TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - A Florida state representative used the threat of the Islamic State group to advance a bill Wednesday that could make it harder for people to find addresses, phone numbers and other personal information of military service members, their spouses and children.
Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz told the House Local and Federal Affairs Committee that recent news of the Islamic State group posting photos, names and addresses of 100 military members made his bill an even higher priority. He said the Department of Defense said the information was likely obtained through social media sites and public records.
His bill (HB 185) would allow current and former military members who have served since Sept. 11, 2001, to petition government agencies to block the release of their addresses, phone numbers, birthdates and other personal information. It would also apply to their spouses and children.
The committee unanimously approved the bill. It is now ready for a full House vote.
Gaetz said his original bill applied only to members of special operations units, but he expanded the language after a group calling itself the Islamic State Hacking Division released information on military members, including three Floridians, and urged sympathizers to find them and kill them.
“It increased the level of seriousness,” Gaetz said after the vote. “It showed that this was not a theoretical threat; this is an actual threat that our servicemen and -women face every day.”
Gaetz, who represents parts of Okaloosa County, said his idea originated after special forces members who feared for their families’ safety asked elections officials to remove their names and addresses from voting rolls.
“My supervisor of elections said ‘This is crazy. These people are out there doing some of the most dangerous missions in the world to protect our freedom, and now they’re afraid to come home and participate in our own electoral process,’” Gaetz said.
The bill is opposed by the First Amendment Foundation, an open government watchdog group. President Barbara Petersen said it is too broad and isn’t necessary. She wrote to Gaetz expressing her concerns.
“It’s important to take this threat in context. The group responsible for creating the target list did not make a public record request to obtain the information about those targeted - the information was posted to the Internet by the U.S. Military,” Petersen wrote.
A similar Senate bill (SB 674) has been unanimously approved by two committees and has one more stop before reaching the Senate floor.
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