other prominent internet companies to intercept electronic data. Direct evidence has emerged of the NSA intercepting an excess of 200 million text messages per day for their massive database. Direct evidence has emerged of the NSA collecting an astounding 5 Billion Records of Mobile Phone Location data per day. It was also revealed that the NSA Stores the Metadata for Millions of internet Users for up to a Year. I could go on for hours talking about the myriad of ways that the NSA preys upon our rights. In spite of this knowledge being public, there have been no reforms. Congress is unwilling to act. Sadly, the only consequence from Edward Snowden’s leaks has been for the government to more rapidly implement its illicit spying operation.
This information is relevant because much of the spying that the NSA and other federal bureaucracies are engaged in relies largely upon state help. The federal government has partnered with state and local governments to aid in their spying operation. Through the formerly secret Special Operations Division, information illegally gathered by the NSA is filtered to law enforcement and used in criminal investigations. According to a 2013 Reuters report that exposed the Special Operations Division to the world, very little of this information is used to combat terrorism. In addition, many private corporations and institutions of higher learning have entered into agreements with the NSA to assist them with data sharing and information gathering. This incestuous network of unconstitutional behavior will only be brought to an end when the people stand up and say no more.
We must never accept that our rights are merely a remnant of a long begotten past. They are our birthright, and we must fight to keep them. We must never accept this wholly un-American notion that we should relinquish all of our rights because government tells us it is necessary, especially in this particular case when the federal government has been found by the courts to be acting unlawfully.
HJRN gives the public a choice to protect their privacy rights. It would allow the voters of this great state to modernize the Michigan state constitution by including specific protections for electronic data and communications. It would make it abundantly clear to state officials that electronic data and communications cannot be accessed without a warrant. In an age where our Constitutional freedoms are constantly being eroded, we have a golden opportunity to reverse our slide into totalitarianism this morning. As technology advances, our rights will only be further jeopardized. We must act while there is still time to send a powerful message that the human rights of Michigan residents will always be protected, no matter what.
We cannot afford to make the same mistakes that other countries have made – ignoring the warning signs and choosing to do nothing when there was still time to act. Thankfully, we still live in a country that has divided powers, and it is possible for us to take measures at the state level to re-affirm our rights. That is what we can do today. HJRN is a good first step toward restoring our rights, and making sure they are preserved in the digital age. I urge you all to pass HJRN today. Thank you.
Although we at the Tenth Amendment Center typically don’t put much weight into federal court rulings, I mentioned the fact that the federal court ruled against the NSA last week to make the point of the agency’s clear criminality. When notoriously corrupt judges opine that a federal bureaucracy is out of line, it must REALLY be out of control and worthy of state-level attention.
And that is exactly what the NSA is – a menace worthy of every action to be taken to stop it at the state level. The Runestad Privacy Amendment (HJRN) is the first step toward us doing just that. But what we have to do right now is make sure that this measure gets a clean vote in the House Criminal Justice Committee. Our ‘public servants’ in Lansing have been known to sit on good privacy bills to kill them, and we must be vigilant to make sure it doesn’t happen in this case.
We are happy to work alongside Michigan Campaign for Liberty in this grassroots battle. They have produced an action alert urging the following legislators who sit on the House Criminal Justice Committee to be aggressively lobbied with phone calls from concerned citizens. We must call these legislators up, let them know we are watching, and politely urge them to do the right thing!
Tenthers, we must act to make sure these legislators’ phones ring off the hook until they pledge publicly to support HJRN and co-sponsor the important privacy amendment:
Michael Webber (R) – (517) 373-1773
Peter Lucido (R) – (517) 373-0843
Stephanie Chang (D) – (517) 373-0823
Vanessa Guerra (D) – (517) 373-0152
Our privacy rights will be protected, but only if we act now and do what we have to do to push HJRN forward. I will be calling these legislators, and I hope you join me. Tell your friends and family to do the same as well. Together, we can protect our electronic data and poke Big Brother right in its peering eye.
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