ACLU Encouraged By Steps to Investigate Telecoms’ Role in Spying

October 3, 2007
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: media@dcaclu.org

Washington, DC – The American Civil Liberties Union today applauded efforts by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce to investigate the role of phone companies and internet service providers in the administration’s warrantless wiretapping program. Telecommunications companies were long suspected to have been intimately involved and have been vigorously lobbying Capitol Hill for immunity for their actions since the program was disclosed in 2005. Most recently, they have pushed to have amnesty included in the reauthorization of the Protect America Act, the legislation rushed through Congress this summer that greatly expanded the government’s ability to spy on Americans.

The following can be attributed to Timothy Sparapani, senior legislative counsel for the ACLU Washington Legislative Office:

"We’re grateful to the committee for getting the ball rolling with this inquiry. The privacy of Americans and the Fourth Amendment were both blatantly disregarded with the administration’s warrantless wiretapping program. The extent of the role played by telecom companies is a piece of the puzzle that has been conspicuously missing.

"Though they’ll argue they were patriotically aiding the government, the telecoms were also cynically violating the trust and constitutional rights of their consumers. Under no circumstance should Congress grant amnesty to these companies for their compliance. They broke a criminal law and should answer for it. We don’t let criminals off the hook in America and Congress shouldn’t either. Amnesty shouldn’t even be on the table given that there are still congressional subpoenas outstanding for key documents pertaining to this program."

The committee also sent a letter to the ACLU and other organizations asking for their views on privacy issues arising from the telecoms’ cooperation, specifically the gathering and hording of personal information in government databases. It has asked for a response by October 12.

To read more about telecom amnesty and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, go to:
www.aclu.org/fisa

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