Markey Calls on FCC to Investigate Intelligence Agencies’ Alleged Circumvention of Telecom Privacy Laws

Posted on September 14, 2007 - 9:00am.

from: Office of Ed Markey

Markey Calls on FCC to Investigate Intelligence Agencies’ Alleged Circumvention of Telecom Privacy Laws

From Office of Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), September 12, 2007
By Rep. Ed Markey

Representative Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, today again asked the Chairman of the Federal Communications Committee (FCC) to investigate widespread and serious allegations of telecommunications privacy laws violations by the National Security Agency (NSA) and other entities. Rep. Markey first asked FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin to investigate these allegations in May of 2006.

Rep. Markey said, “More than a year ago, I asked Chairman Martin to exercise his authority as the head of the independent agency responsible for the enforcement of our nation’s communications laws to investigate the very serious reports that the intelligence agencies were using telephone companies to obtain phone records illegally. The continued reports of government intelligence agencies running roughshod over telecommunications privacy laws make it clear that the FCC should not wait to initiate this investigation.”

At the first FCC oversight hearing chaired by Rep. Markey this year on March 14th, Rep. Markey followed up on his May 2006 letter by asking Chairman Martin if he had reconsidered his position on investigating the alleged violations of communications privacy laws. In response, Chairman Martin told Rep. Markey that he had written a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, dated March 6, 2007, to obtain the viewpoint of the Department of Justice as to whether the FCC could begin an investigation.

In the past six months, FCC Chairman Martin has not received a response to his letter to Attorney General Gonzales, who has since announced his resignation. In the meantime:

• A Federal Bureau of Investigation Inspector General report in a March found widespread misuse of “national security letters” in seeking telecommunications records.

• A Federal judge struck down portions of the Patriot Act that authorized use of such national security letters.

• Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell publicly acknowledged that telecommunications carriers assisted the government in its surveillance work and were being sued as a result.

• The New York Times reported yesterday that the FBI’s probes went beyond targeted suspects by gathering information about a target’s “community of interest” as well.

“It is past time for the American people to learn the truth about alleged circumvention of important privacy laws. The FCC has a duty to help get to the bottom of what has transpired between the Bush Administration and our nation’s major telephone companies with regard to the disclosure of consumer telephone records and other personal data,” concluded Rep. Markey.