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FCC declines to investigate the NSA
Published: 2006-05-24

The Federal Communications Commission, tasked with regulating communications companies and investigating violations of relevant laws, has declined to look into the allegations that three large telcos cooperated with the National Security Agency to wiretap domestic phone calls and Internet communications.

In a letter to Rep. Edward J. Markey dated Monday, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission stated that any investigation of the National Security Agency's alleged domestic wiretapping program would have to be able to force the military agency to produce classified documents--a power the chairman believes the FCC does not have. The refusal did not play well with Rep. Markey, a ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet.

"Today the watchdog agency that oversees the country’s telecommunications industry refused to investigate the nation’s largest phone companies’ reported disclosure of phone records to the NSA," Rep. Markey said. "The FCC, which oversees the protection of consumer privacy under the Communications Act of 1934, has taken a pass at investigating what is estimated to be the nation’s largest violation of consumer privacy ever to occur."

The accusation that the NSA--an agency traditionally tasked with spying on foreign countries and protecting U.S. communications from surveillance--tapped the communications of U.S. citizens came last December. A follow-up article by the New York Times asserted that the agency is also mining large amounts of Internet connection and e-mail routing data to find patterns that could link certain people with terrorists. Two class-action lawsuits have already been filed against AT&T following revelations that the company allowed the NSA to have full access to any data crossing its network.

This month, a USA Today claimed that the NSA obtained the phone records of tens of millions of Americans through the cooperation of AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth. The latter two companies have denied cooperating with the agency.

In his statement, Rep. Markey vowed to push Congress to take action.

Posted by: Robert Lemos
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FCC declines to investigate the NSA 2006-05-26
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