"Feds warn Jersey not to subpoena telephone records"
"Case pits consumer laws vs. security efforts
Thursday, June 15, 2006
BY MARK SHERMAN
WASHINGTON -- The federal government sued New Jersey Attorney General Zulima Farber and other state officials yesterday to stop them from seeking information about telephone companies' cooperation with the National Security Agency.
The unusual filing in U.S. District Court in Trenton is the latest effort by federal authorities to halt legal proceedings aimed at revealing whether and how often AT&T, Verizon and other phone companies have provided customer records to the NSA without a court order.
Farber, a Democrat, and other officials sent subpoenas to five carriers May 17, asking for documents that would explain whether they supplied customer records to the NSA, the lawsuit said.
The subpoenas followed by a few days a USA Today report that the phone companies had complied with the secretive agency's request for the phone records of millions of ordinary Americans after the Sept. 11 attacks.
The companies' deadline to respond to the subpoenas is today, the federal lawsuit said.
Farber subpoenaed the phone companies for information because she suspected state consumer protection laws may have been violated if in fact the phone companies were turning over such records, Farber spokesman David Wald said.
"The phone companies were turning over information without any notice to consumers," Wald said. "We were seeking to protect the people of New Jersey."
The Justice Department said more than 20 lawsuits have been filed around the country alleging that the phone companies illegally assisted the NSA. The government says sensitive national security information would be revealed if judges allow those cases to proceed.
The American Civil Liberties Union also has filed complaints in more than 20 states, including New Jersey, asking state utility commissions and attorneys general to investigate.
In this matter, the federal government said the New Jersey officials are treading on federal turf and that the companies, if forced to comply with the subpoenas, would be confirming or denying the existence of the program. President Bush and other top federal officials have refused to do that.
Assistant Attorney General Peter Keisler also warned lawyers for the phone companies that responding to the subpoenas "would violate federal laws and executive orders."
A separate letter that Keisler, head of the department's Civil Division, sent to Farber made the same points, but it took a softer approach.
"We sincerely hope that you will withdraw the subpoenas, so that litigation over this matter may be avoided," Keisler said."
I say again - there is something huge beneath the surface in this "wiretapping" story that hasn't yet come to light - something so damning that the government is going to any length to keep it from coming out.
I hope we find out what it is - soon.
You could help by FAX'ing and/or telephoning your Representatives and Senators and demanding that Russell Tice ( http://www.fas.org/i.../tice042506.pdf ) and Mark Klien ( http://wired.com/new...w=wn_politics_3 ) be given full immunity from prosecution and be required to testify in front of a full meeting of the United States Senate as to what information they have regarding illegal government programs, their use and the depth of their extent.
Find your Reps contact info here: