ACLU, Cuccinelli oppose unwarranted searches and seizures by Victoria Zawitkowski / Capital News Service
RICHMOND – Tea party hero Ken Cuccinelli, the head of the Virginia ACLU and others across the political spectrum called Thursday for an amendment to the state Constitution to protect citizens from unwarranted searches and seizures. They supported a provision similar to the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment prohibiting unreasonable search and seizure. Advocates of the idea want to extend that protection to electronic devices and information given to a third party, such as a cellphone company or a website.
Two resolutions before the General Assembly would start the process of amending the Constitution: HJ 578, sponsored by Del. Richard Anderson, R–Woodbridge, and SJ 302, introduced by Sen. Richard Stuart, R–Stafford. The resolutions’ sponsors and supporters held a press conference to discuss the issue. Anderson called attention to the diverse groups working together on it. “Just think, the Virginia ACLU and the Virginia Federation of Tea Party Patriots,” Anderson said. “This knows support across theological lines simply because it’s the right thing. It returns us to what our founders intended.” Stuart said the amendment would modernize protections provided by the Fourth Amendment. “I think it goes a long way in helping us to ensure those protections into the 21st century,” Stuart said. “Obviously, there are things that our Founding Fathers couldn’t contemplate at the time that this was done.”
Cuccinelli and Anderson said the amendment would protect Virginians against surveillance by organizations such as the National Security Agency and the Hampton Roads Telephone Analysis Share Network, a database of personal telephone data compiled by police in southeast Virginia. The proposed state amendment would go beyond the Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens only in or immediately outside of their home, said Cuccinelli, a former state attorney general. “This would take it to your property line,” he said. (Read the full article at the Free Lance-Star.)
I'm no fan of Cuccinelli, but I'll stand right by his side on this one. Good on him! The entire federal government, including the Supreme Court, has been eroding our fourth amendment rights for the last fifteen years. I've written about this before... many times. Others have fought this fight in their own ways, from Senator Ron Wyden's and Representative Justin Amash's legislative proposals, to the technical evangelism of Bruce Schneier and Jacob Appelbaum, the whistleblowing of Thomas Drake and others, and the shocking revelations of Edward Snowden.
This effort is different. If successful, this legislation will pit the people and Constitution of Virginia against the federal acolytes of the national security state. This will be a frontal assault on on the weasel words concocted by NSA lawyers to justify mass surveillance and retention of all our personal information. It will be a punch in the gut of any federal official trying to serve a national security letter on a Virginian. It will tell the rest of the nation that Virginians would rather stand for our freedom than cower for our safety.
Is the Virginia General Assembly, the oldest legislative body in the New World, up to this? Will Governor McAuliffe embrace this in the face of the inevitable backlash of the Obama Administration? Are we up for this fight? I intend to do what I can to support this legislation. Writing a few letters is the least I can do if I want to claim the title of Virginian like Washington, Jefferson, Lee and Jackson.