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Monday, March 31, 2014

Sen. Leland Yee Proposes Sweeping New Privacy Law for California

Posted By on Mon, Mar 31, 2014 at 7:22 AM

Leland Yee's bill would force cops to look the other way
  • Leland Yee's bill would force cops to look the other way

Today, State Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) proposed a sweeping new privacy law aimed at keeping the government from monitoring citizens too closely, or at all.

"My fellow Californians," Yee said from his Sunset District home, "government intrusion into everyone's private life has gone too far. Whether it's reading our emails to the Chinese mafia or listening in on our burner phones just prior to making a drop, it must end. The government should not be allowed to tap our phones, film us taking bribes without our knowledge, or pose as gun runners."

"Further," said Lee, "if you ask someone: 'Are you a cop?' and they are a cop, they should be legally obligated to say 'Yes.' My new bill will fix these problems for all Californians."

State Senate Bill SB664, more commonly known as the "Complete Privacy from Government Intrusion, including and especially the District Attorney's Office" bill, would also make it illegal for government agents to interview your friends, go through your financial records, or open your hidden wall safe behind the picture of former President Bill Clinton.

The new law would retroactively apply to all information gathered by the government after Jan 1, 2012.

"That, so far as I can tell, is when the government got much too intrusive," Yee said. "If we can just get a do-over to the beginning of 2012, I think all Californians would feel better."

It also contains a controversial "stop hassling Shrimp Boy" clause, which some experts suggest might be unconstitutional.

"Section 5, paragraph 8, of Senator Lee's bill requires the government to 'let Shrimp Boy take some Shrimp Boy time, and stop being all up in his business,'" said Stanford Law Professor Harold Bergson. "Paragraph 10 says police need to 'Just pretend Shrimp Boy's invisible, and that government dogs can't smell him.' Frankly I'm not sure the Fourth Amendment goes that far."

But Yee said he believes that Californians will welcome a new push for protection from government snooping, and a number of high-level office holders agree with him. California Attorney General Kamala Harris, for example, stood with Yee to condemn unnecessary government surveillance of city crime labs.

"The government has no right to spy on our government laboratories," Harris said. "I think Senator Yee's bill is a major step forward for privacy rights, and we shouldn't be asking who sold guns to whom, who snorted what when, or who covered any of it up."

"Also," she added, "I have a locked drawer in my office desk that nobody from the government better look through. It's locked, so it's private, okay?"

But not all state officials agreed. Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom held a press conference following Yee's to say that he encourages more people in the government to pay attention to him.

"I don't see it as intrusive at all," Newsom said. "My office is fully transparent, and I would very much like a member of the Obama Administration to come in, at any time. Or someone from the Governor's Office could go through my emails, and maybe make some of them public. Or the State Assembly could call for me to testify, under oath. I'm up for that. Or the Mayor of San Francisco could subpoena my diary. Or a precinct captain could ask my opinion about something. I'm available, ready by the phone, anytime the government wonders if I'm still here. Anything you want me to do. At all. Want to grab lunch? Anybody? I'll tell you about my affair."

Benjamin Wachs is a literary chameleon

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