from the quick,-before-the-Man-has-it-stuck-to-him-by-reprobate-corporate-giants! dept
Now that the NSA's bulk phone metadata collection has actually ceased to exist (in this particular form, anyway…), low-level panic has begun to set in. With the NSA no longer able to obtain and store phone records in bulk, some legislators are now concerned telcos will use their control of these records to thwart the intelligence agency.
Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Angus King (I-Maine) on Thursday introduced a bill requiring telephone companies to notify the government if they plan on altering their policies for storing consumers’ phone data.This is Cotton's baby. After all, he's been trying to block the implementation of the USA Freedom Act's surveillance reforms since the terrorist attacks in Paris, after months of being a vocal opponent of the legislation.
The new bill from King and Cotton would force companies to give the Justice Department at least 180 days notice if they plan to retain the call records for less than 18 months. The bill is called the Private Sector Call Record Retention Act.
“Our legislation would simply require that U.S. officials are provided with adequate warning if a company decides it no longer will hold these vital records, allowing time to ensure that we don’t lose a potentially valuable tool in the battle against terrorism,” King said in a statement.
Critics of the new process -- where the NSA takes its reasonable suspicion-supported court orders to telephone companies to obtain call data -- somehow believe these companies, which historically have been enthusiastic enablers of dragnet surveillance, will suddenly decide to start deleting records just to screw with the government.
Beyond the fact that telcos tend to be proactive in their "assistance" of intelligence and law enforcement agencies is the fact that these companies have never before expressed a desire to hastily delete phone records. They've held onto them for indefinite periods of time -- not out of deference to the NSA, FBI, et al, but because extended retention is obviously of some value to these companies. It makes no sense to assume they'll suddenly alter their retention tactics just because they no longer need to produce all phone records in rolling three-month blocks.
That's not the only ridiculous fear being voiced. The other asinine assertion is that the program is somehow integral to combating terrorism. Over the past couple of years, the debate has raged and supporters of the program have insisted the program has paid its debt to the Fourth Amendment several times over with all the terrorism it's stopped… all without presenting any evidence that backs these statements up.
This sort of legislation does nothing but impose additional government requirements on data retention. This is no different than what was (temporarily) put in place in the UK -- legislative demands for the onsite storage of records companies may not even need, simply because the government has decided it does. This isn't an idea our legislators should be emulating, but unsurprisingly, the stoutest supporters of domestic surveillance are using a terrorist attack in another country to make a play for expanded government power.