The Senate Judiciary Committee began hearings Monday on the NSA's illegal domestic spying program. Though the questioning of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales revealed few details, news reports continue to shed light on the program's scope. The Washington Post confirmed that the NSA is indeed using "computer-controlled systems [that] collect and sift basic information about hundreds of thousands of faxes, e-mails and telephone calls," mining the communications of myriad ordinary Americans.
While pressing government officials to come clean is certainly a necessary step, an LA Times editorial nicely explains why senators might also want to take on the telcos that helped the government, just as EFF's suit against AT&T does:
"The lawsuit takes an indirect route to the foundation's ultimate goal, which is to force investigators to get a court's approval before spying on U.S. residents. At Senate hearings on the NSA program ... members of the Judiciary Committee may want to borrow from the foundation's strategy and see what they can learn not just from government officials but from telecommunications executives, who cannot hide behind executive privilege.
"Ma Bell is certainly an inviting target. Outside of the NSA, no one knows more about the domestic surveillance program than the phone companies, the largest of which is AT&T."
Couldn't have said it much better ourselves. Even as telecommunications companies refuse to affirm their involvement, USA Today corroborated reports that AT&T has assisted the NSA and revealed that MCI and Sprint were involved as well. Not only should AT&T and other involved companies be held accountable for breaking the law, they should also be compelled to expose the truth about the program, whether in court or the Senate hearings.