Records privacy focus of new law

Rep. Lamar Smith (left) and Comal County Sheriff Bob Holder address the media at a press conference announcing legislation to enforce criminal acts through use of cell phone records.

Rep. Lamar Smith joined Comal County Sheriff Bob Holder in New Braunfels Wednesday to outline legislation aimed at shutting down the new and fast-growing criminal industry that traffics in private telephone records.

Smith's bi-partisan "Law Enforcement and Phone Privacy Protection Act of 2006" for the first time would require heavy prison sentences for those convicted of fraudulently securing private telephone records.

"This bill makes it clear that the price for engaging in this crime is going to be very high," Smith said. "This area of crime is a new development, and we intend to strike back quickly to cut it off before it grows any more."

Web-based operations promise details on cell and other phone records for as little as $100. "The release of this private information isn't just an invasion of privacy," Holder said. "It's a personal safety issue."

Telephone records could reveal details about an individual's social, medical or financial situation, and a person's physical location. Law enforcement officials have expressed concerns that access to phone records could heighten the vulnerability of those who have fled abusive situations, police officers, jurors or criminal informants.

Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property, Smith is up for re-election this year and faces John Courage in the November general election for the District 21 seat.

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