WASHINGTON (AP) — Three telecommunications companies have declined to tell Congress whether they gave U.S. intelligence agencies access to Americans’ phone and computer records without court orders, citing White House objections and national security.
Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell “formally invoked the state secrets privilege to prevent AT&T from either confirming or denying” any details about intelligence programs, AT&T general counsel Wayne Watts wrote in a letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Qwest and Verizon also declined to answer, saying the federal government has prohibited them from providing information, discussing or referring to any classified intelligence activities.
“Our company essentially finds itself caught in the middle of an oversight dispute between the Congress and the executive relating to government surveillance activities,” Watts wrote.
The White House declined to comment on the matter Monday.
And why should it comment if it does not feel so inclined? According to Congress, it’s dandy for the
President Commander-in-Chief Commander Guy Dictator Guy to spy on whom he wants, detain whomever he wants for whatever reason he wants, and for as long as he wants. He can decide whether private citizens (who used to work for him) can snub Congress, so why not corporations? He can threaten a veto and there are always enough Congressmembers who will immediately say “So sorry, sir. Whatever you say, sir.” that his will is the law the way it is. And thus while –
The White House has threatened to veto [a new eavesdropping bill] unless it includes retroactive legal immunity for telecommunications companies that assisted government investigations without court orders.
In the Senate, ah, the Senate –
A Senate version of the bill, scheduled for committee action on Thursday, is likely to include an immunity provision.
Thank you, Senators. And Members of the House, you’re not exactly heroes, either –
House Democrats vowed last week not to grant immunity in the eavesdropping bill without being told exactly what the companies did that requires legal protection.
Until? What do you mean, until?
Roughly 40 lawsuits have been filed against telecommunications companies for their alleged cooperation with the Terrorist Surveillance Program, the details of which are classified. U.S. intelligence agencies reportedly eavesdropped on calls and e-mails in the United States without court orders.
Congress to plaintiffs in 40 lawsuits: drop dead.