Published on December 18th, 2015 | by Admin0
Senate Push to Strengthen Counterterrorism Tools
December 3, 2015
Contact: Caroline Rabbitt (202) 224-2353
OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE
Washington, D.C.- In the wake of the brutal terrorist attacks in Paris last month, as well as initial reports that this week’s attack in San Bernardino may be tied to terrorism, U.S. Senators Angus King (I-Maine) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) today introduced legislation that would ensure that U.S. counterterrorism officials have the necessary tools to track suspected terrorists and prevent terrorist attacks in the United States.
"The first line of defense against terrorism is intelligence, and today, our government is reliant on telecommunication companies to retain records that we use to connect the dots that can help us prevent attacks," Senator King said. "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."
"Our Intelligence Community and Law Enforcement professionals are skilled at connecting the dots to thwart and respond to terrorist attacks. But if there are no dots to connect, those skills won’t do us any good," Senator Cotton said. "The King-Cotton legislation will help preserve metadata currently stored by phone carriers by forcing them to notify the federal government if they change the amount of time they retain billing records to less than 18 months. This will give Congress and the Executive Branch an opportunity to respond before those dots are lost forever."
Signed into law on June 2, 2015, the USA Freedom Act requires the government to apply to the FISA Court for an order to retrieve call detail records, which include telephone numbers – and not the content of calls – from telecommunications carriers. As of that date, the Act gave the government 180 days to end its bulk collection of call detail records, which expired on November 29, 2015. However, Senators King and Cotton are concerned that the new law does not require the carriers to provide adequate notice if they decide to no longer retain these call records, potentially putting the entire viability of the new program at risk.
Thus, the legislation introduced by Senators King and Cotton today, entitled the Private Sector Call Record Retention Act, would require such companies to notify the Attorney General if they decide to retain the call records for less than 18 months, which is the minimum amount of time that U.S. officials have indicated is needed to conduct most international terrorism investigations. The bill requires companies to provide notice 180 days in advance of such changes. Doing so will give national security officials and Congress time to address any changes that could prevent the government from quickly connecting the dots and tracking terrorist operatives.