ACLU battles AT$T, Verizon

Posted on July 29, 2006 - 8:24am.

Note; You can download the complete ACLU Complaint at <

from: Detroit news

ACLU battles AT&T, Verizon

Gregg Krupa / The Detroit News

DETROIT -- A civil liberties group filed a complaint with the state Wednesday over reports that telephone companies are sharing customers' private information with the federal government as part of the Bush Administration's war on terror.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan is asking the Michigan Public Service Commission to investigate AT&T and Verizon, especially on behalf of seven Michigan residents who filed affidavits as part of the complaint.

"What the phone companies have done is openly broadcast the numbers of my patients who are often times calling me in emergency situations, essentially compromising my ethical obligation to them," said Micki Levin, a clinical psychologist in Bloomfield Hills who is part of the complaint. "My patients have an expectation and legal right to privacy whenever they see me or speak to me."

Verizon repeatedly has denied sharing information with the government.

"The complaint is without merit," said Robert Varettoni, a spokesman for the company. "As the president has made clear, the NSA program he acknowledged authorizing against al-Qaida is highly classified. Verizon cannot and will not comment on the program. Verizon cannot and will not confirm or deny whether it has any relationship to it."

Officials for AT&T were unavailable for comment.
In May, USA Today reported that the NSA has obtained stored customer records from leading phone companies. But, since then, questions have been raised about the reports.

"One of the most glaring and repeated falsehoods in the media reporting is the assertion that, in the aftermath of the 9-11 attacks, Verizon was approached by NSA and entered into an arrangement to provide the NSA with data from its customers' domestic calls," Verizon said in a statement issued by the company. "This is false."

Verizon said the agency never approached the company for the information, nor was it provided, the company said.

But the ACLU said that state regulators have an interest in knowing what information may have been shared as part of its duty to protect the public in overseeing utilities.

"We are calling on the Public Service Commission to investigate so that the people of Michigan can learn the truth," said Kary Moss, executive director of the ACLU of Michigan. "Telephone companies should not be allowed to become surrogate spying agencies."

The Michigan Public Services Commission can do four things with the complaint: reject it, order an investigation, review the complaint, or refer it to an administrative law judge for review, officials said. It was unclear Wednesday when that decision will be made.

More than 20 ACLU affiliates across the country have asked state regulatory agencies to investigate whether any laws or regulations have been broken.

You can reach Gregg Krupa at (313) 222-2359 or