Sunday, May 14, 2006

NSA has massive database of Americans' phone calls / Security Issue Kills Domestic Spying Probe

The government has abruptly ended an inquiry into the warrantless eavesdropping program because the National Security Agency refused to grant Justice Department lawyers the necessary security clearance to probe the matter.

The Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility, or OPR, sent a fax to Rep. Maurice Hinchey (news, bio, voting record), D-N.Y., on Wednesday saying they were closing their inquiry because without clearance their lawyers cannot examine Justice lawyers' role in the program.

"We have been unable to make any meaningful progress in our investigation because OPR has been denied security clearances for access to information about the NSA program," OPR counsel H. Marshall Jarrett wrote to Hinchey. Hinchey's office shared the letter with The Associated Press.

The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, people with direct knowledge of the arrangement told USA TODAY.

Telcos Could Be Liable For Tens of Billions of Dollars For Illegally Turning Over Phone Records

Here's why:

1. It violates the Stored Communications Act.
2. The penalty for violating the Stored Communications Act is $1000 per individual violation.
3. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act doesn’t get the telcos off the hook.

Orin Kerr, a former federal prosecutor and assistant professor at George Washington University, said his reading of the relevant statutes put the phone companies at risk for at least $1,000 per person whose records they disclosed without a court order.


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