House Intelligence Committee member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said Sunday he believed that telephone companies would soon be responsible for collecting and holding metadata for the government to query during investigations into potential terror companies.
Last week, President Obama announced that he preferred to end the government collection of information about Americans’ telephone calls, admitting that there was a risk for abuses.
He said he would appoint Attorney General Eric Holder and members of the intelligence community to investigate other ways the data could be stored, including either by the phone companies or some third party.
Phone companies have said they don’t want to have the responsibility to maintain a database of call records, fearing doing so could prove costly and open them up to lawsuits from their customers.
In his speech, Obama acknowledged any possible solutions “pose difficult problems.”
“Relying solely on the records of multiple providers, for example, could require companies to alter their procedures in ways that raise new privacy concerns,” Obama said. “On the other hand, any third party maintaining a single, consolidated database would be carrying out what is essentially a government function but with more expense, more legal ambiguity, potentially less accountability, all of which would have a doubtful impact on public confidence that their privacy is being protected.”
But Schiff said he believed, ultimately, phone companies would be left responsible for maintaining the metadata.
“Either because Congress will enact that kind reform or because the program will sunset next year, and if we don’t act, the effect of the sunset will be the telephone companies will end up holding their own data,” he said.
Earlier Sunday, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said it was unlikely that members of Congress who favored ending the search of telephone records entirely would be able to shut down the collection of records.
“I don’t believe so,” Feinstein said during an appearance on “Meet the Press.” “The president has very clearly said that he wants to keep the capability… So I think we would agree with him. I know a dominant majority of the — everybody, virtually, except two or three, on the Senate Intelligence Committee would agree with that.”