Defeat the American police state

Now that you've read what the USA PATRIOT Act (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001) actually does, shouldn't you read what the government said it was going to do?

The worldwide firestorm caused by Edward Snowden’s revelations of warrant- less mass collection of the personal telephone and email data of millions of Americans and others by the National Security Agency (NSA) has led to a bipartisan reaction in Washington that will attempt to rein in the excesses of the national security state.

But what if Washington, D.C., proves, as it has so often in the past, incapable of reforming itself? Is there any role that local and state government can play to pull us back from the abyss of an American police state?

Well, yes, there is, and James Madison wrote about it in Federalist 46.

If the federal government grossly exceeds its authority, Madison wrote, the states could nonetheless have the powers necessary to prevail. The unpopular acts of the federal government, often but not necessarily unwarranted, would face immediate opposition in the states. The repugnance of the people could lead to refusal to cooperate with federal officials, Madison wrote. Couple this refusal to cooperate with the embarrassments created by legislative devices, and especially if this legislative opposition spread to several adjoining states, it could end federal overreach.

Nevada is no stranger to this refusal to cooperate. We do not have a state income tax, and we have refused to share data with the IRS. I have already written here about our legislative device designed to take back the management of our public lands from the federal government, legislation that has now spread to five Western states. We are a medical marijuana state, refusing to cooperate with federal marijuana laws. The wildly popular legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington State could help spread state-level opposition to the federal war on pot. Complete legalization in Nevada, Oregon, Alaska, California, and so on, would effectively end the decades-long federal marijuana prohibition.

Repugnance to the federal government’s national security state caused opposition to the USA PATRIOT Act that arose in Nevada around 2003. In early 2004, the FBI enlisted Las Vegas Metro to collect the names and other information of everyone who was staying in Las Vegas over the New Year.

Sen. Harry Reid was shocked, shocked that the PATRIOT Act he voted for would be used against anything other than terrorism. Now we know that the NSA also surreptitiously provides data to federal law enforcement agencies in the prosecution of ordinary crimes.

The Nevada Campaign to Defeat the PATRIOT Act was a grassroots organization of Democrats, Greens, Republicans, Libertarians, Independent Americans, the American Civil Liberties Union and others who spoke to local groups and urged resolutions from Nevada government to oppose the act. Yes, only a few minor resolutions were passed. But now we see exactly how bad the PATRIOT Act really is because we know how it has spawned the NSA snooping.

There is already a bipartisan bill introduced in California that would forbid cooperation by state agencies, corporations acting on behalf of the state, and universities with the NSA. This model legislation contains provisions that would authorize a state to shut off resources such as state controlled water and power to the NSA’s huge new facility in Bluffdale, Utah. Madison’s concerted plans of resistance today are facilitated by social media. Check out websites such as Turn it Off! for more information. There is a grassroots Northern Nevada “Restore the Fourth” Facebook group which has already organized demonstrations and get togethers in Northern Nevada. Our legislature will reconvene in 2015. Let’s have some local government resolutions in hand, and state legislation ready for them to act on!