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Amash: government collecting phone records without probable cause is “outrageous”

Congressman Justin Amash
Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio
Congressman Justin Amash (R-MI) took questions from students at Grand Valley State University Monday night. He has town hall meeting planned Tuesday evening.

Two Republican congressmen from West Michigan blasted the federal intelligence community for secretly collecting the phone records of millions Americans. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Grand Rapids) and Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Holland) discussed the program during a luncheon in Grand Rapids today.

“I think it’s outrageous,” Amash said, “I think the American people are outraged about it and it has to stop.”

The Guardian newspaper published the classified court order this week. In it, the National Security Agency required Verizon Wireless to hand over information about all domestic and foreign calls on a daily basis, no matter if the callers were suspected of any criminal wrongdoing.

Amash says the U.S. Constitution prohibits that.

“It’s there to protect you in exactly these kinds of situations. There’s not supposed to be broad sweep of everyone’s information. You’re supposed to have probable cause to go after people’s information,” Amash said.

The NSA used the Patriot Act to petition for the records. Amash says the act itself is unconstitutional. But Congressman Huizenga believes the act has simply been misused. He says the legislative branch needs to step up its oversight role of the executive branch.

“Think of yourself if you were an Obama voter in 2008,’ Huizenga said, “It was relentless attack upon the overreach of the Bush administration and where the administration is now more drone attacks, IRS issues, this happening; I think this is going to cause more distrust between people and their government.”

Earlier Friday, Rep. John Conyers (D-Detroit) issued a statement saying the revelations “raise serious alarm bells.” He said the issues require “a full and candid review and discussion” in the Judiciary Committee, which he once chaired.

Amash was the only Republican in the Michigan delegation to vote against re-authorizing the Patriot Act in 2011. It was first passed after 9-11 to help combat terrorism.

The chairman of the House Intelligence committee says the ongoing NSA search of telephone records thwarted an attempted terrorist attack in the United States in the last few years.

Meanwhile, Congressman Mike Rogers (R-Brighton) defended the telephone records collection at a Capitol Hill news conference on Thursday. He said the information culled from the records enabled U.S. authorities to stop a "significant case."

He declined to provide additional details but said he was in touch with U.S. officials about providing more information.

He said the NSA search is for business records and is constantly being reviewed. He said nothing is done without court approval.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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