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Collecting Personal Information: NSA Yes, IRS No


House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., took to the Sunday talk shows to defend the National Security Agency’s program to collect metadata on domestic telephone traffic.

But he made a careful distinction when it comes to whose fears of privacy violations are more justified, roping into the discussion the data hub being organized by such agencies as the Health and Human Services Department and the Internal Revenue Service to implement Obamacare.

“Here's the problem,” Rogers said on Face the Nation. “So you have this collision of really bad ideas and federal government overreach when it comes to the IRS and this new data hub that they're trying to bring all your sensitive personal information on one side of the federal government, and I have real strong concerns about that as well. This is very, very different.”

The NSA’s anti-terrorist surveillance, Rogers’ spokeswoman Kelsey Knight clarified to Government Executive, “has the most oversight of any other programs. Congress, the judiciary and the executive branch -- that’s a lot of people watching this program making sure everyone’s privacy is protected.” There have been 54 terror attacks uncovered and zero privacy breaches, she said.

What happened with the IRS is the “targeting of conservative groups, with these people’s names and personal information and who they voted for pulled out and held accountable for what they’re doing in private. Right now there are some serious scandals that are clouding the American public’s judgment,” the spokeswoman said, mentioning the Justice Department’s “dragnet” of phone calls at the Associated Press, the Benghazi controversy, the IRS and the NSA program. “People are melding all this together into a nobody-trusts- the-government campaign.”

Charles S. Clark joined Government Executive in the fall of 2009. He has been on staff at The Washington Post, Congressional Quarterly, National Journal, Time-Life Books, Tax Analysts, the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, and the National Center on Education and the Economy. He has written or edited online news, daily news stories, long features, wire copy, magazines, books, and organizational media strategies.

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