Yesterday, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce opened an investigation into warrantless wiretapping, asking for details from telecommunications providers about government efforts to obtain customer data. In addition, several key members of the committee sent letters to EFF and other civil liberties groups, requesting assistance in the committee's investigation of the controversial program. EFF will be happy to respond.
Representative Ed Markey is quoted in Tuesday's press release, saying:
As reports about government intelligence agencies running roughshod over telecommunications privacy laws continue to surface, I have grown more and more concerned that the rights of consumers are being lost in the shuffle. Protecting the homeland is vital, but such efforts should not undermine the essential privacy rights of American citizens. Since the Bush Administration has been unwilling to discuss adequately this situation, I hope these telecommunications companies will be more forthcoming about the circumstances in which they have disclosed consumer information. I also look forward to hearing the opinion of privacy advocates on these policies.
The latest scrutiny from the House Committee on Energy and Commerce adds to a growing pile of critical inquiries into the warrantless wiretapping program. Jack Goldsmith, a former senior Justice Department lawyer, said of the wiretapping yesterday: "It was the biggest legal mess I had ever encountered." Senator Patrick Leahy of the Senate Judiciary Committee has tried to obtain the Bush administration's documents about the legal justification for warrantless spying to no avail. On top of all this controversy, the telecommunications companies have been forcefully lobbying Congress, seeking retroactive amnesty for illegally violating their customers' privacy.
EFF recently filed suit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), demanding government records of the telecom industry's lobbying campaign to block lawsuits. The campaign is a heavy-handed attempt to derail EFF's class-action suit against AT&T for its collaboration in the domestic spying program.