- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 28, 2014

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas legislators wrestled Tuesday with whether revelations about the federal government’s domestic surveillance program should prompt limits on electronic data-gathering by state and local government agencies.

The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on a bill described by its sponsor, Republican Rep. Brett Hildabrand of Shawnee, as an effort to curb domestic spying on law-abiding citizens. But several law enforcement officials testified that the measure would hinder efforts to fight crime, and Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe said it could block officers and prosecutors from even doing Internet searches on potential suspects.

State and local agencies would have more limited access to sets of data held by a third party, such as records of cellphone calls or electronic banking transactions, according the bill. An agency would have to obtain a warrant or get an individual’s consent to access such data, except when law enforcement officers wanted to obtain the location of a cellphone call in an emergency.

Hildabrand drafted his proposal amid disclosures about National Security Agency surveillance in the name of combatting terrorism, including the daily collection and storage of phone records for millions of Americans. The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas is backing efforts to limit government agencies’ surveillance.


“What that intent is, is to prevent, essentially, domestic spying at the local level,” Hildabrand said.

Law enforcement officials oppose the bill because it says that in seeking a warrant, a local or state agency must have probable cause to believe the subject of the information they’re seeking may have committed a crime. Howe said often, such information is sought early in an investigation, well before authorities are ready to arrest someone.

Howe said many people rightfully worry about the federal government’s activities, but, “Law enforcement and prosecutors in the state of Kansas neither have the resources or the time to be data mining.”

Committee Chairman Lance Kinzer, an Olathe Republican, said he doesn’t know when the committee will take up the bill again, but issues about individuals’ privacy are worth reviewing.

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Online:

Text of Hildabrand’s bill: http://bit.ly/1fad2R2

Kansas Legislature: http://www.kslegislature.org

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Follow John Hanna on Twitter at www.twitter.com/apjdhanna .