There’s a sign on Jonathan Stickland’s desk that reads: “Don’t steal. The government hates competition.”
These days Stickland, a Texas state representative, isn’t spending most of his time worrying about the government “stealing” through high taxes or onerous regulation – standard political fare for the kind of conservatives who populate the state capitol in Austin.
Instead his cause has been what he sees as government theft of privacy – the unlawful acquisition by the National Security Agency of personal information in the form of metadata about electronic communications by US citizens.
The particular target of his ire is the Texas Cryptologic Center, an NSA facility located near San Antonio. He has proposed a state law cutting off the building’s access to public utilities – water and electricity – until the agency ceases what he says is unconstitutional warrantless data collection.
“I believe the first role of government is to protect the personal rights and liberties of its citizens,” says the Republican, who has represented a district near Dallas for two years. “Before we build a road or anything else, we have to ensure that those exist for every Texan.”