ACLU of Virginia Asks State Corporation Commission and Attorney General to Investigate Sharing of Caller Records with NSA

Affiliate: ACLU of Virginia
June 15, 2006 12:00 am

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804 Virginia Residents Sign ACLU Complaint

RICHMOND, VA — The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia has again called on the State Corporation Commission and Attorney General Robert McDonnell to launch investigations of telecommunications companies in Virginia that may have illegally shared caller information with the National Security Agency. The request follows media reports in May that the NSA has been collecting information on millions of American residents without warrants.

“This is a broadside attack on privacy in which the private sector and the government have colluded on an unprecedented scale to invade our personal space,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis. “Yet in Virginia, the SCC claims it does not have the authority to investigate, and the attorney general apparently won’t investigate.”

According to USA Today, at least three major telecommunications companies — AT&T, BellSouth and Verizon — voluntarily provided customer information to the NSA. The information gathered includes telephone numbers called, time, date and direction of calls, and is considered part of the war on terror.

This is the second time the ACLU of Virginia has asked the SCC and the attorney general to investigate telecommunications companies in Virginia. After the ACLU filed complaints on May 24, the SCC wrote that it did not intend to launch an investigation. The attorney general did not respond.

Today’s new requests for investigations were filed on behalf of 802 Virginia residents who have asked the ACLU to assist them. The names of each of the 802 residents have been mailed to the attorney general and the SCC.

“It is hard to believe that no one in Virginia’s government seems to care enough to at least determine whose records may have been illegally shared with the NSA, and what was in those records,” Willis said. “The attorney general and the SCC may feel comfortable ignoring a request from the ACLU, but we’re hoping that 802 residents will get their attention.”

In his response to the ACLU’s May 24 complaint, SCC General Counsel William H. Chambliss wrote that he is “unaware of any action the Commission could undertake to resolve these matters.” But the ACLU said that the SCC has been given broad powers under Virginia Code § 12.1-12 to administer the laws that govern corporations doing business in Virginia and to regulate the services of all public service companies.

ACLU affiliates in 19 other states have filed similar complaints with Public Utility Commissions or sent letters to state officials demanding investigations into whether local telecommunications companies allowed the NSA to spy on their customers. The national ACLU has also filed a formal complaint with the Federal Communications Commission.

For more information on the ACLU’s nationwide campaign to end illegal NSA spying, go to www.aclu.org/nsaspying.

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