Congressman MIKE ROGERS | Representing Michigan’s 8th Congressional District

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Mike in the News

WSJ: Republicans for Snowden

A left-right House coalition rushes to stop metadata collection.

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Washington, Jul 23, 2013 | comments

Few things are more dangerous than Congress in heat, and so it is this week as a libertarian-left wing coalition in the House of Representatives is rushing to neuter one of the National Security Agency's anti-terror surveillance programs.

The chief instigator is Michigan Republican Justin Amash, the 33-year-old second-termer who has made opposition to the country's post-9/11 security programs a personal crusade. In previous years, he's attempted to ban the military interrogation and detention of any terrorist caught on U.S. soil. The effect would be to treat terrorists better if they blow up Times Square—where they'd receive U.S. civilian due-process protections if captured—than if they stayed overseas. Mr. Amash lost on the House floor, but you catch his drift.

Now he's back with an amendment to this year's defense spending bill that would bar the NSA from collecting metadata except when specific individuals are already being investigated and are subject to a court order. This would effectively end one of the two programs exposed by admitted NSA leaker and fugitive, Edward Snowden.

Metadata are the general phone records—numbers called, duration of the calls—not the content of the conversations. Searching through metadata amounts to searching the haystack to find a needle. But under Mr. Amash's amendment, the NSA could only gather metadata if it has already found the needle.

This would greatly complicate the job of preventing future terrorist attacks, because metadata can link a known suspect to a terrorist or terror cell that U.S. officials weren't aware of. The sifting of metadata helped the FBI locate and stop the New York subway bomber.

Mr. Amash has no experience on the Armed Services, Intelligence or Foreign Affairs committees, but he nonetheless claims to know that his amendment wouldn't hurt U.S. security. He's teaming up with Michigan Democrat John Conyers and other anti-anti-terror liberals who want the U.S. to return to a pre-9/11 mindset of treating terrorists like street burglars.

A better guide to reality are those who have had experience defending the country. House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers and ranking Democrat Dutch Ruppersberger issued a statement Tuesday saying that "premature reactions" to the NSA leaks such as Mr. Amash's "would endanger our national security."

Several former Bush security officials on Tuesday also released an open letter to Congress supporting the NSA programs as lawful, carefully limited and essential to U.S. security. The signers include former Attorneys General Michael Mukasey and Alberto Gonzales, former CIA directors Michael Hayden and Porter Goss, former national security adviser Stephen Hadley, and former secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff.

By all means Congress should debate the NSA programs now that they are public, but any new limits ought to be carefully vetted for their potential consequences. The last thing Congress should do is kill a program in a rush to honor the reckless claims of Mr. Snowden and his apologists.

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