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January 20, 2014

Feinstein, Republicans object to Obama's surveillance plan

WASHINGTON (MCT) — Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and House Republicans raised doubts Sunday about President Barack Obama’s plan to restrict the federal government’s ability to collect data on domestic telephone calls, saying that private phone companies do not want the responsibility and would not be subject to oversight.

“The whole purpose of this program is to provide instantaneous information to be able to disrupt any plot that may be taking place,” Feinstein said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Miss., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, who heads the House Homeland Security Committee, also raised doubts about eliminating the National Security Agency’s role in collecting so-called metadata, information that shows when calls were made and what numbers were dialed.

“Who has the capability other than NSA to handle that kind of data other than the private phone carriers, and they don’t want it,” McCaul said on ABCs “This Week. “

Obama, in a speech Friday, stopped short of calling for turning the job over to private companies. Acknowledging concerns about either the government or private companies holding such data for use in investigations, he called for a public-private panel to review the issue and make recommendations in 70 days.

On CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Rogers warned about the possibility of privacy abuses if Congress, the courts and other government agencies are not involved in overseeing the data collection.

“If you move way from the government sector you lose all that review,” said Rogers, adding that phone companies are “there to provide services to their customers, not to the government.”

The comments suggest that Republicans may seek to stand in the way of Obama’s proposal and even block it when the program comes up for reauthorization in Congress next year.

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