Utah: Do you value your privacy?

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I wrote the following letter to the Speaker of the Utah House, my State Representative, and my State Senator. Feel free to copy and paste if you feel the same.


Dear Speaker Hughes,

Some Rights are so dear to us that our forefathers enshrined them in the first ten Amendments to the Constitution. The Right of the Press, Religion, Assembly, to Keep and Bear Arms, and the Right of Privacy (etc.) are all intertwined – reliant on one for the defense of another.

The Great State of Utah also enshrined specific Rights in its Constitution, in line with those found in the U.S. Constitution.

In the not-so-distant past, those who claimed “the government” was spying on its citizens, listening to our calls, tracking our movements would have been laughed at. We’d have pictured them huddled in their basements wearing tin-foil hats, and we’d have summarily discounted their opinions out of hand.

Today, however, thanks to the revelations of whistleblowers, we know that “the government” is in fact spying on its citizens. It’s monitoring web surfing, social network activity, telephone calls and text messages, email, and even our “geolocation”.

“The government” is doing this under the guise of “National Security”, with little to no due-process being applied, thanks to FISA and the ill-named “Patriot” Acts.

Now, with tax incentives, ample “cheap electricity, and an endless supply of water, the NSA has set up camp in our own backyard. That wouldn’t be a bad thing, except for one, pesky little thing: the NSA isn’t getting warrants to search as is required by both the U.S. Constitution and the Utah Constitution. The Agency says they don’t need to because Congress has given them authority to do what they’re doing.

Do you recall when the Fourth Amendment was changed to remove the language that “no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized”? When did the Utah Legislature ratify this change? When did Utah change its own Constitution to nullify Article I, Section 14?

We never did. The right of Privacy is still in place. The NSA is not acting on warrants obtained by probable cause or supported by oath or affirmation. The sources from which they’re obtaining data are not particularly described. In short, the NSA is working outside the bounds of the U.S. Constitution AND the Utah Constitution.

Rep. Marc Roberts’ bill seeks to give Utah the tools that it needs to shut off material support the NSA’s Utah facility (and any other Federal Facility) that operates outside the law.

This is not a bill to “shut down the NSA” as some have claimed. It’s a bill to help pull the Agency back to into compliance with the Bill of Rights. The NSA can still operate, but must obtain warrants for their searches, just like our County Sheriff’s must do. Just like our Chiefs of Police must do. They’re not above the law, neither should the NSA, FBI, DHS, or any other government agency.

The Governor, as reported in the Washington Post, is opposed to Rep. Roberts’ bill. “If it’s not stored in Utah, it’ll be stored somewhere else,” Governor Herbert said.

In other words, “somebody will help the NSA violate our rights. It might as well be Utah!”

No, Speaker Hughes. It shouldn’t be Utah. We value Individual Rights in Utah. We respect Privacy in Utah. In Utah, we recognize that giving up Privacy for “Security” is a quick way to lose both.

Utah is a strong state. The rest of the Nation looks at Utah to see what we’re doing that makes us so strong. Let one of those things be a bold, loud statement that Utah is strong because we value the Constitution. We value privacy. And we’re bold enough to stand up to the Federal Government when they’ve gone to far – and it’s clear: the NSA has gone too far.

Please bring Rep. Roberts’ 4th Amendment Protection Act to the House floor so we can hear whether or not our elected officials value our Privacy, or if they’re willing to sell out their constituents because, “if it’s not … in Utah, it’ll be … somewhere else”.

I look forward to your response.

 – Joe Levi


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