Inspired by Edward Snowden, Lawmakers Want Missouri to Stand Against NSA Surveillance

Categories: Police, Politics

Laura Poitras / Praxis Films
Edward Snowden
"[The amendment] would only apply in Missouri because federal law and constitution preempts Missouri law," Schaaf explains. "Right now, there isn't anything stopping police from accessing your electronic items when you're arrested, and this would make it required that they would have to have a warrant based on probable cause that a law has been violated."

See also: St. Louis' "No Refusal Zone" Means Cops Can Get Warrants For Your Blood Faster and Easier

The main goal for Schaaf and Curtman is to send a message to Washington, D.C.

"The real reason why we did this is to get it in federal law," he says. "This is an opportunity for a test vote on the issue where the people of Missouri will be given an opportunity to say how they feel. And, you know, Missouri is usually kind of a proxy for the mood of the country. We think that Missouri can be the bellwether for this issue, and I predict a high voter percentage for this amendment. I mean, who's gonna vote against it?"

This isn't the first time efforts to curb government surveillance powers have been introduced by Missouri lawmakers. Several bills have been proposed to limit government powers on such surveillance techniques as limiting drone use and, like what Schaaf and Curtman hope to implement into the constitution, require a warrant to obtain information on electronic devices.

See also: Wary of Mass Surveillance and Privacy Risks, New Group Wants St. Louis "Drone Free"

All of these bills are still in various levels of committee.

It's difficult to measure how much Snowden has inspired these privacy measures in Missouri, but there's no doubt he has had some effect, especially for Schaaf and Curtman who openly admit Snowden's influence on their actions. And although many people in high-level government circles consider him a traitor, Schaaf is more philosophical about the feds' most wanted man.

"Even people who break the law, sometimes something good comes out of it, and this is one of those times," Schaaf says. "So I think that he clearly broke the law, but there is something good coming out of it, and that's an awareness of how severely our privacy is being infringed by the federal government."

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