Bipartisan Coalition Proposes Fix To AP Phone Hack
Government Required To Get Court Order Under Amash, Lofgren, Mulvaney, Polis Plan
Washington, D.C. – Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), joined by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Rep. Mick
Mulvaney (R-SC), and Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), today introduced legislation to prevent federal
agencies from seizing Americans’ telephone records without a court order.
H.R. 2014, the Telephone Records Protection Act, requires court approval when the government
demands telephone records from service providers. Current law allows the government to
subpoena such records unilaterally, without any judicial review. The Department of Justice likely
used its administrative subpoena authority to seize the Associated Press’s telephone records in its
recent investigation of a CIA leak.
“The Justice Department’s seizure of the AP’s phone records—likely without the sign-off of a
single judge—raises serious First and Fourth Amendment concerns. Regardless of whether DOJ
violates the legitimate privacy expectations of reporters or ordinary Americans, we deserve to
know that the federal government can’t seize our records without judicial review,” said Amash.
“Americans’ phone records deserve greater protection from the government than a mere
subpoena,” Lofgren said. “The lack of discretion of the Department of Justice with regard to the
Associated Press has demonstrated weaknesses in our surveillance laws that impair the First
Amendment. This bill takes necessary, but reasonable corrective action to strengthen the privacy
of Americans’ phone records from the government.”
“I was honestly surprised to learn that the government could get this sort of private, personal
information without a court order. If that is indeed the law, as the Department of Justice insists
that it is, then the law needs to change,” said Mulvaney. “I am more than willing to acknowledge
that there may be times that the government needs access to this sort of information. That being
said, if the case in favor of acquiring this information is so compelling, it seems a requirement
that the government get a court order should be no impediment to the conduct of a valid
Polis said, “Americans of all political stripes were shocked to find out that the Department of
Justice had been accessing telephone records of reporters at the Associated Press. The
Department of Justice claims that they operated within the confines of the law, which makes it
abundantly clear that we need to provide a higher level of protection against government
intrusion into an individual’s private records. I am excited to be working with Representatives
Amash, Lofgren, and Mulvaney on this important privacy protection bill.”
18 U.S.C. § 2703 allows the government to demand that electronic communication services such
as telephone companies turn over basic subscriber information with an administrative subpoena.
Basic subscriber information includes the name, address, telephone records, credit card number,
and other information related to a customer’s service.
The Telephone Records Protection Act strikes 18 U.S.C. § 2703(c)(2)(C), which includes
telephone records on the list of basic subscriber information that can be accessed by
administrative subpoena. If enacted, the bill would require the government to state “specific and
articulable facts” that prove to a court that the information sought is “relevant and material to an
ongoing criminal investigation.”