- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:

Texarkana Gazette, March 29, 2014

Phone tracking

The Obama Administration has decided the government should get out of the business of collecting data on Americans’ telephone calls.

That’s the good news.

For several years now, the National Security Agency has been collecting what is called “metadata” on every call made or received in this country. They do not collect the contents of the calls_well, at least as far as we know_but they do collect details such as the phone numbers involved, the date and time of the call and the length of the call.

The data is kept for five years and is supposed to be used to connect terror suspect with allies in the U.S.

Now the administration is proposing that phone companies collect and keep metadata for 18 months_as they are already required to do under federal law_and that they be required to make it accessible to government investigations after a warrant is obtained.

Unless, of course, it is an emergency. Then the warrant would have to wait. No word of exactly what constitutes an “emergency.”

The White House will send the plan to Congress for approval.

And lawmakers should give the go ahead.

The fact is that in the years since the attacks of September 11, 2001, the collecting of telephone metadata has played a small role in our national security.

At least two studies have shown telephone metadata, while a useful tool in some cases, has not been a significant factor in detecting or preventing terrorist activity.

But our government is spending a ton of money on the collection program_money that could be used for more effective tactics.

The phone companies are already collecting the metadata. The government can access it when needed. It’s a win-win situation.

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