U.S. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger on Tuesday slammed a proposal in Maryland's House of Delegates that would cut off the National Security Agency's water and electricity.
Ruppersberger, ranking member of the House of Representatives' Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, called House Bill 1074 "unnecessarily punitive and ill-informed."
Introduced by Del. Michael Smigiel, R-Caroline, the bill would deprive NSA headquarters at Fort George G. Meade of water and electricity carried over public utilities, ban the use of NSA-derived evidence in state courts and prevent University of Maryland schools from partnering with the NSA on research.
House Minority Leader Nic Kipke, R-Pasadena, and Del. Don Dwyer, R-Pasadena, are among seven Republicans who signed on to support the bill.
The bill's chances of moving far in the House are slim, considering its co-sponsors are few and all Republicans. And on Tuesday, its chances looked worse as the most powerful of its sponsors distanced himself from the proposal.
Kipke said his involvement with the legislation is "very limited." He said he signed on as a sponsor only because he thought it provided "an important opportunity for" debate about what safeguards could be put in place to limit the federal government's ability to invade private citizens' privacy.
"I'm not supportive of the state of Maryland shutting down the NSA," Kipke said.
Smigiel's bill is similar to legislation proposed in 13 other states, and based on model legislation pushed by the Tenth Amendment Center and Bill of Rights Defense Committee. Both groups launched the OffNow coalition last year to cut off water at the NSA's just-built Utah Data Center.
OffNow is pushing the legislation in every state where the NSA has property. The group calls it the "4th Amendment Protection Act." The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures, and requires any warrant to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause.
The legislation, if enacted, would strip "material support, participation, or assistance in any form" from any federal agency that collects a person's electronic data or "metadata" without a warrant. The term metadata was popularized when whistleblower and former NSA contract employee Edward Snowden leaked details on PRISM, an NSA covert mass surveillance program that "mines" metadata from phones and computers to catch terrorists.
Ruppersberger's 2nd District includes Fort Meade and a section of northern Anne Arundel County, as well as parts of Baltimore City and Harford, Howard and Baltimore counties.
In an interview with the Capital Gazette editorial board in November, Ruppersberger stressed the importance of restoring confidence in the NSA. He reiterated that sentiment in a statement Tuesday.
"It is bad enough that Edward Snowden has demonized the NSA, but for Maryland lawmakers to degrade their own constituents and threaten so many Maryland jobs is unconscionable," Ruppersberger said. "Maryland lawmakers have much bigger problems to be addressing than devising an unwarranted punishment for an agency, located in the state of Maryland, that is working to protect our country."