Republican Congressman Steve King is warning a bill ready for debate in the U.S. House of Representatives could be a major set-back for efforts to track down terrorists.
“I’m frustrated because I think this bill makes our country less safe,” King said during an interview with Radio Iowa.
The bill would forbid federal agencies from collecting “metadata” on phone calls.
“The metadata, to give a definition, is collecting phone bill data that is the origination of a call, the termination of a call — meaning its destination, the date and the time that it began and, of course, the date and the time the call ended,” King said. “That meta data has been useful for us in catching a number of terorists that were communicating with terrorist organizations.”
Under the legislation as proposed, phone companies would hold onto 18 months of that kind of data and a federal agency would have to get a court order to access the records of a suspected terrorist.
“Nobody is recording the phone calls of 300 million Americans. What the (National Security Agency) was doing was collecting that metadata,” King said. “…I think it’s short-sighted. I think it’s a political over-reaction and I’m for the civil liberties and the protection of the American people and I think we can have that and have data that’s available for warrant, properly under the constitution.”
According to King, the United States “can’t be an isolationist nation” and this bill would unnecessarily hamstring U.S. intelligence agencies.
“I’d just ask Iowans: we need to pay attention to foreign policy,” King told Radio Iowa. “We need to pay attention to national security.”
Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s revelations about U.S. intelligence gathering techniques sparked outrage among libertarians who say the government’s collection of phone call data violated personal privacy rights. Supporters, like King, say the program has helped save American lives.